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Located near popular salmon-fishing grounds. The settlement was first named Equality by its Socialist founders, who started a co-operative sawmill but dispersed in 1904, after litigation had been started by creditors. In the 1940s, orchards and dairy farms surrounded the town, which consisted of a modern store, a half-dozen residences, and a small sawmill. Nichols Brothers Boat Yards moved onto the old sawmill site in 1964 and is still in operation.

Resorts, cabins, camp sites, boats and motors were available along the shore.

Fir prop timbers, cut in the hills, were hauled to Freeland, where they were loaded on the Spanish ship Providencia and taken to Mexico for the copper mines there. The Providencia returned to Puget Sound about once every six weeks, transporting the ore from Mexican mines to the smelter at Tacoma and stopping at Freeland on its way home to pick up the props. Native Americans of the district also used Freeland as a trading center.

Today, the residential and commercial center of Freeland has shifted from the waterfront to an upland location about a mile to the southwest