The first settlement of Centralia was established in 1859, by a group of settlers from Maine and Illinois who formed a colony. The town was located in the center of the settlement and some believe this is how it became known as Centralia. Others believe it was named after Native Americans who were camped nearby. This early town was built on a hill about one mile north of the present town.
In 1867 the Missouri Pacific Railroad was being built and refused to go uphill to the town so the town moved downhill to the railroad, on the bank of the Black Vermillion River. In 1989 the railroad discontinued the line through Centralia and the tracks were pulled out in May of 1990.
Some of the first buildings consisted of a general store, schoolhouse, hotel, drug store, law office and blacksmith shop.
In 1882 the town was incorporated into a city of the third class and the population in 1916 was 1000 people. Our current population is 420 and is the hometown of John Riggins past pro football player.
Land for Hidden Park was given to the city for the purpose of a city park by the family of Dr. John S. Hidden, who was the only doctor for many miles around in the early days of Centralia.
Centralia boasts a 480 acre recreational lake completed in 1990, for boating, fishing, and camping along with many area businesses. It is located in Nemaha County and is primarily a farming community. Wheat, milo, corn, soybeans are the major crops raised along with cattle and hogs.