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1909: Finding a Location

Larger Version

Walter Murray expressed concern about the location of the University even in his letter of application to be its president.  “Is there any likelihood of its being dismembered and the fragments scattered over the province to satisfy the wishes of ambitious towns?” he wondered.  The site of the future University was of considerable importance in Murray’s view: he understood the University to be a servant of the people of the province, solving problems in “agriculture, industries, commerce, government, and social life.  To be of the greatest service, the University must be placed where it is easy of access and in close touch with the life of the province.”2   He favoured building in Regina, the provincial capital.

Larger Version

It was “the people’s University,” but it would have considerable local commercial impact.  In 1908 council had determined the University’s scope: colleges of Arts and Science including art, music and commerce, Agriculture with forestry, Domestic Science, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science and Dentistry.  This envisioned a significant research institution by any standard, one which would certainly provide its host city with “prestige, population and business.”3   Battleford, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon all lobbied to host the institution. 

Larger Version

Although the final decision resided with the Board of Governors, provincial politics played a role.  The provincial government was committed to a policy of decentralization; and following an election that returned Conservative MLAs from Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, (Liberal) Premier Walter Scott indicated both towns had put themselves out of the competition.  It had become a choice between Regina and Saskatoon.

Larger Version

The vote on 7 April 1909 was never formally recorded, but by a margin of either 6-3 or 5-4, Saskatoon was chosen.  The news came by telegraph at 11:30 pm: “whistles were sounded and at first alarmed the whole town.  People got up out of bed to know the reason and finding out crowded the streets.”4   Celebrations lasted throughout the next day and night.  “The atmosphere of Saskatoon will be changed,” noted lawyer R.W. Shannon.   “We shall rise to a higher plane of being.”5

Related Collections

President’s Office fonds, RG 2001, Series I.
Board of Governors Minutes


1909a: Battleford promotional pamphlet. RG 2001, series 1, file B.54.
1909b: Regina promotional pamphlet. RG 2001, series 1, file B.54.
1909c: Welcoming Board of Governors in Saskatoon. Photograph Collection, A-5974.
1909d: letter from Murray to Hill, 26 Aug 1908 (excerpt). JE Murray fonds, MG 61, file A.IV.82.


1. Controller’s Office fonds, III, miscellaneous records, Murray to McColl, 6 June 1908. Quoted in Murray & Murray, 55.
2. Quoted in Murray & Murray, 61.
3. Hayden, 38.
4. Kerr & Hanson, 78.
5. Kerr & Hanson, 79.

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