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Situated mostly in Boone County, a portion of the city of Centralia, Missouri is in Audrain County. Along Missouri Highway 22, Centralia is east of Sturgeon and Clark, and west of Thompson and Mexico, while Hallsville is southwest of Centralia along Missouri Route 124. Centralia was laid out in 1857, and named for its central location along the North Missouri Railroad, from St. Louis to Ottumwa, Iowa, and because of its location near the center of a large prairie between Mexico and Huntsville, and between Columbia and Paris. However, Centralia is near the geographical center of the United States. On September 27 of 1864, during the Civil War, twenty-two Union soldiers returning home on leave were taken from a train in Centralia and executed by pro-Confederate guerrillas under the leadership of William T. Anderson. A Union force pursuing them were ambushed, and about one hundred and fifty of them were killed, an incident known as the Centralia Massacre.

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