John G’s Legacy
As with many in this community, John G. Droege and his family arrived from Germany with dreams of a prosperous life and adventure. The Droege’s settled on a small farm outside of town after saving several years for their journey to America. Shortly after their arrival, the family was devastated by scarlet fever that had swept through the area. John G.’s father, as well as, several brothers and sisters died in the epidemic.
Anna, John’s mother, met and remarried Wm. Tiemann, a merchant in Washington. John and Joseph, his only surviving brother, worked at the mercantile, and the Tiemann farm. Joseph became a very successful gardener, while John G. found his pension for business. After apprenticing in St. Louis, he returned to Washington as a partner his step-father’s store. In 1867, John bought him out, and Droege’s Mercantile was established located on the corner of Main and Oak Streets. In 1896, John G. built the building that currently houses the store, and moved all the merchandise over by wheel barrel from the previous location. Droege’s prospered under the direction of John G. with his sons, John M., Frank and his sons’ in-law. John G. was actively involved in the daily operations of the store up until his death in 1927.
Over the next half century, Jack & Firman Droege ran the operations of the store. They were overseen by their mother, Cecelia. Her passion for the business kept the store going through the Great Depression. She sold her jewelry to keep the store from being bought out. Jack would head into St. Louis on a weekly basis to trade or purchase items on the black market for the store. Droege’s was modernized in the 1950, and has seen many changes since then. It is currently owned by John “Butch” Droege and his wife, Judy. The steady stream of characters that have made up the “Droege Family” has made it an iconic place in Washington’s long history. Built on the foundation of hard work and community service, John G. would be proud that his family's built a business that has help to build a community.