Columbia County lies along the Savannah River in east central Georgia, bordering South Carolina just northwest of Augusta.

It was created by an act of the state legislature from a northern part of Richmond County on December 10, 1790. In the colonial era the territory that constitutes Columbia County was laid out as part of St. Paul Parish. Named for explorer Christopher Columbus, the county was created in response to a request by backcountry settlers that they be given court sessions that would be more convenient than those held in Augusta.

Columbia County provided several leaders in national affairs. Of the six delegates appointed to attend the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1787, William Few Jr. and Abraham Baldwin were from the portion of Richmond County that became Columbia. Few and Baldwin were the only two Georgia delegates who signed to ratify the Constitution of the United States. Both later served in the U.S. Senate, Baldwin as president pro tempore under U.S. president Thomas Jefferson.

Columbia County Courthouse
Columbia County Courthouse
Courtesy of Don Bowman

The earliest village in the county—Brandon—was founded around 1752. Brandon was abandoned sometime in the mid-1750s, although it appears on a 1779 map. The Quaker town of Wrightsborough was built on the same site in the 1760s, and William Bartram recorded a visit to that town in 1773.

Baptismal Pool
Baptismal Pool
Courtesy of Georgia Archives.

Both the oldest Baptist church in the state, Kiokee (established in 1772), and the third oldest, Abilene (established in 1774), were founded in what became Columbia County.

After the Georgia Railroad was laid through the county around 1834-36, new communities, such as the incorporated cities of Harlem and Grovetown, sprang up or began to flourish. The current county seat, Appling, was chartered in 1816 and was named for Colonel Daniel Appling, a War of 1812 (1812-15) hero from the Columbia County area. Appling is one of many inactive municipalities that lost their incorporated status by an act of the Georgia General Assembly in 1993.

In the 1850s thousands of acres in Columbia County were cotton plantations. Census records show that the county had an enslaved population of nearly 8,300, more than twice the white population.

Columbia today is a bustling, fast-growing suburban county. According to the 2010 U.S. census, its population is 124,053, a significant increase over the 2000 population of 89,288.

Old Columbia County Jail
Old Columbia County Jail
Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

There are more than thirty prehistoric sites in Columbia County. The most important, on Stallings Island, is a burial mound documenting a culture that flourished in the Archaic Period more than 4,000 years ago.

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Baptismal Pool

Baptismal Pool

The dressing room for baptismal candidates stands beside the baptismal pool of the Kiokee Baptist Church in Columbia County. The church, founded in 1772, is the first continuing Baptist church to be established in the state.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
clm008.

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Columbia County Courthouse

Columbia County Courthouse

The Columbia County Courthouse, built in Appling in 1856, was designed in the vernacular style with Greek revival and Italianate influences. The core of the structure is formed by an earlier courthouse constructed in 1812.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Old Columbia County Jail

Old Columbia County Jail

The historic Old Jail in the Columbia County seat of Appling has recently undergone renovation by the Columbia County Historical Society, which meets there monthly.

Photograph by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

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