George Washington (Washington pioneer)
Born in Virginia, the son of a former slave and a woman of English descent, Washington was raised by a white couple named Anna and James Cochran. When he was young, the Cochrans moved west, first to Ohio, then to Missouri. George became a great rifleman and taught himself how to read. He was given full rights as a citizen after the Cochrans requested so by a special Missouri right. (No other black had these rights at the time.) George Washington and Mr. and Mrs. Cochran moved to the Oregon Territory, hoping to find a place that would make George feel free and truly equal. But he could not claim the land himself, because he was black. The Cochrans claimed the land for him, and George later paid them for the land. The city of Centerville (now Centralia) was founded on this land. George took care of his adoptive parents. He later married Mary Jane Cooness, a widow.
The town grew and grew; a church was built, and a city park was made from land the Washingtons dedicated. During hard times, the Washingtons helped find food and work for the people of the town, who might otherwise have starved to death.
George Washington died at the age of 88, by which time Centralia had grown to a town of over 1,000 residents. The people in Centralia held a funeral in his honor.
- Kit Oldham, George and Mary Jane Washington founded the town of Centerville (now Centralia) on January 8, 1875, HistoryLink, February 23, 2003. Accessed online 12 March 2008.
- Biographical Sketches of Black Pioneers and Settlers of the Pacific Northwest, End of the Oregon Trail, Oregon Trail History Library. Accessed online 12 March 2008.
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