Early History of the Milton-Freewater Area

Published by the Valley Herald, Inc.

Milton-Freewater, Oregon





Editor’s Note – Our greatest appreciation is extended to the following people who contributed time, effort and material without which this history could not have bee set into print.


W.S. Caverhill

Mrs. R. E. Bean

Vance Orchard

Russel Blackler

C. Bert Miller

1961-62 Umapine History Class

Mr. And Mrs. Dean Beauchamp

Raymond Bevans

George Grimes

Arnold Schubert

Jack Richartz

Virgil Weathers

Phil and Katie Hoon

Cass Weatherman

Ed Burlingame

Johnny Marlott

And many others.


Special mention goes to the many families and individuals whose records were so generously made available to those who compiled this history.  Without their cooperation this would have been impossible.


Table of Contents


Our purpose




A Word-O-Rama




McCoy Family


Milton Incorporates


Ireland Family


Milton Eagle


Ingle Family


Random Recollections


Cowl Family


Tollgate History


Frazier Family


Umapine History


Edwards Family


Hudson Bay Post


Steen Family


Burlingame Ditch


Winn Family


School & Industry


Demaris Family


Vincent Family


Milton Becomes a Town


Beauchamp Family


Miller’s Mill


Swegle Family




Hoon Family


Milton Nursery


Freewater Founded




Freewater Times


Banking Business


Early Day Family


Thomas Ruckel Road







The City of Milton Freewater, business center of the Upper Walla Walla Valley, has a history as rich in personalities and events as any other community in Eastern Oregon; but no writer has taken the time or the trouble to prepare a compendium of it.  Perhaps the reason is that Milton-Freewater has never experienced the exciting stimulation of a “gold rush” that frenzied so many Blue Mountain towns into existence and later left them ghosts of early greatness.


Perhaps, the abundant water, the fertile soil, delightful climate and uninterrupted progress produced a complacency of mind so general among the residents that no thought was given to writing the life story of the area.


To a careful student of social, economic, and civic progress, the fact that Milton-Freewater has arrived from the frontiers of the past without experiencing the turbulence of changing conditions that has plagued the development of other communities is in itself a demand that a history be written.  To give credit to the people who did it and to tell how it was accomplished, this work is directed.


At this late hour, it is our purpose to compile material concerning the first permanent settlers, and those who followed, as accurately as oral statements and recorded documents available will support.


Beginning with the first few families who built log cabins in the valley, a few genealogies will be carried forward to the third generation, enough to show the existing influence of direct decendency on the community.


In other matters our review will stop at the boundary of the so-called modern age.  Others may take it from there if they wish.


That is our purpose.


Page 2 – A WORD-O-RAMA


One hundred years mean little in the eternity of time.  They mean much in the generations of men.


If the Invisible Guardian of man’s destiny was watching here one hundred years ago he saw them coming, the people who came to settle the upper Walla Walla Valley.  He saw them come by foot, by pack train, wagon and boat.  They came from the gold fields and eastern settlements, north and south.  The were a determined and industrious people, who saw in the new land an opportunity to build firmly and well for their descendants.  They cut timber from the mountains, turned water from streams, pastured their livestock on the rolling hills, plowed the sod and cleared the land to divert it to fruit and grain production.


Time passed, conditions changed, roads were built, and industry and business grew.  The pits of the charcoal burners in the mountains cooled.  A town-site was laid out.  Railroads were built.


Still they came, more people seeking opportunity and homes.


In spite of a cosmopolitan addition, the influence of the early settlers was not lost.  They built schools and, true to the faith of their fathers, many churches of their chosen creed.


All this, the Guardian of man’s destiny saw, as Milton-Freewater came into being.


A pleasing prospect built on faith and hope.


There is no better foundation for establishing a society of men.



The McCoy family was among the earliest settlers who had a part in the development of the Valley.  Some of their descendants still own and occupy a part of the original family holdings.


Thomas McCoy, leading a string of pack animals, brought his possessions from California gold fields in September 1856 and built a log cabin on land he selected.  The land was patented in 1864, under the land-grant law of 1820.  Title to the tract was the first deed to be recorded in Umatilla County.


Some time after Thomas became settled he was joined by his family, who had remained in Ohio while Tom sought fortune in the West.  The search was successful to a degree as Tom set up business in the Walla Walla Valley with $40,000 or $50,000 in gold.  It is recorded he shipped the gold from California by Wells Fargo Express.  With part of it, the family, in 1876, built a two story, seven-gable house on the present Ben Johnson property.


It is a matter of record that the first litigation in Oregon over irrigation water rights, was between Thomas McCoy and Ninevah Ford.  The case was tried in Oregon City.  The court decree is known as the McCarthy decree and divided the water of the Walla Walla and the Little Walla Walla equally between them.


The McCoy’s traded extensively with the Indians, let them camp on their property.  There was never trouble between them.  E. O. “Dutch” McCoy prospered by shipping wheat by rail and barge to The Dalles, acquired property elsewhere, and moved away.  Mark McCoy lives on part of the old place. 


Thomas McCoy was one of Umatilla County’s Board of Commissioners when Umatilla was the county seat.  Ninevah Ford was one of a committee of three appointed to select a site for a new county seat to be between the mouth of Wildhorse Creek and McKay Creek, which later became Pendleton.




An Ireland came and stayed.  When the three Ireland brothers left California’s gold fields for some place north, one of them, James, saw opportunity in the sage covered flats and rolling bunch grass hills of the Walla Walla.  He settled there in 1860 on a section of land, later titled under a land grant patent, and began raising cattle.  The tract of land in Ireland ownership began where the Milton library (former) now stands, extending East and North one mile in each direction.  It is notable that part of that section has remained in Ireland ownership for 100 years.


James and his wife, Sarah (Ingle) Ireland, at one time operated the Cowl place as a way station to serve the stream of travelers moving between the mines of Eastern Oregon and Walla Walla.  Quarters were often crowded and prices were high and paid in gold.  The place was known as Ireland’s Crossing. 


Three children were born to them, a girl, Elzora, and two boys, Ellis and George.  The third generation of Ireland’s register as follows:  Elzora married Charley Armstrong; to them was born a daughter, Grace, now Mrs. Mathewson of Walla Walla.  Ellis married Clyde Crockett; their children were Pansy, Eldred, and Darrel Ireland.


George and Edith (Renick) were the parents of Dee, George, Howard, and Robert Ireland.  Dee and Edith (Patton) Ireland had one child.  George and Lorraine (Rogers) had three children.  Howard and Daglin.  Robert and Neva (Packard).




Elijah and Ann Ingle came to the valley from Iowa in 1862.  They settled on a section of land near the State Line. 


Their children, when they came to Oregon were:  Nancy Jane, Sarah Emeline (who married James Ireland in 1863), John Webster, George Millson, Melvina Frances, James Lemuel and Emma Ann.  Born to the family after settling here were William Perry, Laura Amelia, Charles Bruce and Albert.


