ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Sites of Columbia, Alabama
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Historic Sites of Columbia, Alabama
Columbia, Alabama
A town of historic homes, churches and other
structures, Columbia was founded in 1820 and for
many years was a major riverboat port.
Columbia, Alabama
A historical marker in a
downtown park tells the story
of the historic riverboat town
on the Chattahoochee River.
Old Columbia Jail
Built during the days of the
Civil War, the historic Old
Columbia Jail is one of the
oldest in Alabama.
Columbia Baptist Church
The unique, eye-appealing
architecture shelters a Baptist
congregation that has been
active for more than 175 years.
Columbia, Alabama - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
Port City of the Wiregrass Area
History in Iron and Stone
Ornamental ironwork and
tombstone carvings from
before the Civil War can be
found at Columbia Cemetery.
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
A thriving inland port for more than 100 years,
historic Columbia is one of the oldest towns
in Southeast Alabama.

Established on the Chattahoochee River in
1820, Columbia boomed when paddlewheel
steamboats arrived on the river later that
same decade. From little more than a rough
frontier settlement overlooking the river, the
town quickly grew to include warehouses,
stores, churches and homes.

As an important port city, Columbia handled
much of the trade of the plantations and
farms of a large area of the Wiregrass area
(so named for a wiry type of grass that grows
in the pine woods). Riverboats stopped at the
town as they headed both up and down the
Chattahoochee, taking on cargoes of cotton,
lumber and other products, while unloading
shipments of both necessities and luxuries
for the people of the region.

As river commerce grew, so too did the
prosperity of the town. From 1822-1833,
Columbia served as the county seat of Henry
County, which then included all or part of
today's Covington, Dale, Coffee, Houston,
Barbour, Crenshaw, Bullock and Geneva
Counties. Even after the county seat moved,
Columbia continued to grow.

The Columbia Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, was established in 1832, although
Methodist circuit riders had served the town
almost from the point it was founded. Also
dating from this era is the Columbia Baptist
Church, which originated in 1835 when six
members broke away from Omussee Baptist
Church and formed a congregation of their

The oldest marked graves in the Columbia
Cemetery also date from the 1830s. The
cemetery is noted for the unique stone
carvings and ornamental ironwork that adorn
its graves. The beautiful little summer house
that covers the cemetery entrance will soon
be 130 years old.

Columbia continued to grow during the years
leading up to the Civil War and was an
embarkation point for Confederate soldiers
boarding steamboats for transport on to the
front lines.

Because of its strategic location on the river
and in the center of a vast area of rich
farmland, the town became an important
post and commissary center for the Southern
army. Records show that Confederate units
from Alabama, Georgia and Florida received
forage and other supplies from the military
storehouses at Columbia. The town was
also the location of a "tax in kind" depot,
where citizens paid taxes in corn and other
farm products, much of which was given to
needy families.

Columbia was just upriver from the important
Confederate Navy Yard at Saffold, Georgia,
and supplied both workers and supplies for
that facility. The C.S.S. Chattahoochee, a
large wooden warship, was built at Saffold in
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A unique structure surviving from the Civil
War era is the historic Old Columbia Jail.
Built during the early 1860s, it is one of the
last wooden jails still standing in Alabama.
The interior contained two 10 by 15 foot cells
and the interior walls were studded every two
inches with iron spikes to prevent escape

Prosperity, interrupted by the Union blockade,
returned to the Chattahoochee River after the
war. It was the Golden Age of riverboat travel
on the river and Columbia prospered as the
number and size of the picturesque boats

A number of the town's beautiful old homes
date from this era, including the noteworthy
Purcell-Killingsworth House. Completed in
1890, it was the boyhood home of Bishop
Clare Purcell, the only native of Alabama ever
to become President of the Council of
Bishops of the Methodist Church.

The riverboat industry on which Columbia
depended was ultimately destroyed by a new
mode of transportation, the railroad. The
Alabama Midland Railroad bypassed the
town in 1889 and Columbia was rapidly
replaced by Dothan as the commercial
center of the area. When Houston County
was formed in 1903, Dothan won the election
for county seat.

Columbia survives today as a charming and
historic town. It is located at the intersection
of Alabama Highways 52 and 95, eighteen
miles northeast of Dothan.
Coheelee Covered Bridge
Located just across the river
from Columbia, the Coheelee
Creek Covered Bridge is the
southernmost 19th century
covered bridge in the United