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A-Z History of Sumner, Washington - Whitworth College

Provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times and the City of Sumner.

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Whitworth College

Sumner once had its own institution of higher education. When the Reverend George A. Mckinley, pastor of the Sumner Presbyterian Church, recognized that Sumner’s youth needed opportunities for advanced study, he worked with Dr. George Fredrick Whitworth (a local leader of the Presbyterian Church) to establish and secure financing for Sumner Academy. Classes for thirteen students were initiated in 1884.

By 1889, Dr. Whitworth had talked the Presbyterian General Assembly into funding a dedicated building, and Sumner Academy was renamed Whitworth College. Whitworth was a coed, liberal arts institution built to accommodate 125 students. It attracted students from Alaska, California, and Oregon, but most of its students were from the Puyallup Valley.

Whitworth’s regular concerts, recitals, and sports achievements brought distinction to the entire town. The college attracted faculty who became honored members of the community. Pranks played by its student body also brought attention - one year the male students borrowed a number of wagons, disassembled them, and then reassembled them on top of downtown store buildings.

However, Sumner proved to be too remote a location for the college. Its student body numbered less than 100; many local students paid their tuition in butter, eggs, bales of hay, wood, and coal. Only a decade after its founding, Whitworth College moved to Tacoma. Fires in 1909 and 1918 forced Sumner to raze the old building.

In 1913, Whitworth College moved again to the Graves estate in Spokane. It is still there today, sixth in size among 45 Presbyterian colleges in the United States.

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Information on these pages is provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times Staff and The City of Sumner, Wa.

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