Columbia, North Carolina - Honoring Our Past, Designing Our Future
History of Columbia

     Located on the eastern shoreline of the Scuppernong River in northern Tyrrell County, Columbia was chartered in 1793 as Elizabethtown.  The town became the Tyrrell County seat of government in 1799 and was renamed Columbia in 1801.

     While settlers from Virginia streamed southward into the Albemarle region during the 18th century, development of Columbia and Tyrrell County proceeded slowly.  Surrounding swamp forests, vast peat wetlands and pocosins restricted penetrations of the interior around the town.  The area was one of the most isolated and sparsely settled parts of North Carolina well into the 20th century.

     Primarily a fishing and trading center before the War Between the States, Columbia grew in the late 19th century as a result of the expanding lumber industry.  Between 1880-90 the town grew from 166 to 382 residents.  In 1908 the Norfolk and Southern Railway extended its track to Columbia, supplementing boat travel between the town and surrounding communities.

     By the mid-1900's Columbia's population reached 1,100, but the post World War II population exodus to metropolitan areas resulted in a steady decline until about 2000.  Today over 860 citizens call Columbia home.

     The recent 4-laned US-64 from the state capitol to Columbia opened up the community to new visitors.  Attractions include vast natural resources: wetlands, woodlands, waterways, rich organic soils, bird, animal, fish and plant life, and a renewed downtown area.  Since the mid-1990's the town has completed a shoreline, a wooded area boardwalk, and a Main Street streetscape.  In addition, it has converted the Columbia Theater into a cultural resources center (museum) and added the Walter B. Jones interpretive center.  The largest US-64 visitor/information center east of Raleigh is located in Columbia and several downtown buildings have been restored to house new businesses that serve residents and visitors.

     Columbia values its past and looks forward to a bright future.

Community Profile

     Columbia's population, which numbers 867 persons, is predominately Black (51.6%).  White residents make up 40.4% of the population with Hispanic at 7.9%.  About 0.5% of the town's residents are Asian (predominately Vietnamese).

     The overall population is fairly young in age.  Those below the age of 35 number 44.4% of town residents.  Only 18.9% of the population is over the age of 65.  The population, however, is aging as demonstrated by the increase of those aged 35-54 during the decade of the '90's. 

     High school graduates make up over 30% of the town's population and almost 12% have some college credits.  Those with at least a bachelor's degree total 6.4%

     Columbia's housing occupancy rate is 83.4% and the median age of structures  is 51 years.  Homes in Columbia compare favorably to state averages in terms of size or rooms per unit, but the percentages of homes lacking complete infrastructure is substantially higher than the state overall.

     Columbia and Tyrrell County fall into the lowest percentile of North Carolina towns and counties in terms of work force, education and income, housing and poverty.  Columbia's median income of $20,588 is only 53% of the state average income of $39,184.  The largest employment sector among Columbia residents is arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodations at 23.7% of the employed workforce.  Many residents commute to the Outer Banks to find employment in the tourist industry.  Overall approximately 60% rely on work outside the county.

     Three of the county's top ten employers are within the Town of Columbia: Tyrrell County Schools, Tyrrell County Government,  and Capt. Neill's Seafood.

Scuppernong River Festival

     Columbia on the Scuppernong provides small town fellowship, friendliness and fun to both residents and tourists.  The second Saturday each October brings 8,000 to 10,000 to the downtown area for our annual Scuppernong River Festival.  Local organizations, clubs, churches, businesses, and government agencies sponsor numerous activities throughout the year.  The mild climate provides the perfect setting for enjoying the natural beauty along the pristine Scuppernong River.

River Town Christmas
The Town of Columbia prides itself on the annual River Town Christmas held annually in December.  The event begins on Thursday  and ending on Sunday with the Columbia High School Christmas Concert.  The weekend brings many residents, as well as, visitors to the numerous events including a flotilla arriving on the town docks with Santa Claus, La Posada, bazaar, live nativity scene, shopping, home and business decorating contest, and the annual Christmas Parade.  These and other events draw holiday revelers to Columbia to begin their holiday season.
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