Origins of the Ontario Agricultural College (1874)

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“There were at that time [1870] two outstanding agricultural  colleges in the United States, that of Massachusetts and that of Michigan. These were visited, and, based upon the work done at these institutions, a comprehensive and suggestive report was compiled. Immediate action was taken upon the recommendations of this report, and a tract of land, six hundred acres in extent, was purchased at Mimico, seven miles west of Toronto. Before work could be commenced, however, the life of the legislature closed and a new government came into office in 1871 with Archibald M c Kellar as commissioner of Agriculture and Arts. New governments feel called upon to promote new measures. There were rumours and suggestions that the soil of the Mimico farm was productive of thistles and better adapted to brick-making than to the raising of crops. Also the location was so close to Toronto that it was feared that the attractions of the city would tend to make the students discontented with country life. For various reasons a change of location was deemed desirable, and a committee of farmer members of the legislature was appointed. Professor Miles, of the Michigan Agricultural College, was engaged to give expert advice ; other locations were examined, and finally More ton Lodge Farm, near Guelph, was purchased. After some preliminary difficulties, involving the assistance of a sheriff or bailiff, possession was obtained, and the first class for instruction in agricultural science and practice, consisting of thirty-one pupils in all, was opened on June I, 1874, with William Johnston as rector or principal. Thus was established the Ontario School of Agriculture, now known as the Ontario Agricultural College. Its annual enrolment has grown to over fifteen hundred, and it is now recognized as the best-equipped and most successful institution of its kind in the British Empire. Its development along practical lines and its recognition as a potent factor in provincial growth were largely due to Dr James Mills, who was appointed president of the college in 1879, and filled that position until January 1904.”

Origins of the University of Guelph (1964)


The University of Guelph traces its origins back to when the Ontario government bought 500 acres of farmland and opened the Ontario School of Agriculture on May 1, 1874, which was renamed the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) in 1880. Its first building was Moreton Lodge, located where Johnston Hall now stands, which included classrooms, residences, a library, and a dining room. Several other buildings were constructed during this time period and still exist as part of the campus today, including the President's Residence, Raithby House, and Day Hall.

The Macdonald Institute was established in 1903 to house women's home economics programs, nature studies, and some domestic art and science. From the turn of the century to the establishment of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) in 1922, many more buildings were added to the campus: MacDonald Hall, Massey Hall, the Bullring, Mills Hall, and Food Science. Johnston Hall was constructed in 1931, taking the place of the torn-down Moreton Lodge and becoming the home for the OAC Administration.

These three adjacent colleges would be amalgamated into the single body of the University of Guelph by the Ontario Legislature on May 8, 1964.

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