In 2021, Columbia will celebrate its bicentennial but it actually got its start in 1818 as Smithton. For the official website for the city’s celebration, see this CoMo200 or the city’s CoMo200 Facebook page. Boone County kicked off in 1820, and will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020.
You can see media coverage about plans and celebrations here: CoMo/BoCo 200 Media Coverage.
Here’s my fast history of our town. It was founded by several men plans to make money.
Thought bought land in the newly purchased Louisiana Purchase at the land office in Franklin, Missouri. Here’s a copy of the contract they all signed.
They made the purchase based on gamble, and in one way they won, and in another they had a bust.
The gamble was that soon there would be a new county carved out of Howard County and if they guessed right, they’d be right there, literally in at the ground level to sell the land for all the things a new county would need like a county courthouse, roads and so forth.
Here’s how they won. A new county — Boone — was created in 1820, right around the land they’d bought.
Here’s how the new town was a bust.
Where those men plunked down Columbia and even contracted to build a log cabin, there wasn’t any accessible water. The good news is that three years there wasn’t much built, so they simply moved Smithton, including the log cabin, about four blocks to the east to the banks of the Flat Branch and renamed it Columbia. (That’s why First Street isn’t the center of Columbia.)
If right about now you’re envisioning leather-clad pioneers chopping trees and such, you might want to reconsider that view. Many of the men who bought the land were wealthy and from slave-holding states. That means they brought enslaved people with them to do the heavy work, and in most cases, those names and stories are lost to us now. Many of the men also brought their wives and families, all of them pretty tough cookies, but like the slaves, they may not have had any choice in that since women’s rights were about 100 years off for most of them.
So when you think of the founders of Columbia, think beyond the typical images and make sure you include people of color, women who were resourceful and raising children along with the men who had wealth to buy land and had entrepreneurial streak a mile wide.
Task force set up to plan festivities
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece has appointed a Task Force on Bicentennial Celebration Planning. See the list of those on the task force below.
The next meeting of the task force will be at 7 p.m. on March 28, 2018, in the boardroom of the Walton Building at 300 South Providence. Here’s the agenda, which includes a link to a draft of the minutes of the last meeting.
The meeting is open to the public, but Task Force Chair Brent Gardner said the main purpose of these first few meetings is to get organized and educated.
Goals for the celebration
While the task force is still getting organized, three goals were set at the group’s first meeting on Feb. 28, 2018.
- It will be inclusive of all of Columbia, said Gardner — the wealthy, those without money, young, old, black, white, immigrants — everyone.
- The second goal of the celebrations to be planned is that they will indeed be celebrations, fun and entertaining.
- The third goal, said Deb Sheals, Gardner’s co-chair, will be to leave a mark, to create some kind of enduring item. As Sheals put it, she wants to give CoMo a “big, fat present for turning 200.” That “present” could be anything from creating lesson plans for grade and high school children to a piece of artwork in the Flat Branch area, which is where Columbia got its start.
At the inaugural meeting, ideas sprang from every member of the group along with ways about how to approach celebrating the city and county’s 200 years. Should the celebration revolve around 200 amazing Columbia people? Or should the festivities mark an accomplishment for each of the 200 years being marked? Should there be contests? An official coin or stamp? A memorial book?
How to get involved
The task force is working on creating a website portal where, as task force member Pat Fowler put it, people can read along with the task force members as it gathers information and educates itself.
There is a proposal to create a Facebook page and dedicated emails for the task force members to the public can contact them.
For now, the meetings of the task force, like all governmental meetings, are open to the public. The meetings will be held in the boardroom of the Walton Building at 300 S. Providence Road. The meeting schedule can be checked on the city’s calendar here.
Here is the schedule of the meetings:
- April 25
- May 23
- June 27
- July 25
- Aug. 22
- Sept. 26
- Oct. 24
- Nov. 28
- Dec. 26
Who is on the task force?
- Brent Gardner, chair,
- Pat Fowler, Historic Preservation Commission,
- Nate Brown, MU’s Reynolds Journalism Institute,
- Dr. Eryca Neville, Columbia Public Schools
- Dr. Anne Deaton, University of Missouri
- Chris Campbell, Boone County History & Culture Center
- Tom Mendenhall, Downtown Community Improvement District
- Deb Sheals, Downtown Community Improvement District
- Ann Rogers
- Amy Schneider, City of Columbia staff liaison