| Gold was discovered here in 1850 and a tent town
of a few thousand miners sprang up. Columbia evolved with more permanent structures and by
1852 had more than 150 stores, shops, saloons, and lodges. In 1854 a fire sweep through
the town and Columbia's central business district was destroyed except for one brick
building. The town was rebuilt using locally produced brick, Iron doors and window
shutters. After another fire in 1860, a volunteer fire department was formed and Columbia
acquired the Papeete, a ornately decorated horse drawn handpumper fire engine.
There is a story about a madam named "Big Annie" who pushed the school-marm down into the street. This upset the boys of the fire department so much that they felt they had to defend the school-marm's honor. So they took Papeete over to Annie's place of business and turned the high pressure hose on her house, washing her out of her house and out of Columbia for good.
Hydraulic mining was used at Columbia with the water supplied to the giant "monitors" by the Tuolumne County Water Company which was formed in 1851.
After 1860 when the easily mined placer gold was gone, the town began to decline. Columbia's population dropped from it's peak of around 6,000 to about 500.
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