The earliest settlers of Columbus were Maj. Elbert Dickason and Lewis Ludington (1827-1891), arriving in 1838 and 1839, respectively. Major Dickason served in the Black Hawk Wars. After taking a tribe of Sioux Indians to a reservation across the Mississippi River, while returning to Fort Winnebago, he camped for several days along the west banks of the Crawfish River where he enjoyed the hunting and fishing. It was then that he made up his mind to make the peaceful spot his home. After military discharge, he returned in 1839 to find Lewis Ludington was enjoying the same area of land that he had purchased through the government land office for $1.25 an acre. Dickason built a log cabin on the banks of the Crawfish River, located across the railroad tracks from what is now the north end of Dickason Boulevard. He is credited with naming the settlement after Christopher Columbus.
Lewis Ludington's land purchases were registered in the Green Bay Office of Land Management in 1839, signaling that a settlement had been established. In 1847, the state legislature declared that Columbus should become the county seat of justice, but that designation only lasted until 1851, when Portage became the county seat.
By the 1850s, the settlement in Columbus had become well established. The surrounding countryside was also becoming inhabited by adventurous families, establishing themselves as the farmers and responding to the needs of not only their own families, but also to the people in this city and beyond. Early on, the relationship between the farmers and the city dwellers was a symbiotic one -- they needed each other to prosper. That fact was evident from the beginning and still is today. Columbus is an agriculture-based city.
In 1864, the settlement at Columbus was incorporated as a village, On Feb. 26, 1874, the village officially became incorporated as a city. With that designation came the right to establish a free public education system and volunteer fire protection organization.
The story continues to the present day. Columbus values its history as evidenced by its plethora of historic homes and businesses, the historic downtown district, and two history minded organizations (Columbus Historic Landmark Preservation Commission and Columbus Historical Society) striving to preserve Columbus rich history for future generations.
For more Columbus history, and to see many old photos, check out the books by Janice Ulrich. A portion of the proceeds from book sales benefit the Columbus Historic Landmark Preservation Commission.
The Story of Columbus by Fred A. Stare is available here.