The village of Columbus was platted in section 22 by Capt. James Starkey in the spring of 1856. The first settlers, according to the “History of Anoka County” by Albert M. Goodrich, were John Kleiner and J.H. Batzle, both of whom arrived in 1855.
In the spring of that year, the St. Paul and Kettle River Road was laid out by James Starkey and R.C. Knox, Commissioners. “At that time there was only settler beyond the Rice Lakes north of St. Paul”, as quoted from the Weekly Minnesotan of January 24, 1857. By 1857 there were “considerably more than one hundred settlers who have opened, or are in the act of opening farms along the road or within one or two miles of it…an imperfect list of the names of many of those settlers as we have been able to obtain (include) Travis, Wencel, Starkey, Austin, Saussen and Wyatt.” Henry Richards, Mr.. Matthews and J.J. Boehm were also early settlers. These names are still recognized in the greater Anoka County area today.
The Weekly Minnesotan continues, “Now, Columbus boasts of one hotel, one store, one blacksmith shop, one turners shop, one wagon maker, one gunsmith, ten or twelve dwellings….a large and commodious school house, one steam mill which will cut 6080 ft. in twelve hours, one corn mill and cob crusher.” The saw mill ran during the winter of 1856-57 and employed fifty or sixty men, but closed in 1858 and was destroyed by fire in 1865.
Yost Yost arrived in Columbus village in 1857 from New York state. He was a blacksmith, having learned the trade in this country after immigrating from Switzerland in 1853. One wonders if the blacksmith shop mentioned int he Weekly Minnesotan was operated by Mr. Yost. Mary Yost, a daughter, is said to have been the first white child born in the town.
Anoka County contained but three election precincts in 1857-St. Francis, Anoka and Columbus. Goodrich History records, “a man was shot at Columbus on election day about 1858, but recovered.”
Columbus has contributed at least two county officials. James Starkey, founder of the village served as County Commissioner from November 1865 to April 1870 and William H. Pulver served in the same capacity for one term from 1889 to 1893.
In the election of 1859, the following officials were elected to represent the people: John Kleiner, chairman; John Somer and B.J. Baldwin, supervisors; James Cornell, clerk; Mr. Likowski, assessor; N.H. Norburn, collector; M.E. Wood and H. B. Batzle, Justices of the Peace; C. Batzle and Patrick Finn, constables.
The logging industry had depleted its resources by the late 1880’s and in the 1890’s a new industry took its place. The vast low land prairies were covered by a luxurious growth of native wire grass. The American Grass Twine Company began harvesting this native grass for their factory in St. Paul which employed 700-800 people.
The rugs and carpeting manufactured were similar to the Japanese matting and as a result of their being produced domestically were less expensive than those which were imported.
The American grass Twine Company later became the Crex Carpeting Company of St. Paul. Camps number one, two, and three were located in Columbus township and 10,000 acres were included in the company’s holdings. At one time, the camps employed 100 men and used 250 horses. The carpet company went into a decline after W.W.I and the land became tax delinquent. Many acres reverted to the state and later became part of what is now the Carlos Avery Game Preserve.
The population of Columbus Township in 1860 was 119 persons and in 1978 there were approximately 3,600 residents according to the town clerk.