William Perry married Lora McElrath.  To them were born five children, Mayme, Oscar, Sam, Katie and Lloyd.


Sam until the time of his death was a leading citizen of the community.




In 1867, W. A. Cowl and family from Milton, Ulster County, N>Y>, moved into the Valley and brought the stage station and Inn at the crossing on the Walla Walla River near the present location of the Marie Harris home.


W. A. Cowl was the first postmaster of Milton in 1873 – 74.


The Cowl’s gave an acre of ground for a site for the first schoolhouse, and later gave five acres for the site of the Central School.  A daughter, Mary, married Joe McCoy, and their daughter, now Mrs. Steffenson, resides in Centralia, Washington.  George, son of W. A. Cowl, is now deceased.


The crossing on the Walla Walla River seems to have been known at various times as:  Gale’s Crossing, Cowl’s Inn and Ireland Crossing.


Records indicate that there was more water in the Little Walla Walla River than at present.




When William S. Frazier and Pauline Rachael Frazier, looking for a new home in the west, led their family north from Texas to the Oregon Trail and turned aside to settle in the Walla Walla Valley, they must have found what they were searching for.


On October 1, 1867, their outfit arrived and spent the winter in a log cabin (the Ingle place) near the State Line.


In March 1868, they purchased property, a homestead-right from Thomas Eldrich, with a log cabin on it in what is now the south part of Milton.  It stood near the present location of the Frazier home.


In the years that followed, the Frazier’s and their many descendants took an active part in the development of enterprises in the community, as need for them arose.


This family history is remarkable as an example of harmony and satisfaction with life in the valley.  The family ties of the clan have remained closely knit.  Few of its members have wandered far.  The following genealogy is an exhibit of that.


1st and 2nd generations – Wm. S. and Pauline Rachel – Henry, Jim, John, Willie, Robert, Martha and Susan. 


3rd generation – Henry and Lacie  (s/b Lucy) Moss Frazier – Tom, Chester, Lola Anderson, Jim and Helen White Frazier, Jesse Compton, Thelma Shangle and Jennie Samnets (s/b Samuel).  John and Laura Cornelius Frazier – Roy, Lyle, Maurice, Maude Carter and Mildred.


Willie and Frances Beardsley Frazier – Lela, May Smith, Earl B. Frazier.  Robert and Ella Frazier, Bob (deceased), Martha and Martin Elam – Verna (Henry Piper) and Bertie (single).


Susan and S. K. COE – Maggie Campbell, Lina (Will Craig), Mary (Clyde Harris), Ernest (deceased), Arthur (Lula Hart), Frank (Eva Comstock), Elmo (Truth Ebert) and Harold (Ora Wilson).




The Edwards family was one of the early groups to select Milton as a place to establish a home.


George and Helen Edwards arrived in 1878.  He opened a blacksmith shop, one of the first requirements in a pioneer settlement when horses and wagons were the means of transportation.


The Edwards’ children were; Gertie, half sister, wife of Wm Miller, Guy, the twins Rude and Rode, Ralph, Leslie, and Jennie (Mrs. Jim McAusland).


Rode recalls selling milk (enough to flood the town) for 5 cents  per quart, buying eggs for 5 cents per dozen, and bread – 6 loaves for 25 cents, and feeding cattle on the east side of Main Street between 4th and 6th Streets.




In 1868, William Milton and Narvesta Steen, with the help of a hired boy, drove 500 sheep from Salem Oregon across the Cascade Mountains to Walla Walla in search of a home and fortune.  They selected a location on Dry Creek where there was summer water for livestock, and a promising strip of land between the creek and the hills that appeared to be suitable for farming.  The property with a log cabin on it was purchased in 1867 from “Billie” Winn, and the start of the Steen ranches was made.  The sheep were winter-pastured on the bunch grass hills between Dry Creek and Pine Creek and taken to Mountain Meadows in the summer.  This operation continued until someone found that wheat could be raised on the dry hills.  Then the sheep were sold and wheat raising became the major farm enterprise.  A spur line railroad was built to Blue Mountain Station from Walla Walla in 1880.  A stage station was set up at the end of the rails, and much wheat was delivered by team and wagon to be loaded and shipped.


Will Steen recalls seeing one 16-mule and 4-wagon outfit coming from beyond Weston.


William M. and Narvesta were the parents of seven children:  Frank B., Claude W., William H., Jessie May (Adam Rothrock), Ralph C.,  and twins Grant G. and Grace G. (Hugh Murray).  To the Murray’s six children were born:  Howard, Mildred, Martha, Donald and Marion and Bob .  William H. Steen married Beryl Barnes.  Their two children were Eva Steen Shannon and Lowell Steen.


( Dec. 22, 2006 - Thanks for the information on your site.  There is one error regarding the offspring of William M. and Narvesta Steen:  Grant and Grace were their twins.  The children of Hugh Murray and Grace Steen were all single births.

Paula Barak Peek (daughter of Martha Murray Barak)


Thank you for the correction. webmaster.




There is a remarkable circumstance surrounding the use of the name Winn.  Three families by that name settled in the area in the early 1870’s.  The “Adam” Winn’s, the “Couse Creek” Winn’s, and the “Dry Creek” Winn’s.  No relationship could ever be established between them. Local interest is centered in the “Dry Creek” Winn’s.  About 1872, Jess Zacharias and Annie Winn bought 160 acres of land, and established a stage station on the road to Weston, from a man named Durant.  10 acres was in careless cultivation.  Few people though that wheat could be raised successfully on account of weather conditions and ground squirrels, but J. Z. Winn thought otherwise.  He poisoned the squirrels, and from seed selection made in the Willamette Valley, developed a variety of wheat called “Red Chaff”, that for many years was a leader in Umatilla County.  It drew national attention and won the gold medal for wheat at the World’s Fair in 1905.


Getting wheat to market in those early days was not easy nor was the reward great.  Winn hauled his sacked wheat to the Columbia barge landing for 22 cents per bushel, about $10 or $12 per two-horse load; a round trip took 24 hours.  When the railroad was extended from Wall Walla to Blue Mountain Station, the situation improved.  During the years the family grew, and none of them strayed.  From first to last their children were: Iley, Clarence, Henry, George, Albert, Lillian and Bessie.  Such pioneers didn’t depend upon emigrants to populate the country.  That briefly is the story of the “Dry Creek” Winn’s.




Another pioneer family that came to the upper Walla Walla Valley in the early 1860’s was that of Enoch and Eva Demaris.  They played an important part in the development of the community.  Many of their descendants continue to reside in the Valley, some of them on the original land grants.


The Demaris family continues to take a lead in the production of fruit and livestock.  Enoch Demaris and Wife Eva left Attumwa, Iowa in 1863 and came west with a wagon train consisting of 60 wagons and 70 people.  They had 10 children - John, Margret, William, Jacob, Enoch Jr., Henry, James, Sarah Ann, Mary Ellen and Amos Leach.


