Columbus, the county town of Lowndes County, has a population of four thousand five hundred and fifty-two. The Columbus of Mississippi is one of at least thirty towns in different parts of the Union to which the bold navigator who landed in the West Indies less than four hundred years ago has given his name. If unable to claim originality of nomenclature this Columbus can proudly take a pedestal by itself in respect of its many unique advantages. It is a dignified, substantial and cultured city, more conspicuous even in respect of its educational, sanitary and social claims than by reason of its other attributes. It is one of the largest and most progressive in its way of Mississippi towns. It is characterized by wide rectangular streets, solid brick buildings devoted to business, and an almost unequaled wealth of costly and luxurious homes. Even beyond these are its schools and churches, the former headed by the famed Columbus Industrial institute and college, a state institution which, in many respects, stands peerless in the South. The city lies on the east bank of the Tombigbee River, two miles above its confluence with the Luxapalila and on the Mobile & Ohio and the Richmond & Danville railroads. Columbus has an area of about one and one-half miles north and south, by one mile east and west. Situated upon a level plateau, it has an admirable drainage on either side. It lies upon a range of hills which bluff up to the Tombigbee river on the west to a height of over one hundred feet, sloping gradually eastward to Luxapalila plateau, about sixty feet above low water mark. Columbus has thirty-five miles of excellent macadamized gravel roads, shaded for the most part by innumerable live oak trees on either side. Gas has been used to light both residences and streets. The works cost upwards of $25,000. An electric light company has been just organized. The telephone system is one of the most complete in the state. The Columbus Street Railroad company was organized under an amended charter, originally granted in 1882. Its capital of $20,000 was subscribed for in less than an hour. The city has about one hundred business houses, and an estimate of the business transacted places it at $2,750,000. There are six real estate agents, four merchandise brokers, three hotels and some good local newspapers. Of the latter, the Dispatch weekly and (tri-weekly) is owned and edited by Mrs. S. C. Maer. It has stamped itself as one of the brightest and most intelligently conducted papers in the state. The Index is another well-conducted weekly and tri-weekly paper, ably edited by Miss Lucile Banks. The Sunday Morning Telegram was started at Columbus in 1887, by Martyn & Johnson. There is a large and prosperous oil mill, admirably managed; an extensive sawmill, five gristmills, a flouring mill, a foundry, a carriage and wagon factory and a broom manufactory; while among the most valued institutions of the town must be placed the Columbus Ice company, which is well situated on ground belonging to the company and on the same square with the Gilmer hotel. The daily capacity of the factory is about five tons of clear, merchantable ice, and with ample room in the large building to increase the output if it should be necessary. The company is incorporated by state charter; its president and manager, Mr. L. M. Tucker, is the largest stockholder. The local cotton trade is large, and an important adjunct to it is the compress. The oldest financial institution here is the Columbus Banking and Insurance Company, which has a capital paid up of $300,000. This is a splendid and substantial bank, with very perfect premises and vaults. The First National bank, dating back to April, 1882, was the first national bank organized in the state. It has a paid up capital of $75,000 and a large cash surplus, and has returned its stockholders ten per cent, every year. Its deposits average between $250,000 and $300,000, and it has one of the most costly steel vaults in the South. There are two fire companies, with a hook and ladder company, and a superb steam fire engine, with an ample water supply, to protect the city from the ravages of fire. Columbus has private academies of great merit, such as Professor Belcher’s high school for boys, one of the best in Mississippi. The city schools are three in number, two white and one colored. The schools have a handsome balance on hand. Inefficiency and completeness the schools are unsurpassed. The term is nine months in the year. The county schools number seventy-six, of which twenty-nine are for the white and forty-seven for the colored children. There are nine thousand four hundred and twelve educable children and a total enrollment of four thousand five hundred and two; number of teachers, seventy-nine. As in the city schools, everything is in an eminently satisfactory condition. Columbus is equally well endowed with churches. Seven of all denominations are open to the whites, most of them being ornate internally and externally. The colored people have five good churches. The crowning feature of the city’s educational attractions, however, is the Industrial institute and college for the education of white girls of Mississippi.
