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WEST COLUMBIA, TX

WEST COLUMBIA, TEXAS. West Columbia, an incorporated town on State highways 35 and 36 between the Brazos and San Bernard rivers in west central Brazoria County, was founded as Columbia in 1826 by Josiah Hughes Bell, who laid out the town two miles west of Marion (now East Columbia). It was known as Columbia during the Texas Revolution and when it served as the capital of the Republic of Texas from September to December 1836. There the First Congress of the Republic of Texas convened, and Sam Houston was inaugurated president on October 22, 1836. The House of Representatives met in a two-story frame house and the Senate in a smaller house, at the site of which a state historical marker was later placed. On November 30, 1836, Congress met in joint session and decided to move the seat of government to Houston because Columbia did not have adequate accommodations for government personnel. Stephen F. Austin, then secretary of state, died on December 27, 1836, in Columbia at the home of George B. McKinstry. With removal of the seat of government, Columbia, now known as West Columbia, declined as a commercial center. A post office was established in 1905, but further growth awaited the discovery of the twenty-square-mile West Columbia oilfield in 1918. West Columbia again became a trade center for the surrounding area, with an economy based on agriculture (largely rice and cotton), oil, and sulfur. The population reached 2,500 in 1928, but declined to 1,000 with the onset of the Great Depression. In 1932 forty businesses operated in the community. By 1940 the population had risen to 1,573, and there were fifty businesses. In the subsequent decade the population rose to a high of 2,100. In the 1960s many major oil companies had producing wells in or near West Columbia, and the area boasted the largest cattle population in Texas. Recreational opportunities included hunting, fishing, and swimming. A replica of the first capitol was built in 1977, and the Varner-Hogg Plantation was restored. The city celebrates a San Jacinto Festival and Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historical Park Plantation Days in April. The population reached 2,947 in 1960 and 3,335 in 1970 as workers were drawn to employment in area industry. In the 1990s the community published the Brazoria County News, and the population numbered 4,372. The population dropped slightly in 2000 to 4,255.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Louis Wiltz Kemp, "The Capitol at Columbia," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 48 (July 1944). Texas State Travel Guide (Austin: State Department of Highways and Public Transportation).

Merle Weir and Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Merle Weir and Diana J. Kleiner, "WEST COLUMBIA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgw03), accessed October 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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