Columbus, MS – CAFB, MUW, Historic Homes, Food, Shopping

March 30, 2012 · 0 comments

in Excursions and Day Triips

Columbus, MS equals History, Fun and Progress  

Columbus, MS has always been a great city to visit. The diverse population creates a rare alchemy. Columbus has the usual friendly country folks who just naturally spring up in Mississippi. It is also home to an elite university which once was an all-girl school. It was called Mississippi State College for Women. It is now Mississippi University for Women, or MUW. Add Columbus Air Force Base to the mix, which has been here for 70 years, and you have an eclectic mix of culture and interests. Before any of those ingredients existed, Columbus was a robust, exciting, wealthy town which showcased Antebellum homes and historic buildings galore.

Columbus has nine Bed and Breakfasts. I haven’t checked them out, since I live only 45 miles away.

Main Street Columbus, MS

Back in the day (before 4 lane roads), when you drove through Columbus, MS, old US Hwy 82 took you right through the heart of town. It’s been over 50 years since I first drove into this charming old city. Time changes everything, but change isn’t always bad. The highway doesn’t run through the middle of town any more, but that is true in most American towns and cities. Even villages get the run-around.

Columbus, a city of over 26,000, is the county seat of Lowndes County. Columbus is the birthplace of Tennessee Williams famous author-playwright. The city of Columbus and MUW sponsor commemorative activities and host the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center. They are committed to preserving the past while promoting the future.

Columbus, West Point and Starkville, MS form what is called the Golden Triangle and provide the advantages of a metropolitan area. One example of this is The Golden Triangle Regional Airport which offers commercial flights for passengers. The local community is also served by WCBI and WLOV TV, several radio stations. The Dispatch, a local newspaper, serves the Golden Triangle area.

A brief history of like Columbus, MS

Hernando de Soto passed through the area now known as Columbus, MS in his search for El Dorado. Columbus actually appeared in definitive historical records in 1810, when John Pitchlynn, the U.S. interpreter for the Choctaw Nation, moved to Plymouth Bluff, where he built a home, established a farm and transacted Choctaw Agency business. Before Columbus was incorporated, Native Americans called it Posum Town.  It was incorporated in 1821 as Columbus, MS. An earlier settlement was formed across the Tombigbee River which was called Plymouth, but a flood destroyed the town and Columbus sprang up after its demise.

During the Civil War, Columbus had a munitions arsenal which produced gunpowder, a few canon and handguns.  Presence of the arsenal made it a target of Union troops, which General Nathan Bedford Forest successfully defeated. Columbus was also a hospital town, to which the injured from other battles were brought. Thousands from both armies are buried here in Friendship Cemetery.

The national observance of Memorial Day has its roots here. On April 25, 1866, the young ladies of Columbus went to  Friendship cemetery to decorate the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. As they did, they saw the graves of the Union soldiers and couldn’t bear the thought they would be left unadorned, so they also decorated those graves. This began the practice of decorating graves of the fallen from both sides of the conflict. Francis Miles Finch, a poet, was in Columbus that day and immortalized the event in her poem “The Blue and the Grey.” 

Proud home of Columbus Air Force Base

Fighter Pilot in Flight – CAFB

Seventy years ago, 1942, Columbus was proud to become the home of Columbus Air Force Base. CAFB has 3,000 personnel. It is one of four Flight Training bases in the US. About half of the active pilots in the USAF trained at Columbus Air Force Base. There is great pride among the local population at the role this base plays in our national security.

Many of the men and women stationed at CAFB enjoyed their stay here so much, that they have returned to Columbus to retire.

Friendship Cemetery

Friendship Cemetery

Founded May 13, 1849 the Friendship Cemetery is located on Fourth Street South in Columbus, MS. The cemetery is situated on a bluff overlooking the Tombigbee River, which flows around and through the city of Columbus. The original five-acre plot of land was owned by Union Lodge No 35 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. They deeded it to the City of Columbus in 1957. It now contains a 65 acre burial ground with more than 16,000 graves.

Many of the original founders of the city are buried here plus veterans of The War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Google Images has a great collection of pictures from this cemetery.

Mississippi University for Women is affectionately called “The W”

 

Beautiful Campus of MUW

The “W” is a four year public liberal arts college which was formerly known as Industrial Institute and College and later Mississippi State College for Women (MSCW) . When it was established in 1884, it became the first public Women’s College in the United States.

In 1982, a male student won a case in the US Supreme court which permitted qualified male students to enroll. In 1988, the  Board of Trustees reaffirmed the mission of MUW as an institution providing quality academic programs for all qualified students, with emphasis on distinctive opportunities for women. Current enrollment is less than 2500 of which 85% are female.

