College Place post office is established near Walla Walla on May 24, 1892.

  • By Michael J. Paulus Jr.
  • Posted 5/12/2009
  • Essay 9020

On May 24, 1892, the post office of College Place is established a few miles west of Walla Walla. Henry Carnahan is appointed the first postmaster and begins operating a post office in the front room of his house. In 1891, Seventh-day Adventists in Washington and Oregon had decided to establish a college at this site. The land around the planned site of the school was platted and named College Place, and Adventists began buying lots and settling there. Construction of a building for Walla Walla College (now University) began in early 1892. The town of College Place will grow up with and around the college and become incorporated as a municipality in 1945 with a population of about 1,800.

A Place for a College 

As the Seventh-day Adventist Church took form in the 1860s, denominationally oriented education for all ages became a priority. The church started its first school in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1872, and, as Adventism spread throughout the United States and beyond, schools became an important component of Adventist communities.  Adventist missionaries came west to California in the late 1860s, and in the 1870s the first Adventist churches were organized in the Pacific Northwest.  In the 1880s, Adventists established academies in Milton and Portland, Oregon.

In 1890, the denomination’s educational secretary, William Warren Prescott (1855-1944), visited the Northwest and advocated for the consolidation of the two schools into one large and centrally located institution.  Prescott visited the academy in Milton, but decided that another site would be needed.  Walla Walla Mayor Nelson G. Blalock (1836-1913), a medical doctor who had settled in the Walla Walla Valley in 1873 and acquired large tracts of lands, offered the Adventists 40 acres of land for a school a few miles west of the City of Walla Walla.  Leaders within the Adventist denomination made a 25-year commitment to operate their school at the site.

 A College Town is Born 

Plans for Walla Walla College began to take shape in 1891.  Land adjacent to Blalock’s donation was acquired, the town of College Place was named and platted, and lots were sold to migrating Adventists.  The cornerstone for a building for Walla Walla College was laid in May 1892 and a post office was set up, which meant that College Place residents no longer needed to ride or walk to Walla Walla to collect their mail.  A Seventh-day Adventist church was organized in College Place in the summer of 1892. 

Most of those who moved to College Place had some direct connection with the school -- as employees, students, or parents of students. When Walla Walla College opened on December 7, 1892, 101 students were present to register for primary, secondary, and basic college courses.  More enrollments followed, but the school struggled for many years to survive. 

The school did manage to remain open and grow, and by the early twentieth century the community around it had became a self-sustaining church colony.  In 1945, as Walla Walla College was on the cusp of a substantial period of growth, College Place, with a population of about 1,800, became an incorporated municipality in Walla Walla County.  Today, College Place has a population of about 8,000.

Sources: Terrie Dopp Aamodt, Bold Venture: A History of Walla Walla College (College Place, Washington: Walla Walla College, 1992); Helen W. Cross, College Place, Washington: A Brief History (Color Press, 1988); Claude Thurston, 60 Years of Progress: The Anniversary History of Walla Walla College (College Place, Washington: Printed by The College Press, 1952[?]); Doug R. Johnson, Adventism on the Northwestern Frontier (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Oronoko Books, 1996);, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Walla Walla University” (by Michael J. Paulus Jr.), (accessed May 2009).

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