They settled on the Walla Walla River where Meryl Demaris, his great grandchild, lives at the present time.  Enoch Demaris died November 3, 1877 and was buried in the Bowlus Cemetery east of Milton, Oregon.


Three of their children settled here - William, Jacob and Amos.


1.       William married Lucretia Howard.  They had two children, Eva, who married Jim Garred and raised one boy, Dallas Garred, of Walla Walla, WA.  And Charlie, who married Florence Wallace.  They had three children, Mabel, Blanche and Dorsey (deceased).


2.       Jacob Demaris married Lacy Marcus.  To this union was born 5 children; Pearly (deceased), Asa, Cora (deceased), Leslie and Harvey (deceased).


3.       Amos married Minerva Ellis and had ten children; Emma, Elta, Orpha, Susie, Fred, Maude, Arch, Goldie, Ida and George.




In 1872, W. S. Frazier laid off a town site on part of the Frazier property, gave a man by the name of Woodward 1-1/2 acres on the west side of Main Street as a site for a hotel, and sold John Miller 15 acres and a water right for $125 to build a grist mill.  The mill machinery contained 3 runs of stone burrs.  The hotel was operated in succession by U. Garred, D. W. Quinn and S. P. Whitely.  In 1873 M.V. Wormington built the first residence on the platted area.  By general community consent the town name of Milton was selected in an application for a post office.  In 1886 the town Board of Trustees incorporated under the name of Milton City.


By 1874 Riley Koontz had opened a store and blacksmith shop.  More residences were added, and a temporary schoolhouse was built where the old telephone building now stands.


A new two-story schoolhouse was built in 1879, on the site of the present Central School.  The cost was $6,000.


The Seventh Day Adventist’s built a church in 1880, and other denominations holding meetings were Christians, Methodist, Southern Methodists, Baptists and United Brethren.


In 1882 Milton consisted of two general stores, two drug stores, one variety store, one millinery store, three saloons, one hotel, one restaurant, three livery and feed stables, one meat market, one shoe shop, one barber shop, four blacksmith shops, one undertaker’s shop, a picture gallery, a flour mill, a planer, chop, and shingle mill, a hall, a flume, a railroad station, school house, two churches, post office, express office and a population of 400.


Stages passed through the place each way daily between Pendleton and Walla Walla.  Milton was growing and needed a town government; a need supplied in 1886 when a Board of Trustees established a city government.




The rapidly growing settlement and an expanding wheat production brought a demand for flour and ground feed.


In 1873 William Miller began operating a water-powered mill on a fifteen- acre tract purchased from William S. Frazier for $125.  Included in the deal was an easement to the Walla Walla River for a ditch to carry approximately 55 ft per second of water.  (Typical of the pioneer character of the men making the deal, somehow, no deed was given to the property until after Wm. S. had passed away.  The heirs accepted the conditions of the agreement without question and signed the necessary papers).


The mill was the old three-stone burr type, powered by a water wheel.  The burrs were shipped around Cape Horn and up the Columbia River.  It is reported that they were made in Europe, but that has not been verified.  Until recently, they lay neglected in the City Park; evidence of how little the present generation regards the tokens of the past.  A wakened interest insures their preservation.  (Webmaster:  maybe)


Miller’s Mill became a farmer’s meeting place and for more that fifty years served well the needs of the town and community.  The advent of modern machinery and the building of the large Peacock Mill north of Milton reduced the Miller operation to grinding feeds.  A few years later it was closed and a pea cannery used the vacated ground.


The Miller men, William, John and Henry and the women, Josephine (Mrs. Adam Crossman) and Lena (Mrs. Oakley Johnson) came to Milton in 1873.  Most of them resided there at the time of their death.




One of the first needs of settlers in a new country is lumber.  A few of the early houses were built of logs, but as the settlement grew, lumber became a necessity.  It is difficult to trace accurately the beginnings of the lumber industry.  It is recalled that a number of small mills cut lumber in the foothill country, but transporting it to the valley or Walla Walla was a problem.  To solve the problem, Dr. Blalock and his associate, Dr. Baker, set up a mill on Blalock Mountain and flumed the lumber and ties down the mountain side to the valley.  The flume was extended at intervals to Milton, running down what is now Mill Street and across the flats to the “dump” near where the Pleasant View School now stands.  From there it was picked up on a branch line of the “Baker Railroad” and taken to market.  The operation was known as the Oregon Improvement Co.  The flume, at one time, was 21 miles long.  It was abandoned in 1890.


When Frank Olinger, oldest living member of the Olinger family (all lumbermen), came to Milton in 1876, the Fletcher Mill was the largest operation.  Frank recalls one water-powered jigsaw in operation up the river.  “Not a very fast way to cut lumber but while the saw was going the length of the log the operator could hoe potatoes for awhile”.


The Olinger’s built a way station, store and shop at the timberline on Lincton Mountain.  It was their headquarters for many years.


The first large manufacturing plant was the Milton Box Company, established by Det and Clyde Harris to supply the growing demand from the fruit industry for boxes.  This was the first large manufacturing payroll in Milton and Freewater area.




In 1862 Aaron and Samaria Miller with their firstborn, a daughter Louisa, moved to Sonoma County California near Santa Rosa.  The trip was made by the old “Prairie Schooner” which took between three and four months.  July 1866, their second child, Samuel Aaron, was born at Windsor, California.


Aaron and Samaria Miller with their two children, Louisa and Samuel left California with the William Nichols family who resided in the same vicinity and emigrated to the Walla Walla Valley located at Milton, in 1871.  In 1872, Aaron Miller filed on a homestead of 160 acres near the town of Milton on the Walla Walla River and where the Milton Nursery Company is now located.


Miller desired to plant a family orchard.  There was no nursery nearby where fruit trees were available for immediate planting, therefore, his father, having some knowledge of fruit tree propagation, suggested growing their own trees.  The first year that they had trees ready for an orchard planting they also had a surplus.  There was a ready sale to their neighbors.  Soon they realized they were in the nursery business.  The business was called the Aaron Miller Nursery.  About the year 1888, one son, Samuel, joined his father in the business and it was called Aaron Miller and Son.  In 1902, a second son, George W., also became a partner of the firm.


When Aaron Miller and Son made the addition of the third son, C. Bert, to the firm, it seemed advisable to incorporate the firm name to Milton Nursery Company.  The officers were:  Aaron Miler - President, Samuel - Secretary and General Manager, George - Vice President, and C. Bert - Treasurer.


Aaron Miller’s died in 1925 at the age of 95.  Samuel A. died in 1923 at the age of 98.


