Early 20th Century
In the first decades of the 20th century, Columbus continued to grow as an industrial and cultural center of the Chattahoochee Valley. Local entrepreneurs started successful businesses, while residents enjoyed theater and musical shows, most notably at the Springer Opera House and the Liberty Theatre. Residents of all ages enjoyed recreation at the Wildwood (present-day Lakebottom) and North Highlands parks. World War I saw many men leaving the area to fight in Europe and ended with the arrival of the U.S. Army’s infantry training camp, which became known as Fort Benning.
In the 1920s, musicians with local roots gained national fame and notoriety. Gertrude “Ma” Rainey became one of the first professional blues musicians and earned the nickname “Mother of the Blues.” Rainey returned to her hometown of Columbus after her initial fame, known as much for her on-the-road exploits as her soulful music. Meanwhile, Columbus residents Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarleton created the country music duo Darby and Tarleton and based their biggest hit, “Columbus Stockade Blues,” on the town’s jail.