Friday, July 8, 2011

Columbia, Alabama - Historic Sites & Points of Interest

Purcell-Killingsworth House in Columbia
A charming and historic community nestled along the Chattahoochee River in the Wiregrass region of Southeast Alabama, Columbia is an often overlooked heritage destination that is well worth a visit.

Founded in 1820 as settlement spread across lands taken from the Creek Nation by the Treaty of Fort Jackson, Columbia was an important river crossing and port community even from its earliest days. The arrival of steamboat traffic on the Chattahoochee River just a few years later, however, spurred a boom that made the town one of the most prosperous on the river between Eufaula, Alabama and Apalachicola, Florida.

Old Columbia Jail
The cotton and other commerce for a significant area of the Wiregrass region (named for a tough, wire-like grass that grows in the pine woods) passed through Columbia, where it was loaded aboard paddlewheel riverboats for transport up to Columbus or down to Apalachicola on the Gulf. This spurred a strong commercial district with stores, warehouses and other businesses. The town for a time was even the county seat, although that status was lost as the vast expanse of the original Henry County was carved up into numerous other counties as the population of the region grew.

Columbia remained a vital river port until the railroad was finally extended into South Alabama during the last decades of the 19th century. The town on the river was bypassed in favor of a new community - Dothan - and Columbia's commercial interests slowly faded.

Summer House at Columbia Cemetery
The town survived, however, and today is the center of a unique, picturesque and historic area with many points of interest. The historic Old Columbia Jail, for example, dates from the Civil War and is one of the last surviving original wooden jails in the Deep South. The unique summer house that serves as an entrance way to Columbia Cemetery is more than 100 years old.

There are charming historic homes and churches, including the architecturally unique Purcell-Killingsworth House. Just four miles or so away across the river in Early County, Georgia, stands the beautiful Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge. The southernmost 19th century covered bridge in the nation, it spans a charming little waterfall.

To learn more about Columbia and the surrounding area, please visit

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