In 1950, George W. retired from the business and his interest was purchased by C. Bert who became the President and General Manager, and the firm is still operating under his management (1962).  Since the establishment of this nursery firm, and to the present time, it has been owned and operated entirely by the Miller family, at the same location as the beginning.  Besides C. Bert, the remaining son, there are three grandsons, one of whom is Evert S. Miller, Vice President, of the firm and one granddaughter of the founder, Aaron Miller, who have an interest in the company.


From the small beginning of one or two acres, the firm now owns 320 acres at the original location, besides operating a branch nursery consisting of 100 acres at Puyallup, Washington.  All acreages at both locations are entirely devoted to the propagation of nursery products, which are shipped to all parts of the Untied States and Canada.  The firm’s employees number from 50 year round and up to 100 during seasonal operations.


The Milton Nursery Company has the distinction of being the oldest nursery in the Pacific Northwest, and the oldest firm in the vicinity of Milton-Freewater.


Since its establishment in 1878, it has been a constant and growing support to the economy of the community.  It is an outstanding example of family cooperation and good management.




Horticulture was one of the profitable enterprises of the first settlers.  A long growing season, combined with ample water and fertile soil made production of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables easy.


William S. Frazier planted a large part of his acreage to tree fruits and berries.  All the land lying between Mill Street and the river, north to 9th Street was at one time in orchard.  From the beginning, the product found a ready and profitable market.


Since that time, fruit growing has been greatly expanded and is one of the leading industries in the valley.  To support that statement, an article appearing in 1905, is here appended: 

The Pacific Homestead, Salem, Oregon

Thursday, October 19, 1905.

            The three fruit packing houses at Freewater, Umatilla County, Oregon, will finish this season’s business this week and no more produce will be shipped from that point until the strawberry season opens next year.

            While the fruit crop generally has been light this year, the prices have been better and both the grower and shipper have probably done as well as in any previous year.  During the packing season, about 150 people were employed and $5,000 paid out for labor by the three houses.  The amount distributed among the growers this year will reach nearly $65,000, the Walla Walla Produce Company alone paying out about $40,000.

            Taken in their order, according to the season’s output, there were shipped from Freewater this year 15,000 crates of strawberries, 2,000 crates of cherries, and 5,000 crates of dewberries, blackberries and raspberries.  There were also shipped during the berry season, hundreds of boxes of asparagus and several 1,000 pounds of beans, peas and new potatoes.  Peddlers took out hundreds of crates of berries and a number of growers shipped their own produce.  10 cars of mixed fruit were shipped, 30 cars of prunes and also 25 cars of apples.  In addition there were several cars of local shipments.

            About 15 cars of watermelons were shipped by the three packing houses and probably 20 car loads were hauled out in wagons.  Some growers also shipped a few cars.  About 20 cars of onions were shipped from this point within the past couple of weeks and there are more to follow.

The peach crop was very short this season, but about 5,000 boxes of peaches and grapes were shipped, all being of fair quality, says the Tribune.




About 1890 a bank, the Bank of Milton, was opened for business.  It was owned by a private banking group composed of N. A. Davis, E. J. Davis, and a man by the name of Williams who came from Kansas.  N. A. Davis was the first cashier.


By 1893 the bank was incorporated under the same name with Adelbert Hopson as President, Henry L. Frazier as Vice President, andDirectors were Wm. Nichols, William Talbert, and A. M. Elam, Cashier N. A. Davis and Clerk Wm. Hopson.


On Friday, November 13, 1893 at 3:00 p.m. in a heavy fog, two men enter the bank for money.  They didn’t draw checks on the bank.  They drew six-shooters on the bankers, and fired two shots without warning.  N. A. Davis went down from concussion, A. Hopson with a bullet through his left arm and side.  The young clerk, Wm. Hopson was ordered to “shove out the money”.  He did.  The robbers were in a hurry and Hopson was nervous.  In the confusion that followed, the bandits got away with $874. 25, mostly gold, but left $110 in 5 and 10 dollar gold pieces scattered on the counter and floor.  A third man was holding the horses in the alley.  All three got away.  They were never caught, but their horses were found later in a barn near Echo.  At the time of the robbery, there was less that $12,000 on deposit in the bank.  After the holdup, there was $1,200 left in gold and currency to carry on the business.  (webmaster:  these figures don’t seem to add up, but they are transcribed correctly.)


Later, capital stock was increased and the business moved from the corner of South Main and 11th Street to the corner of 10th and Main and chartered as the First National Bank.  The vacated building was later used by the Farmers Security Bank organized by W. C. McKinney, W. S. Munselle, J. E. Olinger, T. A. Williams and W. W. Wasser.  McKinney was cashier.  After a few years the bank was merged by purchase with the First National Bank.




The Thomas and Ruckel Road across the Blue Mountains was one of the earliest roads to be built, other than the Emigrant Road via Meacham.  It was built to provide a short route between Walla Walla and the Grande Ronde Valley for the purpose of carrying on trade with mining districts of Powder River and the Idaho mines and also for the new settlements in the Grande Ronde Valley.


This road was financed by Walla Wallans and some of the prominent farmers of the Summerville district.  It was operated as a toll road during the entire time that it was in use and paid handsome dividends during the days of the heavy freighting to the mines.


After the Lincton Mountain Road was built in 1863, it was found that travel was impossible for several months during the winter on account of the heavy snow which piled up to depths of several feet for a distance of about 20 miles along this route.  Men looked for a lower pass across the mountains and found it about 18 miles south of the Tollgate, the elevation being about 4,500 feet, whereas the elevation on the Lincton Mt. Road was about 5,000 feet.  Moreover, the high country was quickly passed over on the new route, while the Lincton Mt. Road was forced to follow at the high elevation for about 10 miles.


The road crossed the Wildhorse Creek about 5 miles up from what is now Athena and then climbed the mountain between the Wildhorse and the Umatilla Rivers.  This road dropped down the Ryan Grade to the Umatilla River, went up the river by and beyond “Warm Springs” which is now Bingham Springs (or Bar Ranch), along the South Fork to Thomas Creek, then up that stream to a low pass at what is now Ruckel Ranger Station.  A great number of bridges were necessary along the Umatilla River.


From that point the road dropped down to Summerville (following pretty much the grade of Willow Creek).  It was finished (probably) in 1865.  A stage line was put on that route from Wallula, Washington to Boise, Idaho by a man named Greathouse.  After running a short time, he sold the line to John Hailey.  Travel was very heavy to the mines and newly established settlements in the Grand Ronde and beyond.


The tide of travel changed to this road as it was more direct and also served the Umatilla Landing traffic where the heaviest tonnage came during the early 60’s.


A stage station was built directly on the summit of the mountains in the pass for the convenience of the traveling public and when the stages changed horses.  It also served as a toll station.  A man by the name of Charles Davis operated the station, known as The Summit House” and collected the tolls.  He was in charge here from 1867 to about 1875.


