History of Milton-Freewater

The History of Milton-Freewater

Originally settled in 1868 by W.S. Frazier, Milton-Freewater is the only town in America with a hyphenated name. There is some dispute as to where the name "Milton" came from, though it is thought to have been chosen by the settlers living in the area at the time. Community Founder W.S. Frazier laid out plans for the town in 1872 and sold some acreage along with water rights to John Miller. In 1873, they started building residential housing and opened a Post Office, a store, a blacksmith shop, and a school.

By 1889, Milton was thriving and was a local paragon of virtue, boasting at least one religious academy and strict no-alcohol laws. Several local men decided this conservative way of life wasn't for them and founded a new town just north of Milton. Early names for the new town included New Walla Walla and Wallaette, and while Milton would become home to a Methodist College, Wallaette would be home to numerous saloons. Rival newspapers poked fun at each other, and Wallaette was changed to Freewater as part of a marketing plan to encourage settlement with the promise of "free water". 

In 1950, a narrow vote by residents of both towns led to a merger. The name Milton-Freewater was adopted and 61 years of municipal independence for each town ended, saving considerably on duplicate city services. To this day, Milton-Freewater’s industries include farming, food processing, small industry, and technology. Grapes, apples, cherries, prunes, plums, wheat, peas, peonies, alfalfa, corn, and asparagus dominate the areas farm fresh fruits and vegetables. With a long growing season, plentiful water, and rich soil, agriculturists and horticulturists alike find the Milton-Freewater area a great place to raise almost any crop, and they do.

Dairy Queen
circa 1960

McLoughlin High School
circa 1970

North Main Street
circa 1960

Milton-Freewater Today

Lying in the southern part of the Walla Walla River Valley, hearty Pioneer families found an ideal climate and plenty of elbow room. Here in the mild climate near Oregon’s Blue Mountains, our friendly population welcomes you to a variety of outdoor activities: excellent Salmon and Steelhead fishing; Deer, Elk, and upland game bird hunting; downhill and cross-country skiing; snowmobile trails; hiking; camping; and picnicking are all within short distances of Milton-Freewater.

Tourists and residents alike will enjoy a visit to our portal kiosk containing area maps with points of local historical interest. Other suggestions for how to spend time are available at the Chamber of Commerce and Information Center located at 725 S Main Street.

In town, you may enjoy our 35 acres of parks, tennis courts, 18-hole executive golf course, aquatic center, and racquetball courts. A visit to our local Frazier Farmstead, maintained by the Milton-Freewater Historical Society, is a treat for history buffs. Frazier Farmstead Museum is open April – December, Thursday through Sunday. Settled by Community Founder W.S. Frazier in 1868, the six-acre site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a “turn of the century” home with many original furnishings, several farm buildings, and flower, herb, and rose gardens. Umatilla County’s oldest structure, the McCoy Cabin, was built in 1856 and has been relocated to the Farmstead grounds for preservation.

Milton-Freewater events include the Junior Show, Frazier Farmstead Summertime Festival, Weekend @ the Blues Rodeo and Music Festival, and the Christmas Magic Parade & Holiday Market.