Benjamin Cheney visits the town and the academy bearing his name on September 17, 1883.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 9/12/2007
  • Essay 8290

On September 17, 1883, the town of Cheney celebrates the visit of Benjamin P. Cheney (1815-1895),  a director of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He admires the town that had been named after him two years earlier, visits the Benjamin P. Cheney Academy and delivers a speech. The academy will evolve into Eastern Washington University.

Mutual Gratitude

Cheney arrived on a special car and was greeted at the depot by a brass band and hundreds of citizens, including the academy's 200 students. He expressed his gratitude for the town's name and the townspeople expressed their gratitude for his gift of $10,000 to build the Benjamin P. Cheney Academy.

In a speech at the academy, Cheney declared that if the academy needed to expand, he would see that it would be made larger.  One of the other Northern Pacific directors traveling with him said that Cheney had made a number of good investments, but he thought the Cheney Academy was Cheney's best ever.

The Band Played

The party then admired the vegetables and grains on display at the railroad office. The band played as the train departed. It was Cheney's one and only visit to the town bearing his name.

He never needed to expand the academy; it soon languished and seven years later was converted to the State Normal School at Cheney. The State Normal School evolved into Eastern Washington University.

Sources: J. Orin Oliphant, History of the State Normal School at Cheney, Washington (Spokane: Inland-American Printing Company, 1924).

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