Do you know the history behind some of Sumner’s names? Here are just a few:
The name “Sumner” itself was literally drawn out of a hat. The town was called Franklin, but the postal service said there were too many Franklins in Washington, so the town needed to select a new name. Four of the town leaders met in a store on Main Street but couldn’t agree on a new name. They each put their suggestion into a hat and had a boy pick a slip. It said, “Sumner.” Why that name? We know it was the suggestion of L.F. Thompson, and we know that when he came West, he stopped in Seneca Falls, New York to meet many of the abolitionists he so admired. Charles Sumner was one of them, a Senator who was caned on the flood of the Capitol building in DC for his outspoken stand against slavery. Side note: two of the four trying to decide on a name, Thompson and George Ryan, ended up having their own names used as streets in Sumner.
Speaking of Thompson, it was originally his farmland that was donated in the early 1900s to become City Park. That was its name until the 1970s, when it became “Loyalty Park,” rather controversially to anti-war protests occurring across the country at that time.
“Heritage Park” is actually “Reuben A. Knoblauch Heritage Park,” named for Senator Knoblauch, who grew up in Sumner, served in World War II, and went into politics, serving as a Democrat. When he retired in 1976, he held the record for the longest continuous service in the Legislature with 30 years, six in the House and the rest in the Senate. He passed away in 1992.
Zehnder Street is named for the Zehnder family who originally lived and farmed that area. Legend has it that the company that would become Olympia Brewing Co. wanted to locate there, but Mrs. Zehnder was a teetotaller, so she wouldn’t sell the family farm to them. Instead, she sold it to Fleischmann’s Yeast, and the brewing company sought another site in Tumwater.
Other names in town like Bridge Street, Traffic Avenue, Main Street and Rainier View Park need no explanation!