The Columbia Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of Columbia, Alabama’s rich history and historical landmarks.
Columbia is the oldest continuously existing town in southeast Alabama, having been settled in 1820 when a small group of settlers crossed the Chattahoochee River from Georgia and established themselves along the south side of the Omussee Creek, a mile up stream from a small Yemassee Indian Village.
Not long after Columbia’s settlement, most of the early settlers moved across Omussee Creek and established the first street (Washington), from which the town grew and prospered, becoming the major trading, education, and social center of southeast Alabama.
Between 1822 and 1833, Columbia was the county seat of old Henry County, which then comprised portions of present-day Covington, Dale, Barbour, Coffee, Crenshaw, Bullock, Geneva, and Houston counties making it – geographically – the largest county in Alabama. After the county seat was moved to Abbeville, a branch courthouse was established in Columbia, which served the southern portion of old Henry County until 1903.
With the coming of the first railroad to Columbia (and southeast Alabama) in 1889 and steamboats continuing to stop at its three landings, Columbia’s position on the Chattahoochee River seemed to assure its continued pre-eminence in trade. However, by the 1890s, the Alabama Midland Railroad had by-passed Columbia in favor of Dothan, and thus Columbia’s position as the principal trading center began to decline.
In 1903, Houston County was formed in the southeast corner of Alabama, and Dothan was selected as the county seat. Because of Columbia’s strategic location on the Chattahoochee River, it became known as the “Port City of the Wiregrass”. Today, Columbia retains its historic heritage with pride and maintains a quiet confidence in its future.
--- David Hunter, our town historian