Centralia: (2016 population: 16,982)
Located on I-5, about 27 miles south of Olympia, Centralia is the largest city in Lewis County. With its sister city, Chehalis, it was once the center of logging and railroad transport in Lewis County. It was founded by George Washington, who was the first black man in Lewis County. He was born in Virginia on August 15, 1817 to a black slave and a white woman. He was raised as a freeman by the Cochrans, a white couple who were friends of his mother. They moved from Missouri to Oregon, joining other pioneers on the Oregon Trail. They eventually settled in the north-central part of Lewis County. In 1869, George Washington married Mary Jane Coonness, a widow. Her son Stacey, from her first marriage, was adopted by Washington. On January 8, 1875, they filed an intention to build the town of Centerville with the county auditor's office. Using a yard stick, stakes, and chalk, the site was surveyed and platted. Washington built his home on one of the parcels, and encouraged the development of other businesses in the town center. The first Baptist Church and cemetery was built on land donated by Washington (Riggs, p. 193). The first post office was established in Centerville on July 30, 1877 by its first postmaster, James Tullis, who moved the post office from Skookumchuck. The name was changed to Centralia in the mid 1880s (Middlesworth, p. 38). As Centralia grew, George Washington became one of the wealthiest men and philanthropers in the town. In the late 1880s, he survived a near-fatal poisoning incident, which many assumed was a murder attempt by a jealous resident. After his wife, Mary, died in the late 1880s, he remarried for a short time. From this marriage was born his only son, George Cleveland Washington. George Washington Sr. died in Centralia on August 26, 1905 (Riggs, 193).
Centralia grew slowly, hampered at first by the great depression of the early 1890s. By 1900, its population was 1,600. By the early 1900s, however, it became a commercial center as the Northern Pacific railway established a main station on its Portland-Seattle run at Centralia. In addition, many logging companies built sawmills and shingle mills in the surrounding area, creating employment for thousands of people. The first of these mills was the Martin Lumber Co. plant, which was the first sawmill in Lewis County (originally built by the Gilchrist brothers) (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 458). As a result, Centralia's population grew to 8,000 by 1910 (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 459-60). Many of these companies went out of business during the Great Depression, as both natural resources and product demand dwindled. Today, the economy depends in large part upon agriculture and manufacturing.
There were many notable families who settled in the Centralia area during its early days; biographies can be found in the book "Centralia: The First Fifty Years, 1845-1900" (see bibliography). They include the families of: Jesse Allred, Charles Perry Anderson, Henry Barnes, William F. Bryans, the Guderyans, August David Hilper, William Holmes, Noah Kritzer, James K. Lum, James P. McElfresh, Elkanah Mills, Joseph Phelps, James C. Ready, Joseph Salzer, the Sewalls, the Shimeks, James Tullis, George L. Waunch, Anna Remley Whealdon, and the Zenkers.
Online resources for Centralia:
Biographies and Genealogies
- For more information on the Martin Lumber Co., see the biographies for H. H. Martin and Frank A. Martin.
- See these biographies of other notable Centralia residents: Matt S. Albert, Lawrence Barr, John C. Berry, Harry L. and Pearl Bras, C. D. Cunningham, D. F. Davies, Ray W. and Lillian Edinger, Abraham Flewelling, Frank D. Harm, F. B. Hubbard, Reid F. Hubbard, Bernard Hawley Johnston, Thomas H. McCleary, Homer L. Mead, Lee A. Scace and T. Thomas.
- Centralia and Chehalis Families - genealogies and photos contributed by Sharlynn Gates.
- Grimm and Ort biographies - contributed by Bruce Landeck.
- Dr. John H. Dumon and the Centralia Hospital
- Butterworth's Cemetery: Washington Tombstone Transcription Project and Find-A-Grave.
