In 1853, members of a wagon train crossed over the Cascade Mountains through Naches Pass and settled an agricultural community in a fertile river valley at the junction of the Puyallup River and Stuck Creek (now known as the White River). They grew crops such as daffodils, rhubarb, hops, berries, vegetables, and turf grass. The village was first called Stuck Junction. Later, J.P. Stewart helped establish a post office serving the area now known as Puyallup and Sumner, and he named the area Franklin after his hometown in New York State.

When the post office relocated, another one was needed in the present-day Sumner area. The new post office was located at the Ryan’s home with Mrs. Ryan as the first post-mistress. The U.S. Postal Department requested a new name for the post office since there were so many places named Franklin and delivering mail became confusing. Three townsmen–John F. Kincaid, L.F. Thompson, and George Ryan–could not agree on a name, so each placed a name on a slip of paper and put it into a hat. A boy was called into the store to pick one of the slips and it came out “Sumner.”

Charles Sumner was a Senator from Massachusetts and a popular statesman of the 19th century known for his efforts toward the abolition of slavery among other issues. The name of Sumner went on the railroad depot after the town incorporated in 1891.