The Situation after the War

This was a year of panic and general bank suspension throughout the United States. Business of every kind was crippled, and commercial failures became so common as to create but little surprise when even the largest and apparently strongest houses "went by the board." Columbus was of course affected by the general depression, and was not exempt from the failures so prevalent elsewhere. But the clearing out of the Indians from the adjacent territory in Alabama and the certainty of its early opening to a large white settlement, brought many prospectors and speculators, who thronged the city as the most convenient standpoint for their explorations and operations. There were thousands of them in Columbus during the year; the hotels were generally crowded; there was demand for all the varied commodities which such a movement required; and trade acquired an activity that would otherwise have been wanting. We are not surprised to find, after the stirring events of 1886, the names of many new settlers and business houses.

The City Government for this year was constituted as follows:
Mayor, J. S. Calhoun
Aldermen, S. E. Andrews, E. S. Norton, T. G. Gordon, T. C. Evans, S. E. Bonner, Asa Bates;
City Clerk, M. N. Clark
Treasurer, John Bethune
Marshal, M. C. Robinson
Clerk of the Market, Bartley Weeks
Sexton, Thos. Ashley
Bridge Keeper, Wm. Gilbert

Reports of occasional depredations in Eastern Alabama, by bands of predatory Indians, still caused some excitement, but they did not threaten Columbus, nor were the citizens of Columbus called on to aid in their capture.

The improvement of the Chattahoochee above Columbus was still a question before the people; and some deeming the opening of the river impracticable, advocated the building of a railroad to West Point. So it appears that for over forty years Columbus has been "hammering away" in the effort to secure the trade of the upper river counties by improved commercial facilities, and has not yet completed the links.

The Episcopal Church was completed this year, and opened to public worship in June. The pews were rented for the aggregate sum of $3,100.

From the Enquirer of October 26th:

"Our city seems to be reviving. Some activity and life has been exhibited in business circles this week. The health of the place is almost unparalleled in its history, nothing like bilious or malignant fever being known among our citizens. We are in hopes that times are getting better and money matters growing easier. This hope is strengthened by the fact that we daily see large numbers of strangers going west to purchase land and find new homes. The Oglethorpe House, kept by Wm. P. McKeen, is crowded every night with travelers in search of lands and fortunes. The City Hall, too, under the management of our worthy fellow-citizen, Mr. James, is in a like manner filled, with sojourners. This is all indicative of better times, and shows the spirit of enterprise which nothing can subdue in the Southern people. Columbus will soon be herself again. Cotton is selling at 8 to 9 1/4, and corn from street wagons at 85c. per bushel.

The census of the city taken this year, showed a total population of 4121--whites 2549, blacks 1572. The white males numbered 1556, and the white females 986.

In December the Legislature passed an act amending the Charter so as to divide the city into six wards, giving each ward two Aldermen.

The stalls in the market this year rented for $226.00--six stalls, averaging $37.66 each. The butchers renting them were Emanuel Ezekiel, Philip Gettinger, Elisha Tarver, Thos. Cunningham, Thos. G. Jordan and Charles Bize.

Council made a contract in March, with James Clark, civil engineer, to make a survey of the city for the purpose of enabling the Street Committee to drain off the stagnant water and level the streets. The price to be paid Mr. Clark for this service was $500.

We make an extract from the report of Mr. Clark, to show the difference in altitude or depression of various sections of the city at that time. Taking as a base the floor of the east end of the bridge, reported to be 35 feet above the surface of the water (stage of water not designated,) Mr. Clark reported that "the city is from 14 to 35 feet above base, excepting the first step or immediate margin of the river bank which in some places is only 5 feet above. The crest of the second bank, on and in rear of which the greater part of the city is located, is from 6 to 12 feet above the most depressed points of Jackson and adjoining streets parallel therewith and it is the same with reference to Crawford and Thomas streets, the intersection of which with the former is in the bottom, of a large shallow basin, that embraces in its slope nearly the whole city and north eastern precincts. Into this reservoir the draining of this extensive area are thrown more rapidly than it can be drawn off by the present drains, so that it is several days after the cessation of rain before it is uncovered, when there is left exposed a large surface of alluvium, which, in combination with the atmosphere, must have a deleterious influence upon the health of those residing in the immediate vicinity. This low ground is from 13.50 to 16.50 feet above base, and gradually rises to 18 and 20 feet in Mercer Street, through which it is drained by way of the brick-kiln to the river below the city. The bottom of this main drain at the Irwinton (now Eufaula) road is but 37 feet below the drain at the corner of Troup and Crawford streets, but at times of high water the surface is not more than six or twelve inches below; consequently that low portion of the city is inundated until the supply is decreased."

The report recommends the enlargement and deepening of the existing drains, also a subterranean drain or sewer from Oglethorpe Street, through Thomas or Baldwin, to the river, Mr. Clark preferred the former, because by its construction, the ravine at its end might be filled and its extension prevented. He estimated the cost of this sewer at $8,569. He also recommended a similar sewer through Franklin Street to the river, at an estimated cost of $3,681.

