Friona, on U.S. Highway 60 in northern Parmer County, was originally known as Frio when it was established in 1898 by the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company as a shipping station on the Pecos Valley and Northern Texas Railway. Although the name was undoubtedly derived from that of Frio Draw, which runs just south of town, legend relates that local inhabitants named the place for its winter weather (frio is Spanish for "cold"). In 1906 George C. Wright, a Kansas City real estate agent hired by the Capitol Syndicate to subdivide and sell some of the XIT Ranch, surveyed the townsite. The name was altered to Friona when the post office was established in March 1907, with Sarah D. Olson as postmistress. Wright built his company headquarters at Friona, sent out circulars, and hired excursion trains to bring in prospective buyers. By 1908 Friona had its first school, a community church, a bank, two grocery stores, a pharmacy, a photograph gallery, and the two-story Friona Hotel, owned by G. P. Owens. Blizzards in 1910–11 and 1918–19, along with droughts, discouraged farmers and interrupted growth. Nevertheless, Friona had a population of 200 by 1915. The town's first grain elevator was constructed in 1916, and S. A. Harris began a weekly newspaper, the Friona Sentinel; it became the Friona Star in 1925.
In the early 1920s the Capitol Syndicate started a new land-sale program, which, with the advent of new farming methods, attracted another wave of newcomers. The first cotton gin was erected in 1927. On March 21, 1928, the town voted to incorporate, with J. W. "Uncle John" White as mayor presiding over a city council and manager. At about the same time, Friona constructed a water plant and organized a fire department. The population increased from 731 in 1930 to 1,196 in 1950 and 2,048 in 1960. In 1967 the Friona Public Library was organized.
In 1988 Friona had fourteen churches, modern schools, two city parks, a recreation center, a nursing home, an airport, and the county's only hospital. Local businesses were principally related to wheat, cotton, vegetable and sugar beet processing, and cattle. A beef-packing plant had the capacity to slaughter 10,000 cattle a week, and several fertilizer plants and feed processors served area farmers and ranchers. The Friona Wheat Growers Association operated an elevator with a capacity of over three million bushels. Annual events included the Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Banquet in January, the Fat Stock Show in February, the Junior Rodeo in May, and Maize Days in September. The population was 3,111 in 1970 and 3,809 by 1980, when Friona was the largest town in Parmer County. In 1990 the population was 3,688 and in 2000 it was 3,854.