top of page

Philomath College

Philomath, Oregon




C.S. Springer’s University of Oregon Master’s Thesis is on Internet Archive.  The Benton County Historical Society has a site devoted to Philomath College and its rival College of Philomath.   The images (right) of 1887 Philomath College students Martha Hummer and Emily Allen are Pinterest saves from the Benton County Historical Society.


Philomath College is the product of the Oregon Conference of the United Brethren Church of Christ.  In 1865 the conference determined to build up a “first class institution of learning.”  The college opened in October 1867 with about one hundred students.  Springer notes that since few schools in the area offered coursework beyond elementary level, Philomath College was initially a preparatory and secondary school.


By 1874 the school had instituted a four-year classical course, focusing on Greek and Latin languages and literature, higher mathematics, science, rhetoric and logic.  This led to a A.B. degree; also available was a B.S. degree which required neither Greek nor Latin, and a four-year Ladies’ course, which also led to a B.S. degree.


In 1884 Philomath College added a three-year normal course comprised of the upper two years of the preparatory course and the first year of college work.  To meet the needs of students in the area, PC also developed programs in business and music.


Springer’s enrollment charts show that Philomath College averaged slightly more than 90 students annually in all courses.  In 1895 it had two students each in the post-graduate and classical courses, six scientific students, 13 normal students, 20 commercial students, 35 music students, eight special students, 16 college prep students and 25 English prep students.  Since some students were enrolled in multiple courses, total attendance was 90.  Springer notes that the number of students taking upper level classes never exceeded 15 in any year, making the cost of maintaining college-level work very high for the Philomath College.


Philomath College maintained three literary societies—Philomathic (co-ed), Gordian (for males) and Athenaean (for females).  Their activities included debate, musical recitals, essays, and extemporaneous speeches.  Springer felt that these helped develop poise in public speaking, apply classroom knowledge, and develop social skills.   Once each term the school sponsored a public rhetorical program in which each student had to participate.  In the 1880’s, students published a monthly sheet called the Philomathic Disseminator.  Starting in 1903 they began a bi-weekly paper called the Philomath College Chimes.


In 1889 a schism in the United Brethren Church of Christ led to a split within the college.  The Liberal group maintained Philomath College.  The radical side opened the College of Philomath. This college operated 1889-1903 and 1906-1913, for a time cutting into PC’s enrollment.


In the 20th century, the rise of public high schools drained off the younger students from Philomath College.  At the same time, state colleges were draining off the college-level students.  Then the onset of the Great Depression caused Philomath College to close in December 1929.

Bricks and Mortar

Philomath College main building was more or less completed in 1867.  It was a two-story building measuring 40 by 60 feet.  The lower floor contained two large classrooms.  The chapel occupied the upper floor; this was used by both the college and the church.  Financial difficulties prevented further work on the building for a time.  A pile of hewn logs served as entrance steps.


A dormitory was added in 1877 along with a small two-room building used by the elementary students.  Using student help, a gymnasium was added in 1902, a west wing on the main building in 1905 and an east wing in 1907.


After the college closed, the main building was used as a church.  Badly in need of repair, it was rescued by local citizens, who had the building placed on the National Register.  It now houses the Benton County Historical Society.


Philomath College building now houses the Benton County Historical Society.  Image by finetooth. <,_Oregon#/media/File:Benton_County_Historical_Museum.jpg >  accessed 2-19-2017


Given the small numbers, Philomath College did not play football.  By 1909 the Oregonian notes that the school is a member of the Willamette Valley College Basketball League—along with Dallas College, Pacific College, Pacific University, Albany College, McMinnville College, and Chemawa Indian School.  In a non-conference game, Philomath College defeated Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State).


In the 1920’s newspapers note that Philomath College has a track team and that  the conference is arranging schedules for baseball and tennis.


As the photo at left shows, Philomath College also fielded a women's basketball team.

The 1912 women's basketball team.  Image courtesy of the Benton County Historical Museum. 

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

bottom of page