Washington, Mo., is located approximately 50 miles west of downtown St. Louis. It sits at the junction of state highways 100 and 47 with one of the few bridges over the Missouri River. Washington is located on the Missouri River near the point where the river reaches its most southern point. It is an hour drive from downtown St. Louis via Interstate 44 or 70.
Washington was one of the first American cities west of the Mississippi River. Settlers lived in this area prior to 1800 and were at this location when Lewis and Clark started their trip west in 1804.
The first ferry-boat licensed (1814) in the vicinity of Washington was operated across the Missouri River, about one mile upriver from where the original town of Washington was platted and legally founded in 1839. A town (apparently called Mount Vernon) was laid out at the ferry-boat landing in 1829 by William Owens who had come from Kentucky with his wife Lucinda in 1818. Mount Vernon was unsuccessful and soon abandoned.
In 1831, William Owens purchased almost 300 acres of land downriver from his first attempt at creating a town and began platting a new town (Washington Landing). In 1834, William Owens was murdered, leaving his wife with six children and all of the acreage tied up in probate court. In 1839, Lucinda obtained court permission to sell 50 acres at auction and purchased the 50 acres for $1,210. On May 29, 1839, Lucinda Owens filed the necessary plat to lawfully create the city of Washington.
In February 1841, the city was incorporated and in May of that year, the first election of city trustees was held. In 1851 the first city hall was built and doubled as a school. In March 1873, a new city charter was accepted, creating a mayor and council form of government.
In March 1878, Washington became a fourth-class city and became a third class city in February 1894.
Over the years the city expanded its borders and the city limits now enclose 13 square miles. The population within the city limits is approximately 14,000 and within a 10-mile circle of the city center, the population is approximately 50,000.
Today, Washington is a thriving city. A center for shopping and medical services for the surrounding area, it is a wonderful city of parks, churches, public and parochial schools, commerce, and industry. Washington is the largest community between St. Louis County and Jefferson City.
In 1989, Washington signed a Sister City agreement with Marbach am Neckar, Germany. Marbach is a very old community not too far from Stuttgart (Sister City to St. Louis).
Present-day Marbach is a bustling town on the Neckar River with a population equal to that of Washington. Each year, high school age students from the two communities spend time in homes of their Sister City.