The numerous bridges up the Umatilla River proved to be the weakness of this road.  There were two disastrous washouts, the first in the spring of 1882 when nearly all of the bridges were swept away on the crest of the flood.  The bridges were replaced at great expense and sections of the grade rebuilt where it was washed out.


In 1884 the railroad was completed across the mountains and most of the freight hauling by wagons discontinued.  There was no longer sufficient revenue from the tolls to pay for the upkeep of the road and it fell into a state of disrepair.  A few years later another flood carried away the bridge and washed out much of the grade.  The company never rebuilt the road and it has never been used again through the entire length.




O.W.R. & N.


The established pioneer system of transportation was supplemented and improved in 1881 by the extension of the O.W.R. & N. Railroad from Walla Walla.  Until 1920 it was the main line from Spokane to Portland.  In the peak year of its service it handled 6,000 cars of freight.  The present new depot was built in 1926.  A daily passenger service was discontinued in 1944, and the freight load has been greatly reduced. 




In 1906 an interurban electric railroad was extended from Walla Walla to South Milton.  Passenger service began April 16, 1907.  It operated six years without a franchise; a franchise was granted in 1912.  The road was built for passengers and light freight service.  Until October 31, 1931, an hourly passenger service was provided from 7:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight.  That service was dropped in that year.  The road has continued to haul heavy freight, reaching an annual peak of 3,000 cars.




The Milton Academy


In 1886, Milton was chosen by the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh Day Adventists for the location of a denominational school.  Elder G. W. Calcord was placed in charge of the school and its development.  Enrollment the first year grew from 14 to 40 pupils.  Enrollment the second year grew to 80.  In 1888, a three-story dormitory was built to provide for 100 resident pupils.


Three departments of instruction were offered.

1.      A preparatory course of six years.

2.      An academy course of four years.

3.      A normal course to fit students for teaching.


In 1892 more land was needed for the school farm, and the school was moved to College Place.


Milton Academy left an indelible mark on the record of education in the community.  It pioneered the progress in secondary education here.


The history of education in Milton-Freewater is one of steady growth and improvement since the opening of the first public school on the W. A. Cowl land donation.


In addition to the public school system, more advanced education opportunity was provided by private and sectarian schools; an Adventist Academy prior to 1900, that was succeeded by Columbia College dedicated September 18th and 19th, 1900.  The College was in operation for 25 years.  (The main building on the campus later was converted to the present Milton-Freewater City Hall).


In March 1900, a movement began by the East Columbia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church sought to establish a Methodist College.  The move was so successful that the College was opened that fall on the site of the old Milton Academy.


First classes were held Sept. 24th.  T. C. Reese was the President.  The Board of Education consisted of M. V. Howard, J. W. Compton, G. E. Gibbs, F. G. Adkins, C. R. Howard and L. P. Shearer.


The Executive Board consisted of E. P. Greene, L. P. Shearer and H. L. Frazier.  Faculty members were T. C. Reese – President, W. C. Howard, Laura G. Reese, Margaret E. Winniford, Fannie Elliot and Nora Hunter.


The first year’s operation ended with 131 pupils enrolled.  The building, now the City Hall, was built in 1910.  In 1925, Columbia College was closed for lack of funds.




According to available records, Milton Post Office was opened in 1874.  The city was named and organized on January 4, 1886; and a governing body set up January 11, 1886, called the Board of Trustees, consisting of Mayor A, M. Elam, and trustees, Ben Arthur, S. K. Coe, W. S. Frazier, W. S. Brown and J. T. Morie.


Ordinance No. 1 was adopted providing for the name of Milton City and an official seal.  (This ordinance was repealed and clarified by ordinance passed by the Board of Trustees March 10, 1890, but the name Milton City was retained and the character of the city seal was prescribed.)


With the establishment of Milton City as a civic entity, the Board of Trustees moved rapidly to improve the community.


A few excerpts from the Recording Journal are indicative and interesting; T. W. Berry, recording.



 Jan. 11, Additional officers provided, City Treasurer, City Marshall.  Regulation of sale of liquor, and restrictions on gambling.


Jan. 18,  Order of business governing meetings of Board of Trustees were adopted.


Feb 1,  A Road Poll Tax was levied, and office of Street Commissioner was established.


Feb 22,  U. Garrad under bond, was granted a liquor license for a period of six months.  Bills allowed: $15 to pay for City Charter, $6.30 for city seal, $16 for a plow.


March 15,  Ordered City Marshall to collect Road Poll Tax from all Chinese in City Limits between the ages of 21 and 50 years.  Compelled Chas. Gano to remove his dead horse from the City limits.


March 22,  Paid $2 hall rent to W. S. Brown.  Voted $50 to buy a site for City Jail.  Paid Phelps and Arthur $8.40 for a table and chairs.


March 29,  Ordered construction of City Jail, and recorded title to land.


May 17,  City Jail reported finished. Contract, George Church, paid $50 on account, and balance of $48 covered by a warrant due in six months.


Sept. 14,  Paid J. D. Phelps $5.25 for assessment blanks and levied a three mill tax on all assessed property within the corporate limits.


Nov. 1,  City Marshall instructed to “see the streets and alleys are made decently clean”.


Nov. 29,  Provisions made for first City election:  Judges, D. J. PHELPS, Dan Sheets, and Crockett.  F. G. Hull and James Elam clerks.  Recorder to post



Dec. 27,  Paid D. J. Phelps .75 cents for help on road, and W. C. Starkey .50 cents for paper.


This briefly is the record of the Board of Trustees, during Milton City’s first year of City Government.



As a result of City Election, the year opened with following City Officers in charge:  Mayor F. J. Morie, Trustees Elam, Phelps, Berry, Pierce and Brown.  City Recorder F. G. Hull, City Marshall A. B. Evans, Treasurer J. B. Frazier.  In the year that followed we have presented only the highlights of Board activity.


April 18,  Oregon Improvement Company again notified to construct ditches along side their lumber flume.  Property owners on Main Street directed to keep irrigation ditches open and M. V. Wormington ordered to repair his well.


July 13,  Request of C. C. Cummingham for license to sell liquor in less that gallon quantities was denied, 33 names on petition requesting, 39 names on petition of remonstrance.


Oct. 17,  Committee appointed to secure right-of-way through the Wm. Nichols property for water system line.


Dec. 19,  Bills allowed to J. B. Mahana for surveying water course.  J. B.  Wilson 1 day $5, rail fare $1.50, board .50 cents, express on instrument .25cents.


That was it for 1887.



      W. C. Starkey was the new mayor.  Trustees were A. M. Elam, D. J. Phelps, N. Pierce, E. Kirkland and J. L. Frazier.  D. D. Plant was Treasurer and T. W. Berry Recorder.


Feb. 13,  Oregon Improvement Company requested to state their time and intention of removing that part of their flume running through Milton.


Feb. 27,  Committee reported that the Oregon Improvement Company intends to remove their flume during the coming summer and fall.


