Latitude / Longitude:
38°57’5 N 92°19’42 W
758 ft (231 m)
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
The Columbia area was once part of the Mississippian culture and home to the Mound Builders. When European explorers arrived, the area was populated by the Osage and Missouri Indians. In 1678, La Salle claimed all of Missouri for France. The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by the area on the Missouri River in early June 1804.
In 1806, two sons of Daniel Boone established a salt lick 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Columbia. giving the area its early name: Boonslick. The Boone’s Lick Trail wound from St. Charles to the lick in present-day Howard County. In 1818, a group of settlers, incorporated under the Smithton Land Company, purchased over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and established the village of Smithton less than a mile from current day downtown Columbia. In 1821, the settlers moved because of lack of water across the Flat Branch to the plateau between the Flat Branch and Hinkson creeks in what is now the downtown district. They renamed the settlement Columbia—a poetic personification of the United States.
Columbia’s infrastructure was relatively untouched by the Civil War. Missouri, as a slave state, had Southern sympathies, but remained in the Union. The majority of the city was pro-Union; however, the surrounding agricultural areas of Boone County and the rest of central Missouri were decidedly pro-Confederate. Because of this, the University of Missouri became a base from which Union troops operated.
No battles were fought within the city because the presence of Union troops dissuaded Confederate guerrillas from attacking, though several major battles occurred at nearby Boonville and Centralia. After the Civil War, race relations in Columbia followed the Southern pattern; George Burke, a black man, was lynched in 1889.