- Mountain View Cemetery: Washington Tombstone Transcription Project and Find-A-Grave
- Sticklin Pioneer Cemetery (Greenwood Memorial Cemetery): Washington Tombstone Transcription Project, Lewis Co., WA GenWeb Project and Find-A-Grave
- Washington Lawn Cemetery: Washington Tombstone Transcription Project and Find-A-Grave.
- 1910 Census Index and Images, Centralia City, ED 131 to ED 133
- 1930 Census, Centralia City, ED 21-9, Ward 2 - complete transcription of Ward 2 only
- St. Mary Parish (Roman Catholic)
- Centralia Church of the Brethren - photo and history of this church (1897-1926)
- Pioneer History of Churches in the Pacific Northwest - includes a history of the Church of Christ in Centralia.
- "The Chronicle." May 1909 - a publication with history and photos of Lewis County towns, including Chehalis.
- Read the section on Centralia in Robert A. Reid's 1912 book, "Puget Sound and Western Washington."
- See the listing for Centralia in Meany's "Origin of Washington Place Names" (1923).
- Entry for Centralia in the "Oregon, Washington and Alaska Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1901-1902"
- Centralia - Thumbnail History
- "George and Mary Jane Washington found the town of Centerville (now Centralia) on January 8, 1875" - an article written by Kit Oldham for HistoryLink.org.
- For more information on George Washington, see the article "Washington's black pioneers: African-American dreams helped shape this region" by Dr. Quintard Taylor Jr. (Seattle Times, 29 Feb 2004, Section D1. The print version (but not the online version) of the article includes a picture of George W. Bush.
- Centralia, WA: The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed - discusses the role of African-Americans in the founding and development of Centralia.
- There are several websites that discuss the Centralia Massacre of 1919:
- University of Washington's Digital Collection
- "Centralia's Union Mural" (an article by Mary L. Stough published in "Columbia Magazine" in 1999)
- "Four men die in the Centralia Massacre on November 11, 1919" (written by Alyssa Burrows for HistoryLink.org)
- three-part series hosted on the Tacoma Public Library's website: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- View current maps of Centralia - Centralia (west) and Centralia (east), from the Lewis County Public Works Dept.'s Road Atlas.
Newspaper articles and clippings
- Lewis County Building Permits, Nov 1962, published in "The Daily Chronicle", 2 Nov 1962.
Pictures and Postcards
- Bird's Eye View of Centralia, 1909 - postcard included in the Northwest Postcards collection at the Tacoma Public Library.
- Postcards of Centralia from the early 1900s, submitted by Doug Andrijasevich - two plus two more.
- Centralia Shingle Co., 1909
- Centralia School District homepage
- History of Centralia Schools
- View a photo of Centralia High School, ca. 1912
- View the Commencement Program, with list of graduates, for the Centralia High School Class of 1924.
- View the 1932 Centralia High School Yearbook, scanned by Darilee Bednar.
- Roosevelt School (Centralia), 1936, 1st and 2nd grade class
- Edison Grade School (Centralia) - 1947/1948
- Centralia High School Reunion - Class of 1947
- Jefferson School (Centralia), 1939, 3rd and 4th grade class
- Jefferson School (Centralia), 1942, 5th and 6th grade class
- View a postcard showing Lincoln School.
- Oakview School, ca. 1945
- Centralia School District Kindergarten Students, 1962-1963
- Centralia School District First-Grade Students, 1962-1963
Sites of interest
- Visit the Veteran's Memorial Museum in Centralia, founded in 1997 by Lee and Barbara Grimes.
- Interested in learning more about Centralia itself? Then check the "Destination Centralia - Hometown Adventure" - a new site with lots of great information on sites and sounds of Centralia.
- Centralia sites at Washington Online Highways: City of Centralia (includes a mural of George Washington, city founder), Historic Borst House
- Olympic Club Hotel and Theater - founded in 1908. As one contributor said, "most families have a story about the place."
- "Fox Theatre in Centralia Opens in 1930" - an article written by Eric L. Flom for HistoryLink.org.