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Columbia

James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Columbia is located in the very northeastern tip of Houston County in the very southeastern part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government.
History
The town of Columbia was founded in 1820, as advancing settlers drove a small band of remaining Creek Indians off of their land. Columbia, the oldest settlement in Houston County, served as county seat of what was then Henry County from 1822 to 1833, with a post office being established there in April 1828. Columbia quickly became an important riverboat trading stop, serving the surrounding farms and plantations. By the 1830s, a college had been established in town, and the town had at least one hotel serving drivers on the stagecoach line.
Purcell-Killingsworth House
During the Civil War, the town raised a force that came to be known as the Columbia Blues. Columbia continued to serve as an important port during the war, this time as an embarkation point for Confederate troops and a supply depot. After Reconstruction, Columbia once again became a thriving trade center for steamboat traffic on the Chattahoochee River. The Central of Georgia Railroad built a spur there in 1889. Columbia also had a cotton gin, a brick yard, a blacksmith shop, grist mills along Omussee Creek, and one of the most popular schools in the county, as well as numerous stores and shops. In the 1890s, the town dug an artesian well and constructed a water system. The town was incorporated on April 29, 1880.
Columbia's fortunes took a turn for the worse after the town refused to pay the Alabama Midland Railroad to bring another rail line through in 1889; it went through Dothan instead. The branch county courthouse closed in 1903 when the legislature formed Houston County and Dothan defeated Columbia in the election for a new county seat. Increasing competition from railroads eventually put steamboats out of business, and along with them went a large part of Columbia's economy. From 1914 until a destructive flood in April 1928, Columbia was served by two electric generating plants that supplied power to the area. In 1962, the federal government constructed the George W. Andrews Lock and Dam on the Chattahoochee River one mile south of Columbia, and Alabama built a state dock in 1963 to increase river trade and traffic and to boost the area's economy. Other economic development came from a paper mill built in the 1960s, the opening of the Columbia Blouse Company in 1964, and reactor 1 of the Farley Nuclear Plant, constructed five miles south of Columbia in 1977.
Demographics
According to 2016 Census estimates, Columbia recorded a population of 528. Of that number, 78.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 14.8 percent as African American, 3.6 percent as two or more races, and 0.2 percent as Asian. The town's median household income was $32,396, and the per capita income was $21,394.
Employment
According to 2016 Census estimates, the work force in Columbia was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Retail trade (19.5 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (15.1 percent)
· Construction (11.4 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (11.4 percent)
· Public administration (10.8 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (9.2 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste   management services (8.6 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (5.4 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.8 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (2.2   percent)
· Manufacturing (1.6 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (1.1 percent)
Education
Schools in Columbia are part of the Houston County school system; the town has one high school of grades 7-12.
Transportation
State Highway 52 runs roughly east-west through Columbia, and State Highway 95 runs north-south through the town. The Chattahoochee & Gulf Railroad Company operates a line through Columbia.
Events and Places of Interest
The Omusee Creek Public Use Area is located at the south end of town and has two boat ramps. Columbia holds an annual River City Festival on the third Saturday in May. It features craft and food vendors, children's activities, and live music. The Old Columbia Jail is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Purcell-Killingsworth House (1890) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now operates as the Garden Path Inn.

Additional Resources

Houston County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Houston County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
Watson, Fred S. Hub of the Wire Grass: A History of Houston County, Alabama, 1903-1972. Anniston, Ala.: Higginbotham, Inc., 1972.
Published:  July 7, 2014   |   Last updated:  February 11, 2019