Historical Foreword (1933)

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"The hist

The author of this history, Cecil C. Jones, UNB President 1906-1940, [193-?]. UA PC 1; no. 80f. Photo credit: Harvey Studios.

ory of the University of New Brunswick begins almost immediately after the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in 1783 and the subsequent organization of the territory north of the Bay of Fundy into the new Province of New Brunswick. On the wall of the Historical Room in the New Library Building is a petition fittingly labelled “the Germ of the University of New Brunswick” signed by seven of the Loyalists and presented to the Governor of the Province setting out the disadvantages suffered by the new inhabitants in the matter of educational facilities and requesting that “an academy of Arts and Science be established at the new capital, Fredericksburg, and to be endowed with lands for its maintenance.” The proposal was accepted by the Governor-in-Council on December 13, 1785, and it was ordered that a draft charter for such an institution be prepared “with all due speed”. This draft charter with the date 1785 is still in the possession of the University and was evidently modelled after the charter of the College at New York which subsequently became Columbia University.

In 1786, 2000 acres of land were set apart for the new institution. In 1793, the Assembly voted a sum not exceedingly £200 for assisting in the erection of suitable buildings. The original building was in the vicinity of Christ Church Cathedral and continued to be used for educational purposes for a good many years.

The Provincial Charter establishing the College of New Brunswick was granted in 1800. The management of the new institution with its endowed lands was placed under the control of a Board of Trustees. In 1805, a Provincial Act was passed granting to the College of New Brunswick the sum of £100 currency per annum from the Provincial Treasury. In 1816 a further sum of £150 per annum was allotted by the Province for the maintenance of the institution.

The school already in operation before the granting of the Provincial Charter was continued by the Board of Trustees of the College. We have little knowledge of the teachers in this early institution. The minutes of the College show that Mr. James C. Bremner was appointed Preceptor in 1805. Mr. Andrew Phair was appointed Usher to assist Mr. Bremner. In 1811 Rev. James Somerville was appointed Principal and on March 25, 1820, he became the first President of the College of New Brunswick. The work of the College and the Preparatory School were continued side by side. Dr. Somerville was succeeded as principal of the school which later became the Collegiate School by Rev. George McCawley, M. A. of King’s College, Windsor, N. S. In 1823, on petition of the Governor and Trustees of the College of New Brunswick, a Provincial Act was passed enabling them to surrender their charter to His Majesty upon condition that His Majesty would be pleased to grant another charter in its place. The fourth section of this act secured to the College an additional grant from the Provincial Treasury of £600 per annum. It was confirmed by the King-in-Council on the 18th November, 1823. In 1828 the surrender by the Governor and Trustees of their charter was accepted by the Crown and a Royal Charter bearing date 15 December, 1828, was granted incorporating the College by the name of King’s College, Fredericton.

During the existence of the College of New Brunswick there were 20 students doing work of college grade; two of these received degrees and nine graduated after the foundation of King’s College. The first graduates were Samuel Denny Lee Street and Daniel Hales Smith. Timothy R. Wetmore, B. A. of King’s College, Windsor, was also graduated ad eunden.

Sir Howard Douglas became Governor of New Brunswick in 1824 arriving in Fredericton in August of that year. He became intensely interested in the affairs of the College and was largely instrumental in obtaining the Royal Charter and the erection of the new building which is still the Main Building of the University. The new building was completed in 1828, a third story being subsequently added. The cost was approximately $55,000. The building was formally opened on New Year’s Day, 1829.

In the same year, 1829, a Provincial Act granted from the Provincial Treasury the sum of £1100 currency on condition that His Majesty would be pleased to grant from the casual revenues a further sum of £1000 sterling. This grant from the Crown was, in the first place, paid from the Casual and Territorial revenues but on the surrender of these revenues from the Crown to the Province in 1837 it was made a charge on the Civil List granted to the Crown by the Province in exchange for the Casual and Territorial Revenues. This grant was continued without change until 1907.

James Robb, [1837?]. UA PC 13; no. 44 (3).