May 8,  City Road Poll Tax removed.


May 14,  Call issued for bids on water works.


June 18,  Bid of John Corkish on water system accepted.


June 25,  E. D. McLaughlin was employed as City Attorney.


July 23,  The following citizens were appointed as a Board of Trade for Milton City:  H. L. Bowman, S. C. Stone and T. W. Berry.


Aug. 29,  Rates for water users set up.


The main step forward for Milton in 1888 was the installation of a City water system, and the establishment of use and rates governing it.




Published each Friday by Charles Besserer.  The files of the first year’s publication were lost.


Jan. 6, 1888 found the paper published by W. L. Bowmer.  In the new editor’s first editorial, his concept of public relations was set forth in detail.  An interesting excerpt is set forth here:

            “We arrived a total stranger and have hardly as yet become sufficiently acquainted to know Col. Page Patterson from Honorable J. P. Wagner, or whether the surplus in the U.S. Treasury should be devoted to Milton’s much needed water works or a new Courthouse in Pendleton.”


Locals and personals excerpts:

            “Volume 2, Page 1, and the goose hangs high”.

            “Shade trees should be planted from Milton to the depot as soon as the road is laid out.  Where is the new Street Committee?”

            “The party who swiped a copy of the City Charter and Ordinances from this office will please return them and no arrests will be make.”

            “This is about the time of year when country newspapers change hands – and the retiring editor goes back to setting type for wages or teaching country schools.”


Advertisement of local businesses appearing include the following:

            United States Mills, John Miller; Insurance, Hull and Evans; Books and Stationery, W. C. Starkey; Commission Merchant, N. Pierce; Shingles and Planing, Walter S. Brown.

 Milton Nursery, A. Miller and Sons; City Drug Store, George Church; Notary Public, E. C. Walker; Physician & Surgeon, W.  G. Albon; Boot & Shoemaker and Barber Shop, M. S. Patterson; Job Work, Milton Eagle.

 Livery Stable, Feed & Sales, Hack to and from all trains, Pierce Bros. & Co., City Hotel, meals 34 cents, per week $4.00, with lodging $5.00 per week, F. J. Morie; General Merchandise, L. B. Plants and Co.

            Furniture and Funeral Service, D. J. Phillips; Grain Dealer, E. C. Walker; “The California” Livery, Feed and Sale Stable, S. K. Coe; Lumber, Oregon Improvement Company, M. P. Snyder.

            Land Sale, Wright’s Addition to Milton, 140 lots at $34 to $60 per lot, W. T. Wright; Drugs S. C. Stone, M.D.

            General Merchandise, Will and Yates; Blacksmithy and Wagon making, Berry Campbell and McEachery; Meats, Milton Market, A. Rouanzoin.


It is notable that most of the Milton ads appeared on the front page and that about half of the issue was made up of “patented” material.  The 75th year of publication is now in progress.  The Freewater Times was started in August 1890.  The two papers were combined later and now are published as the Valley Herald.




Rode Edwards recalls riding lumber down O. I. Company flume on lumber and cord wood with Joe Dykes, Det Harris, Rude Edwards, Bill Patterson, Bill Wormington and other young sprouts of the village.

Helping Sam Coe cut wheat with a header when, if a chain threw a link, they would have to stop operation and look for it in the dust.  There was no extra.

Being one of the dancers in various places in the valley, up the North Fork, the South Fork, Bowlus Canyon, McCoy Hall, Behnke Hall and above Garred’s Saloon.

Catching Chinook salmon, by riding up and down the river on horseback and hooking the fish from the river.

Prairie chickens by the thousands in the cottonwood trees in wintertime.  Very few deer, no elk.  Plenty of grouse.  Hunting with a double barrel breech-loading 12 gauge shotgun.



Names Linger

Many of the pioneer settlers, some of them not otherwise mentioned here, have left their names attached to something.  For example:

            Ingle Chapel, Ballou Road, McCoy Bridge, Pepper’s Crossing, Ireland’s Addition, Crockett Road (relative of David Crockett), Blalock Mountain, Joe West Bridge, Bowlus Hill and McIntyre Point.


Other Early Settlers

There were a few early settlers about whom there is little available record.

            In 1860 U. Garred settled on the Walla Walla River about 5 miles above Milton.  Garred’s later became a part of the business community of Milton.

            In the same year, 1860, S. P. Whitely settled on the river 3 miles below Garred.  It is said that the Whitely home was the first house in the valley to be painted.

            Another settler was a man by the name of Boise who built a cabin near where the Ferndale School stands.  Little is known about him except that he was a one-eyed bachelor, indifferent to personal sanitation.

            Others who settled early in the Valley included Louis Bowlus who settled near the forks of the Walla Walla River in 1860.  The Bowlus cemetery took the family name.

            Ninevah Ford was an early settler who lived on land near the present Fernadale School.  The first schoolhouse in that district was built on Ford land and a community cemetery bears the Ford name.




Early history of Tollgate is vague; authentic facts are hazy and details sketchy.  Apparently David J. Woodward proved up on the homestead rights to the land in 1875.


Mr. Woodward and several men from Summerville, formed the Summerville and Walla Walla Road Co., built a fence and hung a gate across the road near the headwaters of Lookinglass Creek, about a mile east of the summit of the Blue Mountains.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Woodward purchased full ownership and became sole owner and operator of the toll gate.


Toll was charged at the rate of $1.00 per team and wagon, $1.50 for 4-horse teams, and 25 cents per saddle horse.  Charges were made for cattle and sheep by the head, but the amount per head is unknown today.


In return for the toll receipts, the mountain road was kept passable except during the winter when the deep snows made travel impossible.


The road referred to was the road between Summerville and Elgin on the east side of the Blue Mountains, and the Walla Walla River Valley on the west side, via Lincton Mt.


There were several buildings at Tollgate in the early days, and with creek water and meadow grass available it was always a stopping place for travelers.


In January or February of 1896, Mr. Woodward, who had remained at Tollgate during the winter, went out to Elgin on snowshoes for supplies.  After purchasing his supplies he is said to have stayed overnight in a cabin at the foot of the mountains, and next morning, although it was snowing, he snow-shoed into the stormy Blues and into oblivion.  He was never found, and his disappearance is one of the mysteries of the Blue Mountains.


Apparently Tollgate was continued in operation by Mr. Woodward’s widow Mary Woodward and family, until 1918 at which time the property was sold.


In 1922 the headwaters of Lookingglass were dammed up and water covered the meadow forming Langdon Lake.  Many privately owned cabins have been built along the lake bank, but on the west end of the lake is Woodward Forest Camp.  Thus the originator’s name continues to be associated with Tollgate.


A post office was established at Tollgate in 1940 and remained open under one postmaster, (Gertie V. Hunter), for 14 years.  Since 1954 mail service has been by rural carrier out of Weston.




