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The Alabama AlGenWeb Archives

The Settlement of Columbus: Columbus Once Was Located in Alabama

by Samuel H. Kaye and Rufus A. Ward Jr.

At the time Columbus was settled it was believed to be located in Marion Co., AL, Territory. Marion County was created from the western part of Tuscaloosa County on December 13, 1818, and contained the land west of the Sipsey River and then ran south from the mouth of the Sipsey River "to the ridge dividing the waters of Lookseopelala Creek, and the first large creek south of the same; and thence with said ridge to the Tombigbee River."

The first seat of justice in Marion County was Cotton Gin Port on the Tombigbee near present-day Amory, Miss. On Dec. 16, 1819, the Alabama Legislature moved the seat of justice of Marion County to the house of Henry Grier. Grier's house was located was located at the present site of Columbus Air Force Base (note: in 1997 I spoke with Rufus Ward and he said it actually stood where the main runway is located at the base) and was also the place where Monroe County was organized on Feb. 9, 1821.

Silas McBee of Columbus (son of Vardry McBee of Spartanburg Co., SC) was selected as Marion County's first representative to the Alabama Legislature. In July, 1820, the Alabama-Mississippi boundary line was surveyed and it was discovered that a tract of land lying along the east side of the Tombigbee which had been attached to Alabama was really in Mississippi. Mississippi Gov. George Poindexter, in his message to the General Assembly of 1821, said, "It appears that a considerable population on the waters of the Tombigbee formerly attached to Alabama fall within the limits of this state." By 1823, rivalry between the Cotton Gin Port settlers was resulting in calls for the Mississippi Legislature to divide Monroe County into two separate counties, an act that did not take place until 1830.

The original Charter of Columbus in 1821 established the Southwest Quarter of Section 16, Township 18 South, Range 18 West, Huntsville Meridian as the town limits. These boundaries were soon expanded to include all of Section 16. The Legislature called for the establishment of a public school which was to be funded by the lease of lots in the town. This leasehold arrangement has been the subject of legislative and legal activity ever since. According to Love, the first Post Office was established in 1820 with service on the Military Road to Muscle Shoals. An Act of Congress dated May 13, 1820, established a mail route "from Tuscaloosa by Marion County Courthouse to Columbus, Miss." On March 3, 1823, a mail route was awarded "from Tuscaloosa to Columbus by Pickens Courthouse in lieu of the present route which is hereby discontinued." By 1824 horseback mail service was in place from the county seat at Hamilton, through Columbus, to Tuscaloosa. This route was most likely along the Pickensville Road from the South and it was along this road that many of the first settlers to Columbus probably traveled.

A photo of a monument following this article states: This monument at Columbus Air Force Base commemorates the organization of north Mississippi into Monroe County, often called "Mother Monroe" because many other counties later were formed from the original Monroe County. The marker is located at the site of the home of Henry Grier (spelled Greer on marker). Grier's house served as the county seat of Marion Co., AL from 1819-20. An additional face plate is shown called Alabama Justice of the Peace: Containing all the duties powers and authorities of that office, as regulated by the laws now in force in this state...The caption underneath states: Columbus was first thought to be a part of Marion Co., AL. Silas McBee, of Columbus, represented Marion County in the first state Legislature of Alabama in 1819. This book of Alabama laws was owned by Columbus' first mayor, William Moore.

(Note: The area that is now Sulligent in Lamar Co. was contained in the MS land records for this period of time and was at that time a part of Marion Co.

Submitted by Sabra Newell Sudberry, 1904 4th Ave. NW, Jasper, AL 35504. Source: The Commercial Dispatch, published at Columbus, Lowndes, MS 3/20/1988, conversation with Rufus Ward, Attorney, West Point, MS 1997.

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