Historic Columbus Town Hall 1902
Historic Columbus Town Hall 1902

History of Columbus

First Settlers

According to the “History of Anoka County” by Albert M. Goodrich, the first settlers to the village of Columbus were John Kleiner and J.H. Batzle. They both arrived in 1855. In the spring of 1856 the village of Columbus was platted in section 22 by Captain James Starkey. Starkey, along with fellow Commissioner R.C. Knox, laid out the St. Paul and Kettle River Road.

Growing Community

The Weekly Minnesotan in 1857 ran this description: “Now, Columbus boasts of one hotel, one store, one blacksmith shop, one turners shop, one wagon maker, one gunsmith, ten or twelve dwellings … a large and commodious school house, one steam mill which will cut 6080 ft. in twelve hours, one corn mill and cob crusher.” The saw mill ran during the winter of 1856-57 and employed fifty or sixty men, but closed in 1858 and was destroyed by fire in 1865. Yost arrived in Columbus village in 1857 from New York state. He was a blacksmith, having learned the trade in this country after emigrating from Switzerland in 1853. Mary Yost, a daughter, is said to have been the first white child born in the town. In 1860 Columbus township had a population of 119.

Government and Elections

Columbus was one of only three Anoka County election precincts in 1857. The other two were St. Francis and Anoka. Goodrich’s “History of Anoka County” states, “a man was shot at Columbus on election day about 1858, but recovered.” Columbus has contributed at least two county officials: James Starkey served as County Commissioner from November 1865 to April 1870 and William H. Pulver served in the same capacity for one term from 1889 to 1893. In the village of Columbus, in the election of 1859, the following officials were elected to represent the people: John Kleiner, chairman; John Somer and B.J. Baldwin, supervisors; James Cornell, clerk; Mr. Likowski, assessor; N.H. Norburn, collector; M.E. Wood and H.B. Batzle, Justices of the Peace; and C. Batzle and Patrick Finn, constables.


By the late 1880s the logging industry had depleted its resources and a new industry arose in the 1890s. The American Grass Twine Company began harvesting the native wire grass which covered the areas lowland prairies. This company, which employed 700-800 people in their St. Paul factory, later became the Crex Carpet Company of St. Paul. Three camps were located in Columbus township and 10,000 acres were included in the company’s holdings. At one time, the camps employed 100 men and used 250 horses. After World War I the carpet company went into decline and the land became tax delinquent. Many acres reverted to the State and became part of what is now the Carlos Avery Game Wildlife Management Area.

Columbus Township

The Township of Columbus was platted in 1856 and a Town organization was formed in 1857.  Early settlers sought to develop a village center on the St. Paul-Kettle River Road, one of the earliest stage lines to be developed in the State.  This site, known as “Boehm’s Corner,” contained a sawmill and hotel. Efforts to encourage the development of a village center met with no success.  The Township lost a bid in the mid-1860’s for the Anoka County seat and it was passed over as a potential route for the St. Paul-Duluth Railroad.  The village center never materialized and, by 1879, the Township abandoned efforts to establish a village at that site.

Streets Naming

The naming of streets in Anoka County goes back to Roland Anderson, County Surveyor from 1958 to 1987. The categories of street names in Columbus are, from west to east, automobiles, space and astronomy, rivers of the world, colleges and universities, and baseball players. It is not known how or why those categories were chosen. The entire county was named by categories such as these to provide a uniform naming system (with the exception of Centerville and Lino Lakes).

Township Becomes a City

The citizens of Columbus petitioned the Town Board to change the form of government from a town to a city in 2006. On Sept. 21, 2006 the Township of Columbus was incorporated and became the City of Columbus.


Anoka County Genealogical Society's Website Some information on this page was taken from this website.