Ask Rufus: Columbus, Alabama

June 20, 2010 12:54:00 AM

Rufus Ward - [email protected]


I recently presented a program to the Macon Rotary Club. Afterward I was asked if it was true that Columbus had once been in Alabama. My response was that it never had been located in Alabama, but the people of Columbus did once think that they were. 


When the state of Mississippi and the Alabama Territory separated in 1817, it was commonly believed that the state line would roughly follow the route of the St Stephens Trace. The trace went from John Pitchlynn''s at Plymouth Bluff across the river from Columbus to St. Stephens, Ala., about 50 miles north of Mobile. It followed very closely to the route of present-day Highway 45 from Columbus to Meridian. 


Although Mississippi and Alabama divided in 1817, it was not until late 1820 that the survey of the state line was completed. 


It was not just Columbus that was believed to be in Alabama. All of what became the original Monroe County in 1821 was first considered to be part of Tuscaloosa County, Ala.That area included what is now Lowndes County, east of the Tombigbee, and that part of Monroe County east of the river and south of Gaines Trace (roughly Highway 25 north of Amory). 


In February 1818, Marion County, Ala., was formed from the north western part of Tuscaloosa County. Cotton Gin Port (near Amory) was chosen as the county seat. The county seat of Marion County was moved to the house of Henry Greer in December 1819, to place it closer to the rapidly growing Columbus settlement. Greer''s house was located at the present site of Columbus Air Force Base. A settlement known as Hamilton quickly arose just across the Buttahatchie River from Greer''s house. 


The same Alabama law that moved the county seat to Greer''s established an Alabama election precinct at " some suitable house in the town of Columbus." This is the earliest known official recognition of Columbus as a town. 


Included among the first county officials of Marion County, Ala., were three Columbus residents; Silas McBee, representative to the legislature, Bartlett Sims, Sheriff, and Richard Barry notary public. 


Pickens County was created from portions of Marion and Tuscaloosa counties in December 1820. The new county had three election precincts. One was at Mullens'', one at James Heflin''s and one at Ezekial Nash''s house. Nash''s house was located on present-day Highway 69 South in Lowndes County. 


The survey of the state line was completed in late 1820 and on Jan. 3, 1821, Mississippi Gov. George Poindexter announced that "a considerable population on the waters of the Tombigbee formerly attached to Alabama fall within the limits of this state (Mississippi)." 


On Feb. 9, 1821, the Mississippi Legislature responded by creating Monroe County out of the Tombigbee settlements and quickly legitimizing all marriages preformed in Monroe County under color of Alabama law. The next day, Feb. 10, the legislature chartered the Town of Columbus, Miss. The 1819 Town of Columbus, Ala., had become Columbus, Miss. 


The April 1821 organizational meeting for Monroe County, Miss., was held at Greer''s house, the former county seat of Marion County, Ala. By October 1821 the county seat had been established just north of Greer''s at the Hamilton settlement. That site was selected as being between the county''s two towns Columbus and Cotton Gin Port. 


In 1830 the southern part of Monroe County separated and became Lowndes County.

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]