Columbia, Tennessee, (population 38,224) was created to be the Maury County seat in July of 1808. The county had one of the state's first newspapers and was part of the railroad system as early as 1859. At that time, approximately 15 turnpikes served Maury County, many of which passed through Columbia.
The area's early economy was based on the many agricultural products of the area, as well as a number of mills and tanneries. Columbia itself was a leading mule market for more than a century and annually celebrates that history on the first weekend of April with Mule Day.
In the years between 1810 and 1860, plantations flourished in Maury County, each with its own majestic home. A large number of these were the work of Nathan Vaught, a master craftsman of the era. The Athenaeum Rectory built by Vaught in 1835 currently serves as headquarters for the Maury County Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA) and is open to the public.
In its earliest days, Columbia's location along the Duck River made it a popular crossing site. Tens of thousands of early settlers passed through Columbia on their way to seek their fortunes in western lands. Today, Columbia is turning its focus back to the river that played such a pivotal role in its development by creating the Duck River Walk. With the contributions of both private and public partners, the walk features an amphitheater and pavilion for interpretive programs as well as interpretive signs focusing on both the natural and cultural history of Columbia and the Duck River.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2007.