History Collection Galleries

The Chattahoochee River has bound together the region through which it flows for millennia. All along its ancient course, it has been a life-giving resource that nourished and sustained the people living along its banks. Nowhere has that relationship been closer than in the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley region of Georgia and Alabama. As a transportation and commerce route providing food, water, power, and recreation to those who have lived along its banks, the river has shaped life in this area and heavily influenced its cultural development. In this gallery, objects and images from the permanent collection tell the 10,000-year history of human habitation in Columbus and the surrounding area.

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Legacy Gallery Films

Enjoy our past and present Legacy Gallery films! You can also view these Legacy Gallery Films directly on our YouTube channel.           Chattahoochee Legacy – 2013 Discover the history and cultural heritage of today’s Chattahoochee Valley with local historians, evocative images, and dynamic reenactments in this exciting film, which debuted in […]

First Residents

The earliest known human occupation of the Chattahoochee Valley dates to roughly 13,000 years ago. At that time, people commonly lived in small groups in temporary settlements that were more like camps than established villages. Primarily hunter-gatherers who utilized simple stone tools, they moved often in search of food. As time progressed their societies became […]

Contact, Colonization and Conflict

The arrival of European explorers in the 1500s marked the beginning of a new era in regional history. For much of the next three centuries, the Chattahoochee Valley would be at the center of a struggle between European colonial powers who each claimed a portion of the Southeast. Each attempted to negotiate military and trade […]

Founding of Columbus

The land that became the city of Columbus was obtained through the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs, in which the Creeks relinquished claim to their remaining lands in Georgia. In December 1827, the Georgia legislature passed an act establishing the planned city of Columbus at the falls of the Chattahoochee. At the time the only […]

Creek War of 1836 and the Trail of Tears

The 1832 Treaty of Cusseta gave all Creek land in Alabama to the United States and made the Creeks individual landowners. Despite legal protections, some white settlers and speculators continued to intrude on American Indians’ land. Some Creeks favored traditional farms on communally owned land, while others embraced individual land ownership and new American farms […]

Antebellum Development

In the 1830s Columbus was a rapidly growing city. A decade after its founding in 1828, the new town had a population of more than 3,000 people. Columbus was one of the most industrialized towns of its size in the South, featuring several businesses that relied on the hydropower of the Chattahoochee River. Because Columbus […]


At the time of the Civil War, nearly 90,000 enslaved African Americans, almost half the entire population of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia and Alabama, called the region home. These men and women tended the crops that sustained the area’s economy; built the structures in which many of its white citizens lived, worked […]


Before the Civil War, Southern parents who could afford to educate their children sent them to small private schools or hired tutors for the home. Just nineteen months after the end of the war, Columbus Mayor John McIlhenny introduced a resolution in City Council for public schools in Columbus. It was unanimously adopted, and the […]

The Civil War

Decades of rising tension over slavery and states’ rights resulted in Southern states leaving the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. Local opinion about the Civil War ranged from vocal supporters of secession, to businessmen who secretly feared cutting economic ties with the North. Ultimately, most white Chattahoochee Valley residents […]

Textile Industry

Though devastated by the Civil War, Columbus’ industrial riverfront would rapidly be rebuilt and anchor the city’s reemergence as a textile manufacturing center in the 1870s. For the next 125 years, textile mills would be at the heart of Columbus’ economy. The mills produced a wide range of goods, including cloth, yarn, hosiery, towels, denim, […]

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