Excitement mounts as May 24, the official date of Washington’s founding, approaches. How fitting that our community’s 175th anniversary falls on Memorial Day weekend. The festivities are sure to be remembered for years to come.
A parade is set for Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by a picnic at the fairgrounds. The next day a monument to Lucinda Owens, Washington’s founder, will be dedicated.
My husband Spark and I have had the weekend reserved since we first heard about it. A lot of other people have too — some with special ties to Washington, descendants of Owens.
Now there’s a plucky gal with verve and grit. A book should be written about her. Oh wait! It has been.
Walt Larson, a local historian and former mayor of Washington, recently completed a years-long project, researching and writing on Owens. “Washington’s Founding and Owens’ Legacy” will be available next month, one in a series of books being published by the Washington Historical Society, an organization close to Walt’s heart, as is Lucinda Owens.
Though they lived in different eras, they have shared the same address. Walt and his wife Wanda take pride in calling Lucinda’s former home their own and frequently open their doors to allow others to take a step back in history.
Recently the couple welcomed Hank Grey over for a house tour when Grey was in town. He’s a fourth-great-grandson of Lucinda’s from Denver, Colo. Their meeting wasn’t happenstance. Walt is on the Historical Society’s 175th planning committee for Washington’s celebration, and is responsible for tracking down and contacting as many of Lucinda’s descendants as possible to invite them to the May festivities.
It’s been a challenge, but Ancestry.com has helped. The online resource that allows folks to build family trees and connect with others doing the same thing has been invaluable to Walt, along with census records.
To date, Walt has tracked down 27 descendants of Lucinda’s. Three of these people will definitely be coming to town on Memorial Day weekend.
Hank Grey hopes to come back for the celebration too. He’s really into tracing his roots and thoroughly enjoyed passing through town on his way to Jacksonville, Fla., to visit his son, who just moved there.
“Good things happen when you take a chance,” Hank said of his decision to call Walt and see if he’d have time for coffee while Hank was in Washington.
The two, both into genealogy, had plenty to talk about, having previously messaged one another on Ancestry.com to exchange historical pictures and information. Touring Lucinda’s home was a highlight for Hank, who has done a lot of research on his maternal family roots.
Hank’s mother is 82 and in good health. He said he’d hoped if he did return to Washington that she would be able to come with him. But she’s headed for faraway places and has booked a trip to Russia in late May.
“She has an adventurous side,” Hank said, noting it seems to run in the family.
From what I’ve heard about Lucinda, and I hope to learn more once Walt’s book comes out, our town’s founder was a woman ahead of her time. When her husband was murdered she was only 38 years old and had six children. Yet Lucinda Owens forged ahead and carried on her husband’s vision of establishing our community.
The Owens’ legacy lives on for all of us to relish as we walk our city’s streets and marvel at the beauty of the riverfront.
There’s a big party marking Washington’s 175th — let’s hope Hank Grey and some of Lucinda’s other great-, great-, great-, great-relatives will attend and join in this great and memorable celebration.