How Umapine Was Named


Originally called Vincent, the name was changed to Umapine when the post office was established there, as there was another town in Oregon named Vincent.


According to some early residents, the town was named after Chief Umapine of the Cayuse Indians.  Dean Beauchamp remembers his father telling him the name was suggested by Louis Hodgen, who had farmed on the Indian reservation where he knew and respected the chief.


Umapine Indians


The word “Umapine” in Indian language means “friends”.  Chief Umapine was the chief of the Cayuse tribe, which settled in the Umapine area, and used Williams land near the Hudson Bay Farm for grazing their ponies.


The Indians ate Camas root and Couse, and tanned elk, deer, and buffalo hides for tents and clothing.  To tan the hides the Indians would let the hides soak in brine, then stretch the hides and scrape them until they were paper-thin.  They would then take the hides down and smoke them over the fire to get a brown color.


Upon an Indian’s death, the relatives gave away most of the Indian’s belongings, and would also bury some of the deceased Indian’s articles with him.  The Indian’s wives wore black for one or more years and didn’t participate in the dancing or other activities for the same length of time.


Umapine became chief of the Cayuse Indians in 1909.  His father, whose name was also Umapine, was the chief figure in a deed that possibly saved Pendleton from an Indian attack.  During the Piute-Bannock War of 1878, Chief Eagen of the Bannocks had been harassing the white people in the Pendleton area for some time.  Finally, the white settlers offered a $1,000 bounty for Chief Eagen’s capture.  When Chief Umapine learned of this, he took braves and killed Eagen.  They brought his head into Pendleton on a pole.




The main site of the Hudson Bay Post was established on the farm known as the Hudson’s Bay ranch, and extending into the adjoining land, now farmed by Mervin Nibler.  Here there was a meadow with springs rising it and a steep bank close by, where dugouts were constructed for winter shelter.  This was the purpose of the settlement – a place to spend the winter – and it was an ideal place.


The dugouts have almost completely caved in, and the meadow has become a marsh since so much irrigation is carried on, so there is little evidence of the details of the camp.


The French Canadian trappers, who used this post, did most of their own trapping, for they were experts at it and were well equipped by their company.


There is a log cabin built into the walls of the house now standing on the Hudson Bay Ranch, but it was constructed long after the trappers had departed.


This farm was one of the earliest ones in the valley, established between 1812 and 1814.




This ditch was originally surveyed in 1892 by F. C. Burlingame.  The construction started in 1898 and was completed in 1905.  In 1909 the Walla Walla Sewage System was connected, but it proved unsuccessful because of the odor.  In 1909-10, Burlingame planted an apple orchard of 450 acres, which was irrigated by the Burlingame ditch.  In 1917 the pipe was renewed and in 1933 a district was formed.


In 1958 new pipe was installed, at a cost of $200,000.  This irrigation supply system has been very beneficial to the development of  this farming area, and land which wouldn’t support one cow per acre, before the development, now raises some of the finest alfalfa in the Walla Walla Valley.




Umapine School


The settlement at what was once known as Rocky or Gravelly Flats was named Vincent, after the early landowner who gave the land for the church, Joseph Vincent.


The land donated for the first school was given by Joseph Gallaghar, a squatter, on 160 acres near Umapine.


The first school in the community was begun in about 1882, and located on the west side of the present football field.  The students next attended a school taught in the home of Fanny Wright.


Since the Old Dump School, (Pleasant View) was in use in 1874, it is safe to assume that this school was used by Umapine children.


From the information gathered, it appears that there were 2 or 3 one-room schools at Umapine before a 3-room school was constructed.  Kyle McDaniel was principal of the first 3-room school constructed in the area.




The greater percentage of crops consisted of hay and grain.  Dairying was also successful.


At one time the hay tonnage marketed from Umapine, at its peak, was approximately 5,000 tons, the grain 50,000 bushels, and dairy products, milk and cream, exceeded 120,000 lbs.


In the early 1900’s Umapine had a barber shop, two creameries, one general store, a blacksmith shop, a lumber and hardware store and a cheese factory.  In 1911 by the expansion of the postal system, Umapine received a post office.


Vincent Water Company


Vincent water development was started April 8, 1915 by Louis Hodgen who donated the land for the well.  The first water system was a 30 foot wooden storage tank with a gravity flow located near the well.


When the land was sold to other people, there was trouble over the well.  At that time, the land where the present well is located was donated by August Moroca.  A new pressure pump system was installed.


On the first board was Louis Hodgen, Fred Baker, Art Smith, J. P. Caldwell, D. J. Kirk and W. F. Gentry.




Joseph Vincent was born in Virginia in 1827.  He started west through Ohio; the date is unknown.


The Union Army tried to draft him in Ohio, but being from the south, he escaped to Missouri and settled there.  He later continued his trek westward.


In passing through Indiana he met and married Rachael Lewis, from New York, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake.


From Indiana, the Vincent’s moved to Iowa, where they farmed.  Part of the farm was in Indiana and the remainder in Missouri.  They homesteaded this place in 1860.  Here Rachel taught school.


In 1864 they went west leaving a good farm because of Rachael’s restless nature. 


Apparently the family lived in eastern and southern Oregon for a while, then moved to Umatilla County, to a town which at that time was Gravelly Flats, (now Umapine).  Joseph took out a homestead of a quarter section of land or 160 acres, and became a very prominent man in the area.


Rachael again became restless and wanted her husband to move on.  Joseph refused, and Rachael left him.  She took the fifth child, a baby girl, with her.


Because of the children, Joseph remarried.  His bride was Almeda Gregory Wilson, who had been born in Missouri and had crossed the plains with the Clint and Walt Hodgen wagon train.  She and Joseph later had a son.


The old homestead at Gravelly Flats (Umapine) was later sold for $10 an acre.


Joseph’s second wife died, after which he went to Okanogan, Washington, where he was reported to have died of homesickness and a broken heart.  He was buried at Loomis, WA.




The Beauchamp’s live on a farm a mile and a half north of Umapine.  They are one of the oldest families in the Umapine area, having moved in to their present farm in 1864.  The Beauchamp’s moved there from their original farm on the Walla Walla River.


Isadore Beachamp originally came from the French settlement in Quebec, Canada with the Hudson Bay Co., and came through the Walla Walla Valley with the trading company.  Later when he quit the company he came back to settle along the Walla Walla River in about 1855.


He married Mary Tillier in 1859, who was 4 years old at the time of the Whitman Massacre.  She remembered fleeing the valley on horseback to the river and then by canoe to The Dalles.  She and her family came back to their “burned out” farm after the Indian problems were settled.


They had two children, a son Mose, and a daughter.  After moving onto the present Beauchamp farm, the daughter left the Walla Walla Valley and Mose remained to run the farm.  He married Margaret Murphy in 1896 and they later had two children, Dean and Muriel.


Dean Beauchamp is now farming on 3rd generation land which has been in the family for nearly 100 years.




