A former City, Appling lost its municipal charter in 1993.
In 1816, the town known as Columbia Courthouse was chartered as the Town of Appling, named for the family of William Appling that had donated the land to the county and for Colonel John Appling, a local resident that had died in a campaign against the Seminole Indians.
In the early 19th century, Appling was the political, educational, social, and religious center of Columbia County. Near Appling were located Mt. Carmel Academy and Columbia Institute. Mt. Carmel Academy was run by the famous Southern educator, Moses Waddel and it was here that John C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford were educated. Columbia Institute was started by a man pretending his last name was Bush who was actually Bushnell of revolutionary war submariner fame.
In the 1830s, when the Georgia Railroad was established, it was decided that to have the trains passing near Appling would disturb the proceeding of the court, so the railway that passed through the county from Atlanta to Augusta went well below Appling.
In 1855, the Courthouse in Appling received a major overhaul, and after the remodeling was complete in 1856, the building was in more or less its present form, a vernacular structure with Greek Revival and Italianate influences. Despite the extensive project, the shell of the 1809-1812 building was retained and the structure has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
Appling was nearly wiped off the map by a tornado in the 1870s and it never regained the prestige it had prior to the tornado and the Civil War. Although there was an effort to organize the municipality in the early 20th century, the corporation remained inactive. Appling lost its charter in 1995.