Columbus was formed and platted in 1855 as Polk County was being established by North Carolina. The town was incorporated in 1857. Columbus is the seat of government for Polk County.
The Town of Columbus [†], unlike most communities, towns or cities in western North Carolina, did not grow from its position as a crossroads, its proximity to a body of water or from a gradual accumulation of residents. Columbus was born overnight, deliberately carved from 100 acres of pure wilderness on what was then known as Foster Race path in the shadow of Fosters Mountain, known today as Chocolate Drop Mountain.
In 1847, the state legislature's first effort to find a county seat for Polk County was greeted by a public squabble. In 1855 the legislature, in creating Polk County, named three out-of-county men as Commissioners to locate the county seat at or within two miles of the geographical center of the county. They chose Fosters Race path, in the shadow of Fosters Mountain, as that site. The Commissioners were authorized to purchase, or receive by donations, a tract of land, not to exceed 100 acres, on which to locate a county seat.
Columbus was divided into 94 lots, with seven lots reserved for public, civic, and spiritual needs. Space for a public square was reserved by the Commissioners at the northern end of the perfectly rectangular 100-acre parcel. Streets were laid out, some as wide as ninety feet, and an auction was held on October 17, 1855 to sell the lots designated for public use. A total of 59 lots were sold, bringing $16, 499 into the County coffers to be used to erect public buildings.
County records to do not indicate an official date for the completion of the County Courthouse, but court records indicate that the Courthouse was in use by December 1857. That same structure, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, remains in use as the County Courthouse today.
As the County seat began to take shape from the wilderness, the Town of Columbus needed to be incorporated. The General Assembly approved the Town's incorporation on February 2, 1857. The new Town was given corporate limits of only a half-mile square from the courthouse square - limits that have not been changed, except for voluntary annexations, to this day.
Physician, senator and farmer are some of the hats worn by Dr. Columbus Mills during the course of his 74 years. He spent most of his adult life in service to his beloved Polk County. Mills has been called the father of Polk County because he worked so tirelessly to carve the new county from Rutherford and Henderson Counties. In 1855 the North Carolina legislature named Columbus, the new county seat, in honor of Dr. Mills.
† History of the Town of Columbus, 2011. www.columbusnc.com, accessed August, 2022.
Nearby Towns: Tryon Town •