On April 9, 1884, William Maxwell Blackburn accepted the presidency of the University of North Dakota. Blackburn graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1854 and came to UND as its first president after thirty years of pastoral and ecclesiastical academic positions; his last two at the Theological Seminary of the Northwest, Chicago, and Central Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. Blackburn had established a solid reputation for his scholarly work and in addition served UND as a professor of Mental, Moral, and Political Science.
President Blackburn faced numerous challenges in organizing and administrating the new university; particularly in establishing the academic curriculum. Blackburn favored a more practical curriculum open to all, including mechanics and agriculture, while his colleagues, Professors Webster Merrifield and Henry Montgomery, favored a classical liberal arts curriculum. UND Regents supported Merrifield and Montgomery and Blackburn was dismissed. After his one year presidency at UND, Blackburn became president of Pierre University in South Dakota.
The William M. Blackburn Papers date from 1855-1910, and consist primarily of his handwritten sermons. Most of the sermons were delivered on multiple occasions, and are arranged chronologically by the date the sermon was first delivered. Also included are several folders of miscellaneous untitled manuscripts, and two folders of correspondence.
Also included is a copy of Blackburn’s sermon “The Crime Against the Presidency” reproduced on microfiche. The sermon was delivered on Sunday, April 16, 1865, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, in Trenton, New Jersey. This was the first Sunday following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The microfiche was placed in the microfiche box in the Family History Room.