Posts Tagged ‘Whitman College History’

I am curious about the places and people my great uncle wrote about in his 1914 – 1917 letters home. I just put the question out there and my good friend, Karyn, who lives in Walla Walla (and who is very familiar with the campus) sent me some links. My brother also got on the Internet and did some poking around. Here’s what they gleaned.

First: St. Paul’s School for Girls: “Saint Paul’s School for Girls was founded in 1872 by The Reverend Lemuel H. Wells, who later became the first Bishop of Spokane.  The school offered both day and boarding options for grades six through twelve.”

Stephen B.L. Penrose was President of Whitman College from 1894-1934.  One tidbit under his name is this (copied and pasted from the website: Portraits of of the Past):

World War I


Prior to America’s involvement in the First World War, Whitman College was a paragon of compassion for “benighted Europe.” This concern extended not only to the English and French – whom the Americans would eventually aid – but also the Germans and Austrians. The faculty organized a shelf in the library that provided pamphlets explaining both sides of the conflict, students participated in German Club, and funds were raised to assist Europeans who were in prisoner-of-war camps. One professor of German, Samuel Kroesch, prepared a selection of German plays appropriate for student performance and distributed this list to the surrounding region. Even after America joined the war, Whitman continued its tolerant attitude and was one of only a handful of schools to maintain its German studies department throughout the duration of the war. President Penrose chose to open the campus to new troops in an effort to retain male students who might otherwise drop out in order to enlist. Although the military presence on campus was not as great it would become during the World War II, students benefitted from being allowed both to serve and continue their studies at Whitman.

That explains the name Kroesche in Dale’s letter of March 13, and the German Play he referred to.

Now, things get mysterious: Dale’s letters always begin with “Prentiss Hall”, but the history cited on the Whitman College website states very clearly that Prentiss Hall was not built until 1926! Further, it was, and is, a women’s residence hall. I’m pretty certain Dale knew where he was and wasn’t making up things, but why the history doesn’t match… ???

I did a little more research – found this tidbit from Lyman’s History of Old Walla Walla (pub. 1918) It’s a free ebook, available at this link:

“On October s3, 1866, the first building was dedicated. It was on the location of the present Whitman Conservatory of Music. The building was removed to make way for the conservatory and now composes part of Prentiss Hall, a dormitory for young men.”

Sometime between 1918 and 1926, Prentiss Hall as my great uncle knew it ceased to exist. In 1926, it was rebuilt as a brand new building, and the prior history was lost. That’s the only explanation I have.


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Tonight, as I transcribed Dale’s letter, I began to hear his voice: the Mid-west “twang” and his sense of humor seem to emanate from him. His folks are still in Portland at the time of this writing (my brother pointed out that they probably traveled by rail and so did not go through Walla Walla to visit Dale). The First World War is still five months away and a world removed from Walla Walla and Dale.


“Prentiss Hall, March 13, 1914

Dear Folks,

    I got your letter this morning and will answer right away. I hope the weather has warmed up some back there, because the cold is liable to bother you when you get home.

   We gave the German play last night and afterwards went to Kroesche’s house and had a feed. I had a fine time, because they all talked German and told stories about the old country. I got an invitation to come up to Kline’s this afternoon. I am going up you bet. I have a notion to get him to give me a little special work in German if I can arrange it reasonably.

    I have a job for a week or soagain (sic) at St Paul’s School again. I am pretty good at dishwashing now. I do not have to spend so long a time as I used to. The grub is not great stuff, but I manage to live on it somehow.

    I am getting along good in Greek, and German. I had right to get about 90% in each one. Math is going good this semester, and Physics is fine; I worked a problem the other day that no one had worked alone for three or four years.

    Psychology Class has not met for a week, but I think I got about 90% in the test we had at the last meeting. English is all right. I must make a speech next time on the subject: “The Freshman’s reading of poetry”. Bible is really better under the sub. professor than under Drexy(?) as far as facts go, but I guess Penrose does make it more interesting.

    I didn’t get any suit, and I am going to try and get along without one this spring, as money is no common thing around this neck of the woods. I don’t know how money gets away so fast, but everybody seems to have the same trouble. One guy from Boisey who lived her for a while spent close to $200.oo between the 1st of Jan and the 1st of March. I guess that is going some eh? He wasn’t a frightful sport either, but he had most of us outclassed.

    Well don’t work too hard when you get home. I will be back before long, and I will show you how to wash dishes. I hope you will write soon, and tell all the news. I must quit and go down to dinner at the school.

Dale D.”

I could not find a good list of professors at Whitman College* in 1914 (I’m sure there is such a thing) to verify the names Drexy and Penrose (there is a Penrose Library). Kline’s and Kroesche’s are also hard to track down. However, I was able to tie down what St. Paul’s was: St. Paul’s School for Girls.

*I have a friend whose husband works at Whitman College and I shall be emailing her to see if he has any insights on these names.

I wonder how it went over when Dale returned to the homestead and fulfilled his promise: “I will show you how to wash dishes.”

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