The institute was established by authority of an act approved March 12, 1884. In December of the same year Hon. James T. Harrison, Hon. J. J. Thornton and R. W. Jones, the president of the college, were appointed a building committee, with instructions to enlarge and improve the unfinished brick dormitory which was upon the grounds .when donated to the state by the city of Columbus. The committee entered vigorously upon the work, and succeeded in bringing the buildings to that state of approximation to completeness which enabled the opening of the college under the most favorable auspices on October 22, 1886. The building is one of the handsomest to be seen anywhere. It is massive and beautiful in design and finish, being of pressed brick and stone, and surrounded by handsome grounds, with greensward, marked with graveled walks leading to every entrance to the building and all parts of the spacious grounds, with just enough of well-cared-for trees to lend picturesqueness to the scene. The dormitory is a massive brick structure three stories and a mansard high, one hundred and seventy-five feet front and running back one hundred and seventy feet large, well arranged, well lighted and ventilated dining room, with all modern improvements and conveniences for the three hundred pupils, besides matron, housekeepers and teachers lodging there. Connected with this building by a covered passage is the chapel building, three stories in height, containing assembly room, president’s office, secretary’s office, eight recitation rooms, chemical and physical laboratories and several storage rooms. A building in the rear of the chapel, connected by passageway and containing twenty-five rooms, is devoted to music, painting and the industrial arts.
None but Mississippi girls are admitted, although applications are received daily from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and other states. The charter defines the design of the college to be to confer a thorough general education; to give the best normal training, together with teaching and practice in the kindergarten and to train pupils in the various industrial arts, by which to enable them to more readily earn a’ living and make woman a significant factor in the modern problem of material progress. The course of study is divided into four departments: collegiate, normal, industrial and the department of music and fine arts. There is a marked advance upon the usual course of study in girl’s colleges, especially in elements of a solid education and in the mathematical and scientific studies. Tuition is made free to Mississippi girls in the collegiate, normal and industrial departments. Students are paid for work, many of them being dependent upon it to continue in the course of instruction. There is no disposition to disparage those who work. The dignity of labor is respected, and the daughters of the rich, of those of moderate means, and of the poor, are together in one harmonious body. There earnestness and excellent deportment impresses every visitor. They have formed among themselves two organizations: a Young Woman’s Christian association and a literary society. The institute has thus far cost the state $90,000, and, it is claimed, has recompensed it a thousand fold. A. H. Beals, president, took charge of the institute June 14, 1890. John A. Nelson is the proctor.
The town of Columbus was incorporated in 1822, and William L. Moore was the first mayor. The first house erected on the present site of Columbus was a small split log hut, built by Thomas Thomas in 1817. There was nothing like a settlement till about the middle of June, 1819, when Thomas Sampson (who was afterward probate judge), William Vizerspirous Roach and William Poor came to the place, and a short time afterward the citizens of the neighborhood had a meeting, and at the suggestion of Silas McBee, Esq., the town was called Columbus. About this time came Thomas Townsend, Green Bailey, Dr. B. C. Barry, Silas Brown, Hancock Chisholm, William Conover, William Fernandes, John H. Leech and several others. In September, 1 830, the treaty of Dancing Rabbit creek was held by the United States and the Choctaws, whereby they were required to remove during the falls of 1831-3. In 1832 the government made a treaty with the Chickasaws at Pontotoc creek, and both nations were removed by 1833. This threw open an immense body of the finest lands in the South for settlement, and the county rapidly filled with a wealthy and enterprising population. The Columbus Whig and Columbus Democrat were two of the first newspapers of the town. The former was edited by W. A. Short and William P. Don-nell, and the latter by Worthington & Thompson. The first death in Columbus was that of Mrs. Keziah Cocke, wife of William Cocke and stepmother of Hon. Stephen Cocke. In 1837 occurred the hanging of the gamblers at Vicksburg and Natchez. This caused a stampede of large numbers of those who congregated in Columbus. They were all well dressed and fine looking men. They turned every room they could get into a gambling resort, and in every part of the public streets could be heard the rattling dice and poker chips. The mayor (Squire Donald) was determined to get rid of them, and notified them that they must leave, at which they were very defiant, and proceeded to arm themselves, buying up all the ammunition and arms that they could get and fortifying themselves in up-stair rooms. The mayor gave them one week to leave and ordered two companies of volunteers to report to him with ammunition and arms on the following Monday. The gamblers held out until Friday, when nine of them applied to Dr. T. H. Mayo, then stage manager, for seats, paid for them and left at dark. The next morning several more applied, and in the next few hours all the vehicles that could be had were carrying the gamblers out of town, and by Monday all had disappeared.
Tombigbee Cottonmills Company was organized in 1887, with H. Johnston president, W. C. Richards vice president and W. Johnston secretary and treasurer. The building, which is a four-story brick 50×200, with two wings, was completed in 1888 at a cost of about $44,000. It is well equipped with modern machinery at a cost of about $75,000. The mill is in operation the year round and employs about one hundred men and women. They manufacture shirting, sheeting, osnaburgs and B drilling.
