Founded in 1820, Columbia served as a major trading center for communities throughout the Wiregrass Region of Alabama between 1822-1833. Bordering the State of Georgia and the Chattahoochee River, Columbia was a major port-of-call for steamboats and was known to many as "Old Columbia". The town was incorporated in 1880 and was the center of education, culture, commerce, and trade. It was the county seat of Henry County which then comprised portions of present day Covington, Dale,Barbour, Coffee, Crenshaw, Bullock, Geneva, and Houston counties. Columbia was the largest town in the area during the 19th century and remains one of the area's oldest continuously operating municipalities.
Columbia received its first cotton textile mill in 1891 and its first electric plant in 1892. A branch of the Henry County Courthouse was located here from 1889 until Columbia became part of Houston County in 1903. Columbia got electric street lights in 1900 and its first electric utility company in 1914.
At the turn of the 20th century, Columbia was bypassed by the Alabama Midland Railway in favor of Dothan. As the railroads continued to take freight trade away from the riverboats. Columbia's position as a principal trade center began to decline; however, Columbia sustained itself as a thriving farming community through the mid-20th century.
As of the census of 2000, there were 804 people, 344 households, and 226 families residing in the town. The population density was 204.8 people per square mile (79.0/km2). There were 462 housing units at an average density of 117.7 per square mile (45.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 74.38% White, 24.50% Black or African American, 0.62% Native American, 0.12% from other races, and 0.37% from two or more races. 0.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 344 households out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the town the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $27,500, and the median income for a family was $36,339. Males had a median income of $29,821 versus $18,393 for females. Theper capita income for the town was $15,248. About 12.3% of families and 18.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.0% of those under age 18 and 18.6% of those age 65 or over.
Columbia Post Office (ZIP code: 36319)