George Washington in Centralia….did you know?

Centralia has a most unusual founding story. A black man, George Washington, born a slave in 1817 in Virginia, is given the credit for founding of Centralia. This Lewis County town claims the distinction of being the only town in the west founded by a person of color. George’s story was highlighted in 2017, the 200th anniversary of his birth and when he was remembered as a leading African American pioneer in the Pacific Northwest.

George was born to a white English woman but his father was a slave that was sold away when George was an infant. His mother, wanting her child to be free, gave him to her friends, James and Anna Cochran, to raise. The Cochrans were good, honorable people, and took George with them as they migrated to Ohio and then Missouri. There, in 1843, George became a “free and legal citizen” of Missouri by a special act of the Missouri legislature. Even with this document, fearing he might lose his freedom after the passage of the Compromise of 1850, George and the Cochrans took the famous trail to Oregon. Once there, and even then, he could not establish a land claim for himself when the family settled near the confluence of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers and the Cochrans claimed land in 1852. When Washington Territory was split from Oregon Territory in 1853, the new territory’s laws did not preclude Negroes from owning land and the Cochrans sold their land to him. George cared for his adoptive parents the rest of their lives.

Anticipating the arrival of the Northern Pacific railroad in 1872, George platted the city of Centerville (now Centralia) on his land, naming the streets after Biblical references and setting aside land for a park and churches of many denominations. Centerville/Centralia was incorporated in 1886.

Despite facing some racial prejudice at the hands of newcomers…many of whom migrated from the segregated post-Civil War south), George supported the town in all ways clear until his death in 1905.

It is right and fitting that Lewis County, and certainly Centralia, celebrated George Washington, the founder of their town.


References:  Patty Olsen, who lives in Centralia, first shared news of this story with me and sent me several copied references. Thanks, Patty!

Washington history bit…..did you know?

I’m just back from a wonderful trip along the coast of Maine and New Brunswick. At the border (Calais, ME and St. Stephens, NB), and on the Maine side, there is Fort Knox. This fort was constructed for a war that never really came….between 1812 and the Civil War. Now here’s the point:  “Our” Isaac Stevens was the first engineer on this project in 1846…. long before he came west. I found that most interesting. Also, in October virtually all of Maine decorates for Halloween and there are pumpkins everywhere and on every stoop. Thought you’d like to know this too.

Query on Perry Summerfield


Hello, I’m recently re-located back to my roots here in Port Orchard and have been doing some research on my great-great grandfather Perry Summerfield, he lived in the Puyallup area I would say around 1890-1930’s ? Any info would be great. I am planing a drive down there soon, oh and he used to work with Ezra Meeker, a farmer, and something to do with the Wash Fair.
Charles Summerfield <>

Visit the Digital Archives

Resident of Equality Colony (Skagit County), Washington, 1900 – 1914. Photographer unknown. State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, Accessed 12 June 2017.

Are you looking for a record related to an ancestor who lived in Washington State or Territory? Minutes of a local government meeting? An historic photo for your family history, newsletter, flyer or presentation (or any other use under the sun!)?

The Washington State Digital Archives, a division of the Secretary of State, is a treasure trove of digitized records, photographs and publications, including birth, marriage, death, census, cemetery and naturalization records. It currently has more than 195 million records preserved, almost 66 million of them are searchable.

One of the photo collections, the “State Library Photograph Collection, 1851 – 1990) consists of 5,274 images of various subjects related to Washington’s history, people, geography, and economic development, from 1851-1990. Subjects include agriculture, Boeing, bridges, canals, Capitol Campus buildings, cities, civilian conservation corps, counties, dams, expositions, fairs, ferries, fishing, forts, ghost towns, historic buildings and houses, historical markers, Indians, lakes, libraries, lighthouses, logging, mountains, parks, portraits, railroads, rivers, schools, Statehood, steamboats, totem poles, trees, universities and colleges, waterfalls, and other subjects.

All of the photos used on our WSGS home page come from the Digital Archives — all are free to use with the appropriate citation (which is even composed for each photo!).

We are so lucky to have such a rich online resource right here in Washington State!

