Early History of Columbus, Ohio
(Fun Facts up through the 19th Century)

Despite considering myself a self-acclaimed history buff, I never really dug into the history of Columbus, Ohio. I have lived in the area most of my life, yet I did not know much about everything that led up from its humble beginnings to the city it is today.

So I decided to research the city’s past and see what fun facts I could dig up.

The Early Evolution of Columbus, Ohio

Well before Columbus was founded, Central Ohio was home to a few indigenous Indian tribes. The cultures included the Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient people. It stayed that way from about 1000 B.C until about 1700 A.D.

During the 1700s, European settlers started to make their way into the area, where they eventually settled with a small camp located at the intersection of the Olentangy and Scioto rivers. Today that would be known as Confluence Park.

Nearly a century passed before Columbus was officially founded in 1812 as a town.

Columbus soon merged with its neighboring settlement of Franklinton. Franklinton was founded in 1797 and was also seeing growth. Located just on the other side of the river, it was just a matter of time before it made sense to join together.

In 1816, Jarvis W. Pike was elected as Columbus’s first mayor.

Later that same year, the State of Ohio government moved from Chillicothe to Columbus. This was due to Columbus’s central location within the state, its strategic location near the river, and its growing population and industry.

Infrastructure Development

In 1831, Columbus became connected to the Ohio and Erie Canals, a crucial waterway for transportation and trade. Columbus was connected via a feeder canal in Lockbourne, Ohio, and operations ran until 1904.

In 1825, ground was broken in Ohio on the National Road, eventually reaching Zanesville in 1830, Columbus in 1833, and Springfield by 1838. This drastically improved travel and economic development in the area.

MLA citation style:

The Ohio Canal System. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

City Status and Educational Institutions

In 1817, the Ohio State Library found its home in Columbus, laying the foundation for the city’s intellectual pursuits and contributing to the establishment of The Ohio State University in 1870.

In 1829, the Ohio State School for the Deaf was founded, furthering the city’s commitment to education and inclusivity.

In 1834, Columbus received its official city charter.

Also in 1834, the Ohio Penitentiary was inaugurated.

In 1837, the Ohio State School for the Blind was established, showcasing the city’s dedication to criminal justice and education for visually impaired individuals.

Population Growth through the 1840’s and Columbus City Schools

By 1840, and throughout the 1850’s, Columbus had grown significantly. From around 6000 in 1840, the population boomed to over 18,000 by 1850.

Seeing a need for accessible public education, the Columbus Public Schools were established in 1845.

Railways and Institutions

The mid-19th century witnessed the emergence of railways as critical transportation links.

In 1850, the Columbus and Xenia Railroad commenced operations, followed by the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad in 1851.

These railways were pivotal in fostering commerce and connectivity across the region.

In 1896, the Columbus Athenaeum was founded, solidifying the city’s commitment to culture and the arts.

Landmarks and Progress

Significant developments in Columbus marked the 1860s.

Completing the Ohio State Capitol building in 1861 became an iconic symbol of the city’s governmental and political significance.

In 1862, Fort Hayes was established, showcasing the city’s role in military affairs.

Furthermore, the late 19th century saw the establishment of educational institutions such as St. Mary’s of the Springs school, a Catholic Women’s college until 1964, which later became Ohio Dominican College in 1968.

Cultural and Intellectual Advancements: In the 1870s, Columbus witnessed the founding of various institutions, such as the Columbus Circulating Library in 1870, the Daily Dispatch newspaper in 1871, and the Public Library & Reading Room in 1872.

These developments demonstrated the city’s commitment to providing access to knowledge and information.

In 1873, the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, which later evolved into The Ohio State University, opened its doors, shaping Columbus as a center for higher education.

Modernization and Civic Amenities

The late 19th century saw numerous advancements in Columbus. Notable milestones include rebuilding Union Station in 1875, establishing the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts and The Ohio State University Marching Band in 1878, and founding the Columbus Art School and Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in 1879.