Columbus lodge No. 5, A. F. & A. M., was organized February 24, 1821. The first officers were: Thomas Sampson, W. M.; William Cocke, S. W.; B. C. Barry, J. W.; William W. Bell, treasurer; E. D. Haden, secretary; Titus Howard, S. D.; Edward Kewen, J. D.; Samuel Cowell, secretary and treasurer. The lodge did not get its charter until January 8, 1822, when it was granted to the following charter members: Gideon Lincecum, W. M.; R. D. Haden, S. W.; John H Morris, J. W.; Ovid P. Brown, Silas Brown, B. C. Barry, Thomas Sampson, John Pitchlyn, Thomas Townsend, David Folsom, William Cooke, William W. Bell, Littlebury Hawkins, John Bell, D. Lawrence. The present officers are: T. B. Franklin, W. M.; J. H. Stevens, S. W.; W. H. Coburn, J. W.; C. L. Lincoln, treasurer; C. S. Franklin, secretary; E. S. Donald, S. D.; A. J. Owings, J. D.; Charles Calhoun, tyler. The lodge meets on the first Friday night of each month. The membership is ninety five. For the year 1890 it conferred about two hundred and fifty degrees in the different ranks of its order.
Covenant lodge No. 20, I. O. O. F., was organized October 1, 1846, with William Cady as noble grand. McKendree lodge No. 32, I. O. O. F., was organized October 7, 1847. From these two lodges emerged Union lodge No. 35, I. O. O. F. They consolidated in 1868 and the new lodge received its charter August 5, 1868. The first officers were: W. C. Hearn, N. Gr.; G. T. Stainback, V. G.; J. P. Krecker, secretary; H. Hale, treasurer. The present officers are: J. D. Hutchinson, N. G.; H. M. Lanier, V. G.; J. H. Stevens, secretary; C. L. Lincoln, treasurer. The lodge meets Monday night each week. The membership is fifty-five. This organization owns its hall and three-story building with store and offices, all of which are rented. The property is valued at $15,000. The lodge has also a fine cemetery consisting of thirty acres, known as Friendship cemetery, a portion of which was purchased in 1848. The first person buried therein was Mrs. Elizabeth St. Clair.
Joachim lodge I. O. O. B. No. 181, was instituted October, 1871, belonging to districts Nos. 7 and 6. In November, 1872, district No. 7 was made independent, with headquarters at Memphis, Tenn. At the same time an endowment law was enacted which gave $1,000 to the widows of deceased brothers. The first officers were: S. Lichenstadter, president; J. Bluhm, vice president; Charles Schuster, secretary; L. Fleishman, financial secretary; J. Hirshman, treasurer. The present officers are: S. Wolff, president; Mr. Loeb, vice president; S. Schwab, secretary; L. Fleishman, treasurer. The lodge meets first and third Sundays of each month. Its membership is twenty- one.
Columbus lodge No. 26, K. of H, was organized on March 20, 1877, with thirteen charter members. Its officers were composed of W. B. Bryan, past dictator; J. W. Worrell, dictator; George Whitfield, vice dictator; C. H. Worrell, assistant dictator; A. J. McDowell, reporter; S. Lichenstadter, financial reporter; E. E. Spiers, guide. The time of meeting is on first and third Thursday nights in each month. The membership is fifty-eight.
Tombigbee lodge No. 12, K. of P., was instituted July 10, 1889. Its first officers were W. L. Kemp, C. C; W. A. J. Jones, V. C; H. A. Osborne, prelate; C. S. W. Price, M. of Ex.; George F. Shattuck, M. of F.; S. Schwab, K. of E. & S.; E. E. Spiers, M. at A. Its present officers are W. A. J. Jones, P. C.; D. P. Davis, C. C.; A. A. Wofford, V. C.; W. L. Jobe, prelate; S. Schwab, K. of E. & S.; Mr. Loeb, M. of F.; George F. Shattuck, M. of Ex.; E. E. Spiers, M. at A. The lodge meets on the first and third Tuesdays in each month. The membership is forty-four.
The last election for mayor and council in Columbus occurred December 1, 1890. There was no opposition to the democratic ticket. Captain Moore has been elected mayor three times, and his administration of affairs has given great satisfaction. E. T. Sykes, J. M. McGown, D. M. Richards, W. W. Westmoreland, J. M. Street and C. S. Franklin constitute the board of councilmen. Among the several villages of this county are Crawford, Arteria and Caledonia.
Source: Biographical and Historical Memories of Mississippi, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891