1817 - 1905

George Washington

Born in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of an enslaved African American man and a woman of English descent, Washington was raised by a white couple, James and Anna Cochran. During childhood, Washington moved westward with his adopted parents, first to Ohio and then to Missouri. In Missouri he was afforded all rights as a citizen except for the right to vote. Fearing the repercussions of the Compromise of 1850, the family joined a wagon train that year, briefly settling in Oregon City. The family relocated north and in 1852 the Cochrans filed a claim for a 640-acre plot at the confluence of the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers. The claim was later deeded to Washington, who established a homestead on the property. In 1869 he married Mary Jane Cooness (or Cornie), a widow of African American and Jewish decent.

In 1875, three years after the Northern Pacific Railroad crossed their land, the Washingtons platted a town, originally named Centerville. In 1881 the couple expanded the community and donated land for a Baptist church, cemetery (Washinton Lawn Cemetery), and public square. The town was incorporated as Centralia in 1886.

As a civic leader Washington provided Centralia residents with financial assistance and employment. During the Panic of 1893 he organized a private relief program, declined to foreclose on mortgages, and purchased properties at auction to spare the town from absentee ownership or bankruptcy. He died at the age of 87 and is buried in Washinton Lawn Cemetery.

In the twentieth century the two-acre public square that he platted was named “George Washington Park.” In 1976 and 2018 monuments were erected in the park in his honor.