Dayton High School opens in 1881.

  • By John and Lorie Stucke
  • Posted 10/05/2010
  • Essay 9607
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In 1881 Dayton, located in Columbia County, opens what is claimed to be the first accredited high school in Washington state. After setbacks in its first couple of years, the school's first class will graduate in 1886.

There had been 44 students enrolled during its inaugural 1881-1882 school year, though just five completed the entire first year, which was interrupted by a smallpox quarantine. The principal was F. M. McCully and the first teacher salaries were $80 a month. The high school was first housed with the elementary school that had been built in 1880.

The first formal effort to educate Dayton area children had began in 1864, when two settlers built a private school on their land outside of what would later become the city. As more schools sprouted, dozens of districts were formed and education became what one historian called “a lively  interest.” (Gilbert, Portland, 396).

The high school’s first graduating class was to be in 1885. But the school was forced to close a few months early when funding dried up. Diplomas were not issued.

Classes resumed in the fall of 1886.

Sources: Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington’s Past: A Road Guide to History, (Seattle & London: University of Washington Press, 1995), 178-179; Robert E. Ficken, Washington Territory (Pullman, Washington: WSU Press, 2002), 120;  Frank T. Gilbert, Historic Sketches of Walla Walla, Whitman, Columbia, and Garfield Counties, Washington Territory (Portland, Oregon: A. G. Walling, 1882), 396-397; C. A. Nelson and Mrs. Donald J. Lyman, “Dayton Community Survey 1955,”  Dayton file, Northwest History Room, Spokane Public Library, Spokane.

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