FROM THE DIRECTOR
September 22, 2005
HISTORY OF THE MILTON-FREEWATER AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
When community founder W. S. Frazier's granddaughter, Lela, died in 1983, she willed the 6-acre Frazier property, buildings and contents to the Milton-Freewater Area Foundation. The historical society was formed for the purpose of maintaining this bequest. The Board of Directors hired Diane Biggs as Museum Director and the Frazier Farmstead Museum was opened Oct. 6, 1984. Over the course of the next several months over 700 items from the estate were cataloged. The Frazier possessions from more modern times were sold at an estate sale to give the historical society much-needed funds to operate.
The 1892 home had not been altered structurally since it was last remodeled in 1913, however wall, floor other modern surface treatments were added over the years. Under the director’s plan, a room each year was restored during the 3-month winter closures. During this time, in 1986 Gwen Martin toured the home and asked about the genealogy of the Frazier's. She offered to take on this considerable task and was given three large boxes of memorabilia to take home, sort, and set up books on the Frazier family history and the pioneer names on the Marie Dorion Park steps. Fred Etling, one of the three founders of the park heard about this and offered to donate all the records of the park project to the museum. This information was in regard to the original people who paid to have a step engraved for their pioneer ancestors. Gwen spent the next ten years working on this project and was assisted by descendants still in the area who generously donated items and information on their ancestors.
In 1996 Pat Neal and Bob Gilliland, volunteers for the Umatilla County Historical Society came for a visit to the museum. They both agreed that the wealth of information that Gwen had amassed was the best-kept secret on local pioneer history available. Pat Neal offered to set up a web site for the museum. Eventually she moved away, after which Gwen became web master. She also obtained the original sign in roster for the Umatilla Pioneers first picnic, where a pioneer association was formed in 1892. This information was then added to the web site.
In 2003, Sarah Olsen of Waldport, OR contacted the museum in regard to her husband's ancestors, with a correction on data. In the course of the conversation, she offered to help with the research on all the pioneers listed on our site. She has since become our head researcher, which leaves time for Gwen to keep up the web site and add to it as we accumulate more information. At this time there are approximately 14,000 names entered. This past year we have acquired the services of another researcher, Linda Kracke, a friend of Sarah's. Gwen, Sarah and Linda are all volunteers who spend countless hours pouring through old census, death, and marriage records. Their service is invaluable.
Under the umbrella of the historical society, the McCoy cabin is in the process of being restored. It was moved to the museum grounds in 1989 to save it from certain destruction. It is said to be the oldest surviving structure in Umatilla County. A recent grant has enabled the work to continue.
Abandoned for many years, the old pioneer cemetery has been cleaned, weeded and planted with native grasses under the direction of historical society board member, Nancy Doherty. An appropriate arched sign has been added. Grants have also assisted in this project. In addition, Nancy has instituted an oral and video history program that will save for the future so many of the older resident's memories.
We presently receive an average of 2-3 contacts a week from people across the country that has ancestors from this area. We have been able to help most of them. Many have made a visit to the museum where they share what data they have, which adds more pieces to the genealogical puzzle.
Maintaining a 6-acre site and caring for the home and its extensive collection of antiques has been a large undertaking for a small organization. The spacious grounds require the services of a groundskeeper to keep the lawn and farm buildings in good condition. It has always been a goal of the historical society to preserve the area's rich history. Technological advances in computer research and the tremendous volume of data now available have made this goal achievable, but it requires a great deal of work. Volunteers have been more than generous with their time and expertise and with the museum now on solid financial footing, more and more genealogical and historical research services can be made available to the public.
Much information has been lost over the past century, so it is a high priority of the society to seek out and preserve what is left for future generations.
Diane Biggs, Director