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1890 Victoria College’s move to Toronto was strongly opposed

Victoria College’s move from Cobourg to Toronto was controversial and it was all because of a conditional legacy left by William Gooderham Jr in 1889.

Founded in 1836 in Cobourg, Ontario, by royal charter from King William IV, Victoria federated with the University of Toronto in 1890 by decision of the board. “The Victoria senate rejected the board's decision. The Victoria Alumni Association was also against federation, as was the town of Cobourg, which did not want Victoria to leave and promised it $25,000 plus yearly grants if it stayed.

Cobourg brought a lawsuit, claiming that it was illegal for Victoria to move. Pamphlets were circulated for and against the move. One pamphlet argued that "Cobourg is a much more desirable place for the residence of youth, in pursuing their student work - especially of youth who may not resist the temptations or afford the expense of a large city - than Toronto."

Furthermore, it went on, Cobourg "is a notably healthy town - not subject to the effects of the doubtful water and bad drainage for which Toronto has become notorious." The pamphlet set out government statistics showing that the death rate in Toronto was more than double that in Cobourg. It was a well-known fact that Taddle Creek had been so polluted it had had to be covered over. Disease was widespread. (Even in Cobourg, four of Principal Nathanael Burwash's children had died of diphtheria in one week in 1889.)

 
Victoria College in Cobourg

Not only did Cobourg offer Victoria money to stay, but Hart Massey, the head of the farm implement company that earlier had had its headquarters near there, offered the college $250,000 if it would consent to remain as an independent institution in Cobourg. In September 1889, however, Victoria received $200,000 from the will of William Gooderham. He had made his money in railways, having declined a role in the family's distillery business.
 
The money was given on the condition that Victoria move to Toronto. Gooderham had favoured an independent college not in federation on an 11-acre site on the high ground just west of the present Casa Loma, but acceptance of the concept was not made a condition of the bequest.

The sudden windfall made the move to Toronto considerably easier. As it turned out, the college would have not only the Gooderham money, but also $200,000 from the will of Hart Massey, who died in 1896. The Cobourg lawsuit was settled during the summer of 1890, and in September the Methodist Conference once again voted for federation, this time with a more decisive vote - 165 to 83 in favour.

Victoria's senate then reversed its earlier vote against the move, and the provincial government was notified that Victoria now accepted federation.”

 
Victoria College, 1900

Excerpt from: The University of Toronto: A History, Second Edition; Copyright University of Toronto Press 2013; https://utorontopress.com/us/the-university-of-toronto-8

1890 Victoria College’s move from Cobourg to Toronto was strongly opposed

Victoria College’s move from Cobourg to Toronto was controversial and it was all because of a conditional legacy left by William Gooderham Jr in 1889.


Linked toWilliam Gooderham, jr.

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