Washington History

Some of the earliest settlers in the Washington area were literally followers of Daniel Boone, who blazed a trail from the hills of Kentucky to the wilderness of east-central Missouri. 

A natural river landing, at what was to become the Washington site, made this an ideal place to begin a settlement. In the first three decades of the 19th century, the small community grew upon the gently sloping hillside on the south bank of the Missouri River.

William G. Owens and his wife Lucinda came from Kentucky and settled in the area in 1818.  They eventully purchased several hundred acres, 50 acres of which would become known as "downtown" Washington. William Owens began selling town lots in 1832, however in 1834, he was murdered, and legal entanglements in his estate blocked the new town's establishment. His widow Lucinda, would eventually receive clear title to the town's core. May 29, 1839, she filed a plat at the county courthouse thus establishing the city of Washington.

The German populace for which Washington is known began with the arrival of twelve Catholic families in the fall of 1833.  This group and other later German immigrants were sometimes called "followers of Gottfried Duden," who for two years lived at nearby Dutow and wrote glowing reviews of the area for readers in his homeland.  The lush, green, rolling hills and the river valley reminded Duden of the area in Germany from which he came.

Ferryboats served the community from the early 1800's until the bridge was completed in 1936. 

In 1854, John B. Busch, and older brother of the famous Adolphus Busch, established a brewery in Washington, bottling the first Busch Beer.

The Pacific Railroad laid lines from St. Louis as far as Washington by 1855.

An Austrian immigrant, Franz Schwarzer, began the manufacture of his world-famous zithers in 1866.

Henry Tibbe and his son Anton began making corn-cob pipes in 1869; that business would help put Washington, Mo., on the map as the "Corncob Pipe Capital of the World." The company he started, Missouri Meerschaum, is the only remaining United States corn cob pipe factory. It remains in Washington. 

Many of Washington's historic structures remain today, proudly standing as reminders of times past and evidence of the pride and determination of our forefathers.

For more information on Washington history, check out these links:  Washington Historical Timeline and Walking Tour Map.