- Lake County
- Year Founded: 1904
- Founded by: Nathan Johnston Trowell
Umatilla is known as the Gateway to the Ocala National Forest and is in close proximity to numerous locations boasting active recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, and horseback riding.
Story of City’s Founding
Nathan Trowell, a notable trader, farmer, and cattle rancher, built a log cabin for his family near Lake Umatilla in 1856. He eventually opened a general store to serve a growing community. Early settlers included the Smith, Turner, Owens, Devault, Hannah, Stoops, Mitchener, McLin, Epps, Guerrant, Collins, Faw, Bracy, Whitley, and Yancey families. The first schoolhouse was built in 1874. It had one door, no windows, and hewed log benches for the pupils. Mr. Trowell registered the settlement’s name at the U. S. grant office in Gainesville on April 26, 1878. The name was taken from an Oregon town of the same Indian name meaning “laughing waters.” Trowell also established a post office at his general store and was successful in securing a rail stop for a new St. Johns and Eustis Line. The first major businesses were farming and cattle. The planting of orange groves followed but a devastating freeze in 1895 killed most of the trees. On November 8, 1904, an election was held for the purpose of incorporating Umatilla with 35 of the 43 votes cast in favor of incorporation. Umatilla prospered during the 20th century with citrus as its dominant business until the freezes of the late 1980’s.