Mr. And Mrs. Charles Swegle and son, M. W. Swegle, father-in-law of Raymond Bevans, purchased in 1880, the original Marcus Whitman claim and other land, making a total of 750 acres.


It is on this land that the Whitman Massacre occurred in 1847.


M. W. Swegle lived at Whitman for 50 years after which he moved to the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. And Mrs. Raymond Bevans.


The Bevans ranch is believed to be a portion of the old Hudson Bay Trading Post grounds.




In 1860, Phillip Hoon came to the Walla Walla Valley by wagon train from Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  In 1864, he was married to Miss Jennie Fay at Russel Creek, near Walla Walla.  The marriage was blessed with 8 children.  The Hoon’s first homestead was near Government Mt., which was eventually lost, when Hoon could not prove up.


The Weatherman Family


In 1884, Stephen H. Weatherman and his wife Emma arrived in the Walla Walla Valley from Missouri.  They set up a homestead on land still owned by his son Stephen (Cass).


Five years after arriving here, S. H. Weatherman died of pneumonia.  He was survived by his wife and 11 children, one of whom, Maude, died of scarlet fever.


The Hoon’s and Weatherman’s became relatives by the marriage of Lane Hoon and Katie Weatherman.


Mrs. Katie Hoon now resides north of Umapine with her only son, Phillip.




The establishment of Freewater is credited to a group of men, in 1889, who dissatisfied with the way things were going in Milton, decided to start a sister town.


The late H. H. HANSON, Touchet farmer, was one of the “dozen-odd” people who met shortly before the turn of the century to name Freewater.


“I went to Milton in 1889”, said Hanson in an interview shortly before his death, “ . . . as depot agent for the Northern Pacific railroad, and by that time ‘Freewater’ had had its start.”


A man named Mahana – “a visionary sort of man who wanted to do big things” – had laid out a town site north of the depot when Hanson arrived.


New Walla Walla Tried


“Mahana had his troubles,” said Hanson.  “First, he decided to call the town ‘New Walla Walla’, but the folks living in the established town of Milton – backed by the Milton Eagle newspaper made such fun of the name that he changed it to ‘Wallaette’.”


Hanson said the “fun-poking” didn’t end.  The “Eagle” wrote poems about the name rhyming like – Wallaette – he’ll get there yet.


“Mahana forged ahead anyway”, said Hanson, “and decided to establish a grain mill in the new town.  He wanted people to invest in the enterprise – sort of subsidize it”, he said, “so it wasn’t long before they named Mahana’s horse “Subsidy.”


Mahana continued to sell lots in the town and he advertised the advantages of the location widely.


“The people were still jangling quite a bit about the name Wallaette,” said Hanson “ . . . so Mahana decided to change the name again.”


Idea Clicked


“A meeting was scheduled and about a dozen of us attended,” said Hanson.  “We pointed out to Mahana that one of his main advertising attractions was ‘Free Water For All Home Sites’ so we suggested the name ‘Freewater’ for the town and he accepted.”


“Some of the men who attended the meeting were the Evans brothers, Burton, and Bill Kuhns, who later built the town hall.  That’s about all I can remember,” said Hanson, “. . but to my knowledge, I am the only living member of that group that met that afternoon.”


Since the wrangling about the name still continued, Mahana established his own newspaper – called the Freewater Herald – and hired a Mr. McComas from La Grande to run it.


“The Milton Eagle and the Freewater Herald really battled,” said Hanson, “but most of it seemed in fun.  Milton would call Freewater ‘Jerkwater’ and accused the residents of ‘lack of civilization’ since they had just come in from the East, and the Herald would refer to Milton as ‘that place up in the Gulch’,” said Hanson.


While Freewater was organized in 1889, it was not incorporated until 1902.


The Eagle Mill was started by William B. Johnston, Stewart, Peabody and Mahana, and was run by water power, probably the last in Oregon to be so operated.  When the Peabody Mill in Milton burned in 1910, the Eagle Mill was taken over by Peabody management; and is still in operation today, as Harris Milling Company.




The first paper in Freewater was the Freewater Herald, started Augusut 7, 1890.


Three men, McComas, Freeman and J. B. Mahana, owned the paper.  They ran an advertisement in the first issue that said, “Milton and North Milton-Freewater in town lots.  Use the installment plan and get rich in the valley of spreading waters.”




The first copy of the Herald carried wonderful, glowing accounts of the many attractions of Freewater.  There were big ads of the blacksmith shop, owned by George Darting, and the tonsorial parlors of M. S. Patterson and Son, with ‘cigars and confections while you wait”.  The barbershop ad was illustrated with drawings of the latest haircuts, “Square, Saratoga, Elite, Pompador, Mr. Blanc, Newport and Senator”.


The founders of the Herald left town around the turn of the century and the newspaper was taken over by 11 businessmen.  They changed the name and sold it to George Sanderson.  The sale included an old Washington hand press for $125.


Sanderson sold the paper to his father, D. C. Sanderson in 1907. ‘The Freewater Times’ as it was called by that time, was operated by the elder Sanderson and another son, Bevitt, until the two died in 1919 and 1921.


The paper remained in the family operated by Mr. And Mrs. R. E. Bean until 1937.  Mrs. Bean is a daughter of D. C. Sanderson.


The Times was sold to a man named McPherson who sold it to Carl Webb, now University of Oregon professor and secretary of the Oregon Newspaper Publishing Assn.  Webb sold to Dale Amerman in 1943.  The Times was combined with the Milton Eagle in 1951.


Early stores included Sanders and Tanke, General Merchandise; Fred Kuebler, Confectionery; Dr. Hill’s Pharmacy; George Darting’s Blacksmith Shop; White’s Liver Stable; Al Pearson’s Real Estate; and Ed White’s Cigar Store.  This, however, was after the turn of the century.


Freewater was also known for its saloons, six in 1902.  “The OR AND N”, “The Boozerino”, “The Palace”, operated by Taylor and Ireland, where games were played, including roulette, and horses could be ridden into the saloon; the “Ole Kentucky”; and “Gallon House”, owned by Hizekiah Keyes, and the Kelly brothers, Jack and Jess.


The post office was established in 1892, with a postmaster named Arnold.  Following him were John Vinson, Jesse Basket, J. C. Pritchett, Charles Ray, Wm. Hardesty, Anona Hodgen, Bob Brinker and Myra Brinker.




One of the early families in Freewater was that of Andrew Derrick, who purchased 160 acres of land just northeast of the present location of the Federated Church, in 1864, from the U.S. Government.  On it, he built a log cabin.


Derrick came from Tennessee, across the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco where he joined the ‘gold rush’.  Tiring of that, he came to Oregon, because a relative, William Derrick, in 1855, had located a homestead on the old Elmer Chastain place in the Fruitvale area.  Andrew Derrick lived just 2 years after coming here, and his wife sold the 160 acres for $200.