The report concludes: "To the city, Nature has bountifully given all the advantages of a level location, with gently rising hills in the rear, and a delightful esplanade in front, extending from the calm sluggish current along the last impetuous cataract of the river. It is but a few years since there was a wilderness where is now a large, flourishing city, the mart of an extensive and rapidly populating territory, abounding with vast agricultural and mineral riches, which, as developed, must greatly augment its commercial importance and prosperity; added to which, the immense and valuable water power within its environs will undoubtedly be appreciated and attract to it a large amount of manufacturing capital and industry. With the knowledge of these resources, and of what has already been accomplished by the enterprise and intelligence of her citizens, we may reasonably an anticipate that Columbus will soon earn a rank among the most important and beautiful cities of the Union. As conservatory of her interests, it is highly important that the measures you may now adopt, for the improvement of the health and conveniences should be such as would add permanently to this desirable result."

The Council made a contract in May, with Wm. B. Robinson & Co., for the construction of the two sewers above named, at the rate of $10.50 per thousand brick laid. But in 1838 it had part of the excavation for the upper sewer filled again, on account of great caving and washing away of the soil by rains while the work of laying the brick was delayed. Council also altered the plan of the lower sewer so as to have part of it walled with plank. It was very liberal in settling with Robinson & Co.

At a meeting held on the 15th of November, Council passed a resolution declaring that, in accordance with the unanimous wish of the citizens, the water privileges of the city should be put upon the market, and appointing a committee to memorialize the Legislature for authority for laying off and selling the "western commons" at public outcry.

The principal taxes for this year were the following: On every $100 value of town lots, 30c., and the same upon the improvements upon them; each white male between 16 and 60 years, 46c.; each slave between same ages 46c.; each free person of color over 20 and under 60 years, $6; each dog more than one to each family, $1; on all goods, wares and merchandise sold on consignment by resident merchants, 1 per cent; itinerant traders, 2 per cent; on each $100 in value of capital in trade, merchandize, shaving notes, &c., 30c.; each lawyer, physician, and broker, $5.

Messrs. H. S. Smith, John Warren and G. E. Thomas announced to Council in April, that they had opened a "diagonal street from Broad to Oglethorpe," christening it "Warren street," and asked Council to accept and keep it open permanently. This is the short street commonly called "Triangle," and sometimes disrespectfully dubbed "Dog Alley."

The construction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad had commenced, under a charter passed by the Legislature in December, 1836, and Columbus had this year a project to connect with it at its southern terminus. A corporation styled the Chattahoochee Railroad and Banking Company undertook the engineering of this enterprise. Its officers were J. C. Watson, President; Wiley Williams, Cashier; A. G. Bass, Teller; John E. Davis, Bookkeeper; J. C. Watson, J. S. Calhoun, J. W. Campbell, N. Howard, W. II. Mitchell, James R. Jones and J. L. Lewis, Directors. A proposition was made this year for the city to issue $750,000 in bonds, to be loaned this Bank, to aid in the construction of the road and "for the relief of the people." We find in the Enquirer an address by Wiley Williams, J. L. Lewis and R. A. Ware, committee, in favor of this project. It met a stout resistance from Gen. Bethune and others.

The Council and citizens conjointly took action upon this project on the 81st of October. At a meeting held at 9 o'clock a. m. on that day, Council passed resolutions requesting the Legislature to amend the charter of the "Chattahoochee Railroad and Banking Company" so as to allow further time for the payment of installments of the capital stock subscribed; also resolving that the city should subscribe for 2,000 shares of the stock and issue bonds for the purpose. The citizens, at a meeting held at 10 o'clock, unanimously ratified this action; and the Council at another meeting held at 4 o'clock p. m., appointed committees to canvass the city for subscriptions, and asked the opinion of Seaborn Jones, Esq., as to what further steps were necessary to legalize the acts of Council in this respect. At the next meeting of Council a letter from Col. Jones was read, which does not appear upon the minutes, and Council passed a resolution asking of the Legislature special power to issue bonds.


Washington's birthday was celebrated with old time spirit. Rev. Dr. Pierce offered an appropriate and patriotic prayer; Lieut. Hines Holt read the Farewell Address; and M. J. Wellborn, Esq., delivered an eloquent and impressive oration.

A. M. Gregory, a citizen, was found in a dying condition on the streets on the morning of the 13th of March, and died next day. He was evidently murdered, but the case was involved in mystery.

The suspension of the Chattahoochee Bank was announced in April.

The spring races were well attended and well contested. The principal winning horses were Betsy Baker, Eclipse, Linwood, Turnbull, and Miss Medley.

The city was again troubled with cases of small-pox.

The steamboat Florence arrived for the first time on the 2d of November. Water very low.

A big robbery occurred on the night of the 28th of November. The store of P. Miedzielski was entered, and $6,000 worth of watches, jewelry, &c., stolen.

Heavy rains occurred about the middle of December, washing away creek bridges in the vicinity, mills, &c. The bridge over the Chattahoochee was severely tested, and stood the strain.

