1909: Finding a Location
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.
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.
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.
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
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.