We have about run out on the tales of Pine Valley. Although the valley still exists, the settlement of Sulphur Springs and Pine Valley are lost to time. Bear Lake survives as only a shell of its glory days when it had a railroad station and a post office.
The story of the naming of the township and the borough of Columbus remains to be told. The fact that the community still survives with a local government, very active fire department, and a few small businesses leads me to believe there was a lot of local history recorded somewhere.
In “The History of Warren County,” circa 1887, Columbus was awarded nine of the 700 pages. Those nine pages covered a period of slightly less than 100 years, from the first settlers that built their crude huts until 1887.
From that account, about 500 inhabitants lived within the borough limits at that time. This was when commerce and industry reached its pinnacle. Although the population is still close to that number, Columbus serves mainly as a bedroom community of Corry and has a high number of retirees.
I'm trying to find out how Columbus arrived at this point, so please bear with me, as facts are few and varied. The state-erected sign claims the borough was named for the discoverer of America. Well, maybe, once removed, but we will get into that later.
As we travel through time, a number of the names of early residents will sound familiar. As you travel about the township, an occasional glance at the road signs will reveal names such as Sample Flats, Sears Hill, Baker Hill, Parker and Simmons roads, and Davis Street.
You will also see mailboxes listing the names Miller, Walton and Mathers. Some of these folks are living on the land their forefathers settled. Many more were involved, but probably none were more prominent than the name of Curtis in the history of Columbus.
Recently, I sat down with Harold and Chubby Curtis in the kitchen of their home built on the lands originally owned by Harold's great-great-grandfather, Capt. David Curtis, who served in the Revolutionary War.
When the war was over, the country was nearly bankrupt and could not afford to pay its veterans. In lieu of money, many were given title to undeveloped lands. At the time, most of this wilderness was owned by the Holland Land Co., and Capt. Curtis became their agent.
In 1822, he talked others into moving from their improved lands, mainly in New York state to the wilds of Brokenstraw country. A year later, he made his permanent home in what was known as Northwest Township.
At a local election in 1825, the township was renamed Columbus after the hometown of Kimball Webber. This is where the once removed part comes in. It seems as though Webber came from Columbus, New York, and the captain from Sherburne, New York. It was decided that whoever furnished the most whiskey at the election — Curtis or Webber — would have naming rights after their hometown. Webber furnished five gallons; Christopher would have been proud. There was no report on who drank the whiskey.
Under the influence of Capt. Curtis others came, among them Aaron Walton, Ed Rowe, Julius Merriam and Levi Boardman, all of them single young men who engaged in chopping and clearing. The name Walton has been linked to lumbering and logging in the area to this day.
Farming as we know it was almost nonexistent until the land had been cleared, but sawmills flourished. There could be as many as 10 sawmills in operation at a time, using both Coffee Creek and the Brokenstraw for power.
As one would burn down, another would take its place. Sometimes they were rebuilt by the original owner but many times by someone else.
The first mill was built by Luther Mather, others by Russell Clark, Eyea Beals, Asa Walton, William Jackman, Ethan Skinner and Capt. Curtis.