Rev. Edwin Jacob, D. D., a graduate of Oxford, was President of King’s College throughout its term of existence. Dr. Somerville and Rev. George McCawley were the other members of the original staff. Mr. McCawley resigned in 1836 to become President of King’s College, Windsor and Dr. Somerville retired in 1840. James Robb, Esq., M. D., and David Gray, Esq., M. A. joined the staff in 1837; the latter remained only two years and was succeeded in 1840 by William Brydone-Jack, M. A., a graduate of St. Andrew’s University, Scotland. In 1847 Mr. E. W. W. Housseal became the first full time professor of Modern Languages and was succeeded the following year by J. Marshall D’Avray.

King’s College began with an enrollment of sixteen students, nine having been former members of the College of New Brunswick. In all rather more than one hundred students were graduated from King’s College and many of them became prominent in the public and professional life of the Province.

The last decade of the existence of King’s College was perhaps the most trying time through which the institution was called upon to pass. Opposition to the management of the college which was largely in the hands of the Established Church became most pronounced. Finally legislation was enacted placing the institution on an entirely non-sectarian basis and the act establishing the University of New Brunswick was passed in 1859. It transferred to the University of New Brunswick all the lands, rights and other properties of King’s College, with the endowment, and subjected the University to the payment of its debts and the performance of its contracts. It placed the control of the institution in the hands of a new governing body to be known as the Senate of which body the President appointed by the Governor-in-Council was a member. It gave the Senate complete control over all matters connected with the University.

Joseph R. Hea, M. A., D. C. L. became the first President of the University of New Brunswick but he remained for only one year when he was succeeded by William Brydone-Jack who continued as President for a term of twenty-five years. Dr. Jack gave the University progressive administration and did much to encourage education throughout the Province. When the present school system was inaugurated he became a member of the Provincial Board of Education. Although attendance was not large the new University had a reputation for a high standard of scholarship. Dr. Jack retired owing to ill health in 1885 and died in the following year.

Loring Woart Bailey in the lab, [186-?]. Acc. 2010.05; Series 1; Item no. 28, File 2. Photo credit: Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P37-513.

Among the early members of the staff were Dr. James Robb to whom we owe the foundation of our University Museum and Dr. Loring Woart Bailey who served the University as Professor of Natural Science from 1881 to 1907. Dr. Bailey did much to extend the usefulness of the Museum and during his summers was engaged in a geological survey of the Province. Many of his researches were published by the Royal Society of Canada.

On the resignation of Dr. Jack, Dr. Thomas Harrison became President and Head of the University. In 1900 the Engineering Building was erected and a notable celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the University took place. During Dr. Harrison’s tenure of office the course in Electrical Engineering was established as were also separate Departments of Chemistry and Physics. Dr. Harrison died in 1906 and was succeeded by Dr. C. C. Jones.

In 1907 the annual grant which had remained stationary for seventy years was increased by five thousand dollars. In the same year the Department of Forestry was established. The Provincial grant has since been increased from time to time and at present the Province contributes $40,000 to the support of the University.

In 1923 a Law Faculty was established in Saint John continuing the former King’s College Law School. A Professor of Law was appointed. In the same year the erection of the Memorial Building was begun. Towards its erection the Province contributed $75,000 and the City of Fredericton $25,000, the balance being obtained through an appeal for subscriptions to friends and graduates of the University. The Memorial Hall is dedicated to the memory of former students who lost their lives during the War. The building also contains quarters for the Department of Electrical Engineering, Physics and Chemistry. Since 1923 the progress of the University has been quite rapid. The staff has been increased and the student body has practically doubled.

Among the outstanding features of recent years was the gift by the Rt. Hon. Lord Beaverbrook of a magnificent building in memory of the late Lady Beaverbrook to be used as a residence for men. It contains a tower clock with chimes. These latter were donated especially to the memory of Lady Beaverbrook. This building was formally presented to the University in 1930. In 1929 the Province undertook the erection of two splendid buildings—one to be used to accommodate the Departments of Forestry and Geology and the other to provide for a Library. These buildings were formally dedicated on the 12th day of May, 1931.

With the four new buildings erected in recent years the University Campus shows a considerable change and the University is now exceptionally well equipped to maintain its high standard of educational service."

See also: Alfred G. Bailey's account of UNB in Brief History of UNB.


  • Jones, Cecil C. "Historical Foreword." Up the Hill Yearbook, 1933, p. 9, 83-84.

© UNB Archives & Special Collections, 2012