Sidebar: What Milwaukie Was, What Milwaukie Is



Milwaukie was founded in 1847 by entrepreneur Lot Whitcomb. Originally from Vermont, Whitcomb fell in love with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan at the convergence of three rivers: the Milwaukee, the Menomonee, and the Kinnickinnic. The name “Milwaukee” came from a Native American word that referred to it as a “meeting place of waters.”

Whitcomb’s love for Milwaukee drove him to seek out a new “meeting place of waters.” In 1847, he settled where Johnson Creek, Kellogg Creek, and other smaller creeks flowed into the Willamette.

Where the change in spelling came from is a bit of a mystery. Some say it was a practical joke one Milwaukee, Wisconsin, newspaper played on another involving stolen printing press type, while others say it was decided by the Post Office — or perhaps the railroads — to differentiate between the two cities.

It was in his new Milwaukie that Whitcomb built the first steam ship on the Willamette River, as well as a sawmill and gristmill. He later served as Clackamas County’s representative in the Oregon Territorial Legislature from 1852 to 1853 and as postmaster of Milwaukie from 1851 to 1857.

Today, Milwaukie is home to some 20,000 residents, mostly white (88.5 percent according to the 2010 Census) with a median age of 39.9.

Milwaukie is home to several famous local businesses, most notably Bob’s Red Mill — a modern-day grist mill — and Dark Horse Comics, publisher of several graphic novels that later became Hollywood films including “Sin City” and “300,” and Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club 2.” Other notable businesses include Dave’s Killer Bread, Breakside Brewing Co., Precision Castparts, and employee-owned grocery wholesale co-op, Unified Grocers (the city’s largest employer).