Columbus Female Seminary, the first educational institution in Columbus, was founded through the effort of the Caledonia Masonic Lodge of Columbus. On February 3, 1851, shortly after the charter was granted, a committee was appointed to supervise construction of a two-story building to be used as a lodge hall and female seminary. The seminary was conducted by a board of trustees. If the school could not pay the teachers, the lodge agreed to pay the deficit. The board could discharge any teacher or expel or suspend any student at any time.
By 1859 more school rooms were needed. A corporation was formed, which included eight Masons and eighteen other citizens of Columbus, to build a school building and provide for the increased educational needs of the town. The school was named Colorado College. On December 27, 1859, the cornerstone was laid. In January 1860 P. Riley was principal and Misses Nannie Martin and Carrie E. Martin were assistants. The monthly charge ranged from two to five dollars. Pupils were charged from the time of entrance to the close of the session, and no refund was made except for protracted sickness. Evidently, the college building was completed by January 12, 1861, at which time the Colorado Citizen (see COLORADO COUNTY CITIZEN) states that Columbus Female Seminary had been placed under the control of Professor Riley and Rev. J. J. Loomis as principals. Miss Mary Haswell was music teacher. The seminary was no longer under Masonic sponsorship.
The school continued to operate for a number of years, sometimes under a board of trustees and at other times under individuals. It changed hands many times. The lower floor of the Masonic Institute building was rented to anyone who could provide the public with a good school. Riley ran it until around 1870, after which Mrs. Kate Oakes had a small private school in the Masonic building until after Christmas of 1871. On August 19, 1877, E. E. Riley advertised to teach a mixed school at the Masonic Academy, assisted by his sister. By October 4, 1877, the school had some forty students. On January 7, 1878, Professor F. M. Reager announced to parents and guardians that he would open a high school for males and females in the Masonic Academy. The next and last record of a school at the Masonic Academy was P. J. Oakes's announcement of a ten-month session to begin on the first Monday in September 1882. The school at the Masonic building must have ceased operation in 1883.