In 1726 Quaker John Wright built a log house in an area first granted to George Beale by William Penn 25 years earlier. Wright established a ferry at this natural crossing point on the Susquehanna in 1730. Originally known as Wright's Ferry, the town's formal layout occurred in 1788. Citizens renamed it Columbia in honor of Columbus hoping the new name would influence Congress in 1790 to name it the nation's capital, but it fell one vote short. In 1814 Columbia became an incorporated Borough, formed out of Hempfield Township. Settlers were English, Scotch, Irish, African-American, and German. The town became an important transportation hub with roads canals and railroads radiating outward. Escaping slaves seeking freedom passed through the town on their way to more northern states, Canada and greater safety. During the Civil War retiring Union forces burned the mile-long covered bridge halting advancing Confederates on the western shore at Wrightsville. By 1900 the town had grown to over 12,000 residents. Industries produced diverse products including silk goods, lace, pipe, laundry machinery, stoves, iron toys, flour, lumber, and wagons. Today Columbia residents work not only in industries and shops in town, but also in near-by communities.
1. Map of Columbia
2. Photo of Columbia Opera House
In 1875 Columbia opened its new three-story Opera House containing an auditorium seating over 900, offices, shops and Council chambers and topped with the town clock. In 1947 fire destroyed the building, but the community rebuilt it and the clock, dedicating the resulting one-story building as the Borough offices.
3. Burning of the Bridge
The sun was just setting on June 28, 1863 when Confederate Brigadier General John B. Gordon and his men were closing in on their objective - the one and one-quarter mile-long, covered Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. as the first Rebels charged into the cool shadows of the bridge's first span, four explosions soon halted them. Colonel Jacob G. Frick and his 650 men had been ordered by Major General Darius N. Couch to protect the bridge. As the Confederates closed in, local militia attempted to blow up several spans of the bridge to keep them from crossing. When this proved unsuccessful, a fire was set which totally engulfed the entire span. Frick stopped the Confederates but lost the bridge hew was ordered to protect.
4. Background Image: Veteran's Memorial Bridge
The inter-county bridge was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1930 to the memory of the sons and daughters of Lancaster and York Counties who had served in our country' wars. The span, approximately one and one-half miles long, was believed to be the longest multiple arch reinforced concrete highway bridge in the world upon its completion.
5. Area map showing Columbia, Marietta and Wrightsville. The red dot indicates the approximate location of this panel.