Good News From Kim Wyman

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has good news to share about her recent cancer fight. According to “Wyman’s Wire”…

I’m happy to report that I’ve finally completed my cancer treatments. Now there’s a period of recovery before I learn the results of the treatments. That will be a challenge, but I’m confident my doctors will help me through it. And of course, I couldn’t do this without the love and support of my family and friends like you. Thank you so much! And don’t forget you can check out all the crazy sock pictures on our Facebook page.

Kim is a good friend to our genealogical community. As Secretary of State, she oversees elections, corporation and charity filings, the Washington State Library, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, State Archives and Digital Archives. We’ve also supported her by sending our best wishes through paper socks.

To get more updates about Kim and the Secretary of State’s office, subscribe to Wyman’s Wire by clicking here.

Like Dirty Socks, Cancer Stinks!

Kim Wyman

“Like dirty socks, cancer stinks!” Those are the words written on one of the nearly 100 paper socks sent to Kim Wyman, Washington’s Secretary of State who is undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Her latest update is available here.

To show support and encouragement, Kim suggested that people take a photo of their silly socks and post it on her Facebook page with the hashtag #wymanrocksthesocks. Because Kim is such a good friend to our genealogy community, WSGS decided to take it one step further, asking its members to sign a paper sock and send it to her to show how much we care.

We’re encouraging you to take a photo of you in your silliest socks and post it on social media (don’t forget the hashtag #wymanrocksthesocks). OR you can e-mail a photo of your socks to for posting in their online gallery.

The Secretary of State’s office oversees a number of areas within state government, including elections, the State Library and the State Archives.


Support Kim Wyman with Silly Socks!

Clark County Genealogical Society’s Brian Runyan shows his support by wearing his wacky socks.

Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman has been diagnosed with colon cancer and could use our support.

Since her diagnosis, many have asked her how they could bring her cheer and show support. In her April 2017 newsletter “Wyman’s Wire,” Kim encouraged us to take pictures of our silly, wacky socks and post them to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #wymanrocksthesocks. Or you can email your photo to  In addition, WSGS will have a membership table at some of the larger workshops and conferences around the state where you can sign a paper sock with your best wishes. We’ll make sure she gets the messages.

Kim is a good friend to our genealogical community. As Secretary of State, she oversees elections, corporation and charity filings, the Washington State Library, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, State Archives and Digital Archives.

Show Kim that our genealogical family supports her!  #wymanrocksthesocks

Cemetery Visit in Cuba

Do you visit random cemeteries in cities you visit? I do, and I’m sure it’s not that unusual. (Uh…it isn’t unusual, is it???)

I recently completed an amazing trip to Cuba and just had to stop at this small cemetery near the Bay of Pigs. Monuments and stones were weathered; some above ground, others not. A very reverent place.

Card Catalog File Cabinet

Anyone in need of a Card Catalog File Cabinet for your Society?  Clallam County Gen. Society has one in surplus.  It is in great condition.  Has 30 drawers and 2 pull out shelves.  Height 44”, Depth 21”, Width 34”.  Contact Clallam Co. Gen. Society and Research Center, 402 E. Lauridsen Blvd, Port Angeles, WA 98362.  Phone # (360)417-5000.


State Library to Change Public Access

According to a recent press release, the Washington State Library in Tumwater will change its public access policies beginning 01 Feb.

The changes include:

  • The library’s front lobby will become an “information hub” featuring two computer stations that allow 10 minutes of use, easy hold pickups and a State Library staff person who can help with quick questions and referrals. The hub’s hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
  • The library’s Reading Room on the second floor will be open by appointment only to people engaged in active collection usage and research. Public computer terminals will no longer be available for unlimited use. Appointments to use the library for a quiet place to work or to use the public Wi-Fi will be available depending on staff availability.
  • The Reading Room will be configured to include designated space for collaboration and research appointments.
  • Library subject specialists will be available by appointment to consult on research topics including federal, state and local government, Pacific Northwest history, and genealogy.

The State Library will continue to offer reference assistance weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the “Ask a Librarian” live chat, e-mail at or by phone at 360-704-5200.

The State Library, part of the Office of Secretary of State, is located at 6880 Capitol Blvd. in Tumwater.