Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Economic Depression of 1893 had spread its devastating effects to all corners of the United States, and a community of about 100 called Sunnyside was no exception. Local businesses were falling under and families were forced to pick up and move on; in many cases losing everything they had to start over with because hundreds of banks had gone under.
As history remembers it, however, one man remained remarkably dedicated to the idea that Sunnyside could succeed. William H. Cline soon became the only businessman in town who refused to close his doors during those incredibly difficult times, and thereby enabled the township to survive.
Flash forward over 100 years and we find ourselves residents of a continually growing and generally pleasant city called Sunnyside, Wa., where a new elementary school will soon be constructed. The school board finds itself with the task of deciding upon a suitable name for the new school building. There is considerable support for naming the school after William Cline, but our school board wants to look elsewhere, judging by its latest decisions. Some others have expressed a desire to name the school after more geographically-focused titles like "Sierra Vista," but maybe we should think about he individuals who made these beautiful surroundings relevant to begin with. I think the search for a name would end pretty quickly if we looked more closely at the history surrounding our city's origin.
Going back to 1893, the land agents who owned the area Sunnyside was to be established on wanted to attract settlers to the development. To do so, they sought out a business owner who'd be willing to open up shop in the area. Paul Schulze (the land agent for the Northern Railroad Company) contacted Mr. Cline and offered him a free rail pass so he could see the town site for himself. He made his way towards the nearest rail terminal (Mabton) and set off for the proposed building area, but soon became lost in the dry, desolate area which had no roads but plenty of sagebrush.
Though unimpressed during his first visit, Mr. Cline decided to visit the site again but this time approached from the Northwest. Seeing the effect that irrigation was having on other areas, he saw promise in the valley and changed his opinion of the venture.
Mr. Cline contacted Mr. Schulze and said he was agreeable to the idea, but stated one condition: the town (which was going to be named Mayhew up until then) was going to be called "Sunnyside."
Knowing that establishing a general store in the area would bring more settlers, they agreed on these terms, and Mr. Cline became the first resident and business owner of Sunnyside.
But his legacy far from ends there. Beyond saving the town during the oncoming depression, Mr. Cline served as our first member of the Yakima County Commission, and our first representative in the Washington State Legislature.
One trend in our schools that is worth addressing is a complete lack of knowledge regarding our own history. As a student in advanced placement history classes, I was very surprised that I had no familiarity with one of the most important figures in my community's history. Thankfully, local history teacher Monty Johnson presented me with information on Mr. Cline and brought up a great point: Sunnyside has an incredible history that so few students are aware. Beyond giving the man his well overdue tribute, imagine what the impact will be from naming our soon-to-be-erected elementary school after our community's founding father.
Coming from a student who is still attending schools in Sunnyside, I think my school board directors need to know the committee that recommended William H. Cline Elementary got it right.
We call students the future of the community. I think there is something to be gained by teaching our community's future about the pioneers of our past.
Jonas Linde is a student at Sunnyside High School.