A Brief History
The history of the College Place Village Seventh-day Adventist Church became integrated with the history of Walla Walla College at the time Milton Academy was moved from Milton-Freewater, Oregon in 1892. As the organization got underway of what was to become Walla Walla College, the need for the Lord’s leading and guidance led to the desire for a place in which to worship God. These humble seekers first met in the T. S. Ragsdale home soon after they purchased a brick farmhouse not too far from the college site. In 1891 they gathered in the parlor for services but on sunny days they moved outside in the shade of the majestic trees.
Tithes and offerings were sent to the church's Conference headquarters who then contacted these home-church folk, asking them where the offering moneys were coming from? They were puzzled until Henry Carnahan responded,"Let’s call this site College Place."
Outgrowing the space in the Ragsdale home, the church decided to move closer to the school. They chose a tool shed across the road from where the administration building was being built. Meeting in the tool shed did not last long. By the end of the summer (1892) the congregation moved into its third church, the chapel, on the second floor of the yet-to-be-completed college administration building. The building did not yet have a roof and the chapel did not have a ceiling, but it was the dry time of the year.
The chapel was the home of the church for 20 years. But being located on the second floor was less than ideal for programs, weddings, and funerals. This led the congregation to study the possibility of constructing a church building. It was not until 1912 that the congregation had a real church building in which to worship. It was built
Courtesy of WWU Archives
on the site of the old tool shed. This church was constructed with space for 700 worshipers. After Christmas (1918) the church was dedicated to the Lord free of debt. Then, just three weeks later, on a cold Sabbath morning, as the worshipers arrived for Sabbath School, they found that their church was on fire.
Undaunted by this turn of events, the growing congregation began rebuilding their church on the same site with increased seating on the main floor. There was seating for 1,100 and the college students had room for their Sabbath School classes in the balcony. This new church was constructed with brick walls outside and fine furnishings inside, including stained glass windows.
Courtesy of WWU Archives
With an increasing student enrollment and a swelling village population, Sabbath School became very noisy with college student classes in the balcony and village members classes on the main floor. This was one of the deciding factors that prompted consideration of other options. In 1939 the college decided to move from the church into Columbia Auditorium, a large gymnasium. Not until 1947 was this worshipping group chosen as a separate, Conference-organized congregation. Finally, October 20, 1962 marks the day that this congregation moved from Columbia Auditorium into a new sanctuary where it still meets today and is knows as the Walla Walla University Church.
And those who remained after this division were the charter members of the College Place Village Seventh-day Adventist Church.
As the college grew, young families moved into the area wanting good educational opportunities for their children and youth. This created a need for additional space to meet the needs of the children. Soon a larger facility was not just a dream. Property was acquired about a mile away. Church members and architects went to work designing a building to meet the requirements of the growing congregation. Members watched the progress and lent their support financially and prayerfully as the present building was built.
The first meeting in the new church was a candlelight communion service held on the evening of December 20, 1968. Thus ended the 76 year wait by this congregation to have a church planned and constructed for the village church family. However, the need for a larger fellowship hall and more rooms for Sabbath School classes became obvious and a new addition was started in 1998 and dedicated on August 28, 1999. The Lord has blessed this church and we give Him all of the praise.
1. North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 1999. “Renewal at the Seventh Church", by Terrie Aamodt.
2. Aamodt, Terrie Dopp, Bold Venture, a history of Walla Walla College Walla Walla College, College Place, Washington, 1992
3. “60 Years of Progress: the Anniversary History of Walla Walla College” (1952).