Rev. Dr. Pierce offered prayer, H. L. Benning, Esq., was the reader, and Hon. W. T. Colquitt the orator, at the 4th of July celebration.

The first bales of new cotton noticed, were received on the 23d of August. They were from the plantation of J. W. Cowart of Stewart, and were sold at auction at 10 1/8c. per pound, Hooper, Thornton & Livingston purchasers.

Gen. M. B. Lamar, then Vice President of Texas, visited Columbus in June and July, was complimented with a public dinner on the 4th of July, and made a very fine and eloquent speech. He was received with much enthusiasm.

A "new and fashionable" theatre was opened in October. It was on Crawford street, in the rear of McIntosh Hall, was 40x80 feet in area of hall, and capable of accommodating about 400 persons.


At the election on the first Monday in January, the following county officers were chosen:
Aaron Odum, Tax Collector;
G. W. Short, Tax Receiver;
Daniel Walling, Coroner;
Messrs. Hitchcock, Carnes, Torrence and Parks, Judges of the Inferior Court.
James Herring was acting Postmaster at Columbus.
Asa Bates was acting as Sheriff.

At the October election, W. T. Colquitt, Esq., was elected State Senator, and J. W. Campbell and J. C. Watson Representatives.

In October, the notorious hostile Indian Chief, Jim Henry, having been acquitted of the offences for which he was tried in Alabama, was brought to Columbus and lodged in jail, to stand a trial for crimes against the State of Georgia.

Hon. Jos. L. Sturges was Judge of the Judicial Circuit, vice Hon. A. Iverson, resigned.

The following names of business and professional men are found in the advertisements of the Enquirer during 1837:


Alien & Young,
G. W. Buckley & Co.
Guayard & Jordan
Thos. McQueen
Howard & Wittich
J. T. Niles & Co.
Henry King
Torrance & Co.
Neil & McNair
Nuckolls & Co.
Win. & W. Toney

Smith & Morgan
Craudall & Co.
Preston & Nelms
B. A. Sorsby, Turner
Morris & Co.
E. S. Greenwood & Co.
Foster & Fogle
DeGilse & German
Wiley Williams & Brother
Henry Mathews
Wade & Co.
Bead & Talbot
Wade & Beardsley
Hall & Moses
Cary & Day
J. B. Green & Co.
T. R. Gold
Star & Ruse
H. C. Phelps
Williams, & Holcomb
J. C. Plant,
Colquitt & Grant
J. H. Reynolds
J. B. Peabody
Thornton & Livingston
A Levison
A. McArn
G. W. E. Bedell
B. F. McDaniel
Smith & Grimes,
John E. Bacon & Co.

Warehouse & Commission

G. W. Boss & Co.
Augustus Haywood


McDaniel & Wilhelm


S. J. Herron
Calhoun & Bas
Wm. P. McKeen


Holt & Persons
Thomas J. Bugg
Boon Sewell
J. Ellis
H. W. Hill


Haralson & Lewis
Holt & Echols
John & James Bethune


Mrs. Tally
Charles H. LaHatt
Mrs. Leigh


O. P. Laird


R. Hooper
S. M. Jackson


June 12. - John C. Gray and Miss Sarah Reid
Feb. 23. - Capt. Sol. W. Munk and Miss Alsey Purson
Feb. 23. - Dr. George B. Mackey and Miss Margaret White
April 15. - Lewis Livingston and Miss Elizabeth B. Bass
May 9 - Charles L. Bass and Miss Rebecca M. Fluker
May 9. - Dr. John E. Bacon and Miss Clementina Alston, at Lousta, on Miccosuka Lake,
July 12. - G. B. Phole and Miss Susan M. Crenshaw.
Aug. 24. - W. H. Owens and Miss Emily B. Vason.
Sept 1. - Dr. John A. Urquhart and Miss MBIT Jane Shorter, at Dahlonega.
Nov. 21. - John A. Bilbro, of Columbus, and Miss Ann L. Rutledge, in Harris County
Nov. 30. - Augustus Lawrence and Miss Elenora McCall
Nov. 30. - Daniel T. Driggers and Miss Frances Colson.
Dec. 5. - H. F. Wimberly, of Columbus, and Miss Anna C. Wood, in Talbot.


Jan. 12., David C. Griggs.
May 30., Mrs. Ellen Emeline Walker.
June 27., Mrs. Winnifred, consort of Wiley Williams.
July 6., Henry L. Richardson.
Aug. 10., Robt. A. Jones.
Aug. 2., Mrs. Elizabeth R., consort of Dr. II. A. Thorn ton.
Sept. 23., Alfred Smith, a native of New York.
Sept. 24., Mrs. Elizabeth S., consort of Thos. C. McKeen.
Sept. 28., Miss Clara Cornelia Harden.
Oct. 24., Mrs. Sarah Jane Redmon.

Source: Columbus, Georgia from its Selection as a Trading town in 1827 to its Partial Destruction by Wilson's Raid in 1865, compiled by John H. Martin, Published by Thos. Gilbert, Book Printer and Binder, Columbus, GA, 1874

Transcribed by Judy White 2014©