Visitors Guide to
Monroe County, Illinois
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Columbia, Illinois is located at the northern tip of Monroe County in Southwestern Illinois only about 12 miles from downtown St. Louis and three miles from the Mississippi River. The settlement that became Columbia grew up around two frontier forts. Fort Whiteside, named after a noted frontier family from North Carolina. The Whiteside built a fort, called Whiteside’s Station along the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail to protect settlers from the local Native Americans. In 1783, Captain James Piggott and 17 families built cabins and a blockhouse just west of modern day Columbia. Piggott later became the founder of East St. Louis.

The oldest part of Columbia was surveyed and platted in 1820. Columbia grew rapidly from 1835 on due to the waves of German immigrants. The Germans followed the Aleman tradition of building their homes close to the sidewalk in order to increase the space in back for gardens and keeping livestock. Many of these homes are still standing and contribute to the original community's unique appearance. Columbia was incorporated as a town in 1859 and as a city in 1903. While most of the area surrounding the community remains in agricultural uses, increasing development in the Columbia area is rapidly changing its rural character.

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