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On this date we recall the birth of George Washington in 1817. He was a Black farmer, businessman and the founder of the town of Centralia, Washington.
Born a slave in Virginia, George Washington escaped and was raised by a white family in Missouri. Unable to attend school, he was tutored and eventually ran a sawmill in St. Joseph, MO. He struggled under the racial restrictions of that slave-holding state, and in 1850 joined a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. After reaching the northwest, George Washington again entered the lumber business and established a homestead on the Chehalis River. But his farm lay in the path of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
He and the company came to terms and with the settlement he received, Washington planned a new town in 1872. He called it Centerville, and he laid out 2,000 lots, setting aside sites for parks and churches. The town thrived, though the name was changed to Centralia.
George Washington spent the rest of his life there as an honored citizen. When he died in 1905, the town, 30 miles south of Olympia, shut down for a day of mourning. George Washington Park (named after him) is in the heart of Centralia, at Pearl St. and Harrison St.
The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York