With a population of 110,438 as of the 2011 according to the United States Census, it is the principal municipality of the Columbia Metropolitan Area, a region of 175,831 residents. Columbia, Missouri serves as the county seat of Boone County and as the location of the University of Missouri. The college town is politically liberal and is known by the nicknames "The Athens of Missouri", "College Town USA," and "CoMO." Over half of Columbians possess a bachelor's degree and over a quarter hold graduate degrees, making it the thirteenth most highly educated municipality in the United States.
This area was once roamed by Osage and Missouri Indians. The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed within a few miles of the area on the Missouri River 1803. In 1806, Daniel Boone and his sons established a salt lick in the area about 40 miles northwest of Columbia. The Booneslick Trail traveled from Kentucky to St. Charles, Missouri and on through this region. In 1818, the Smithton Land Company purchased more than 2,000 acres and established the village of Smithton about 1 mile northwest of the current site of the Katy Station Depot (4th & Broadway.)
Due to lack of adequate water, in 1821, the settlement moved across the Flat Branch and established Columbia in what is now the downtown district. In the 1850’s Columbia benefited from
trade generated by the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. The Missouri Kansas Texas (KATY) railroad spur further boosted Columbia’s growth. Today, the MKT trail spur connects Columbia to the
Katy Trail State Park, the longest rails-to-trails conversion project in the United States.
Education has played a vital role in Columbia’s development. Columbia College was established in 1851 as Christian Female College by the Disciples of Christ Church, and was the first
women’s college west of the Mississippi. It became a coeducational, four-year college in the 1970’s and changed its name to Columbia College. Stephens College was first established as
Baptist Female College in 1855. It changed its name to Stephen’s College for Women in 1870. Today, it is one of the most widely respected women’s colleges in the US.
The University of Missouri was founded in 1839. Controversy over where the University would be built began in the
1830's. Six counties bid on the project; most of them were only able to raise a little over $1,000. Boone Couty was able to raise more than $118,000 in cash, land and buildings. The
state did not appropriate funds to the University until 1867. When Academic Hall Burned down in 1892, there was talk of moving the University to another community. In order to keep it in
Columbia, citizens raised $50,000 for the construction of Jesse Hall. Today, the University of Missouri has a
student population of more than 30,000 and is Columbia's largest employer.
Other top industries are healthcare and insurance. Columbia has one of the highest hospital beds per capita ratios in the country. It has been frequently ranked as a top place to live, best place to raise a family, and great community in which to retire. The things make it so livable, also make it a great destination to visit. (This information has been taken from the Columbia visitors bureau's website, a great place to learn about Columbia! Click here for more information.