Check for dates of the Columbus Pilgrimage

Two of the biggest events of the year, statewide, are the Pilgrimage of Ante-bellum homes in Natchez and Columbus. As a result of Nathan Bedford Forrest preventing the Union Army from entering the city of Columbus, the Antebellum homes of Columbus were spared from being burned or destroyed, making its collection second only to Natchez as the most extensive in Mississippi.

Beautiful Antebellum Home – Columbus, MS

Each year in March, thousands of pilgrims take road trips to Mississippi to view the pre-Civil War homes. Many of these homes, built by planters in the golden age, resemble mansions, but almost all of them have qualities unique to the South in that period. During the pilgrimage residents open their homes for tours to showcase the architecture and lifestyles of a beautiful bygone era. The pilgrimage occurs in conjunction with the blooming of Redbuds, Azaleas, fruit and Dogwood Trees. It is a festival of charm and beauty which cannot be duplicated outside the few towns of the Old South where these historical homes have been preserved.

From its historic past, Columbus and the Golden Triangle have grown into strong manufacturing and industrial community which rivals many larger areas. Excellent schools, decent shopping and restaurants are complemented by The Baptist Hospital in Columbus, one of the leading hospitals in the state. It is a great place to live.

Speaking of food!!!

We love to go to Columbus to eat. There are several good local restaurants which tickle our fancy. There is an old standard of the region called Rueben’s Fish House. This famous eatery is stationed on the banks of the Tombigbee River at 171 Moores Creek Road and serves up Catfish, Steaks and a real good salad bar. On the popular nights to eat out, you may have to wait in line even though the building seats about 300 hungry folks … well they were hungry when they got here, but they aren’t hungry now. Some of them complain that they may need to be carried out in a wheel barrow. The fish is great!

Harvey’s Restaurant at 200 Main Street is a regional phenomena. The owner has several branded restaurants, but the best is Harvey’s. The menu is similar to other restaurants but the difference is in the recipes, the service, the chefs and the taste. This food is a cut above most other restaurants in the Golden Triangle. There is a Harvey’s in Columbus and in Starkville.

Old Hickory Steak House

The Old Hickory Steak House is just off US HWY 82, on US Hwy 45. This could be called a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. On the inside it looks like it was constructed of leftover materials. The table cloth is a vinyl, red and white checked, smear proof wonder. I was a kid when these first appeared, we called them oil cloths. They upgraded the name to Vinyl,  but didn’t upgrade the cloth. You find them in cheap diners, but would be shot if you placed them on the table of an upscale restaurant. Sit down, settle in and order a Rib Eye steak. “Will that be a small or a large?” There may be other items on the menu, but we never even bother to read it. The steak here is as good as you can buy anywhere. They bring your salad with a container of 3 salad dressings.  You also get a medium size baked potato with it. Every potato is cracked open and inspected before it is served. It’s good!

Recreation abounds and surrounds Columbus

The  Tombigbee River provides enough water for almost any water sport except island hopping. You can water ski, swim, fish and launch a boat big enough to self-contain a party for the weekend.

There are four golf courses in Columbus and a half dozen withing 30 minutes drive. The surrounding area also has some of the finest turkey and deer hunting, plus fishing anywhere in the south.

Columbus Motor Speedway

South of town, off Hwy 82, you can enjoy Stock Car races at the Columbus Motor Speedway. From time to time, huge races, big name entertainers and a general love for racing bring thousands of screaming fans together for nights of fun, thunderous exhaust noises and uproarious music. This ain’t my scene, but some dig it.

Have you ever seen a lock and dam? The same contraption that makes the Panama Canal work, has a working station west of Columbus. It is worth the drive to see it, if for nothing more than educational and entertainment purposes.

Shopping Columbus

There are two primary areas for shopping. You have Main street of downtown. Some of the old stores are still prospering in this area and new stores and boutiques have taken most of the vacated locations.

The other area is along US HWY 45 North. Both sides of  Hwy 45 N are lined with fast food restaurants, local chain eateries, local and chain merchants, Leigh Mall, Belks, Walmart, Kmart. These are augmented by locally owned music, furniture and dry goods stores, several auto dealerships and a montage of other commercial buildings, banks and offices. Motels are located mostly on US 45 and US 82.

Choose from several city parks. On the south end of Main Street you will find a beautiful walking park which also becomes a site for festivals, carnivals and other fair weather activities.

I am going to Columbus tonight to eat me some good food and do a little shopping at Leigh Mall. See ya there? Probably not. Let’s keep rolling up miles and dialing up smiles, because a road trip anywhere is fun.

Until next time,

Bill Taylor

 

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