In the beginning for higher education (February 1850), the early Legislative Assembly acquired a section of land at the present site of the University of Utah. The assembly regents made elaborate plans, but these plans were too grandiose at that time. Thus, the regents decided to enclose an area with a stone wall for where the university would later be constructed. This area was known as the University Square.
At this same time, construction began in the 13th Ward to temporarily house the university, but this project was also delayed for 13 years. The University Square was later obliterated. The regents then decided to open the first university session in the Council House, but the structure was not completed in time for the first classes to be held.
Thus, on Nov. 11, 1850, it was decided to hold the first classes of the university in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Pack (near the corner of West Temple and 100 North). Twenty-five students showed up and paid the quarter tuition of $8. After the Council House was completed, classes moved there for the second quarter and then on to the 13th Ward for the third and fourth terms. A fifth term was not held due to a shortage of funds, and attention was turned to the development of elementary schools.
The university again was mired for 17 years due to President Brigham Young's insistency that the regents focus their attention on a spelling reform known as the Deseret Alphabet. After two decades, this reform finally died out. With more settlers arriving and industry reviving, so did the idea of a university. On March 8, 1869, the University of Deseret (later to be known at the University of Utah) was reopened.
The descendants of John Pack are struggling to reconstruct the home where the first university classes were first held. The home would be located at This Is the Place Heritage Park. The John Pack Family would like to keep the legacy of their roots alive for all to enjoy.
Jo Ann Merrill
Editor, Pack Family Association
Salt Lake City