Columbus was founded by Amos Stark, who staked a claim here in 1852. He went off to the gold fields of California for awhile and returned in 1859 with livestock and supplies. He built a log cabin about 2 miles east of the present Maryhill Museum.
By then other homesteaders were arriving. They earned a living by hauling cordwood from further north and selling it to steamboats along the Columbia River. The town was platted and named Columbus and recorded in 1878. In 25 years there were about 100 people. By 1868 a ferry was running between Columbus and Grant, Oregon.
The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company built a rail line on the Oregon side in 1883, which made a transcontinental link from Portland, Oregon. This provided an outlet for fruit and produce for Columbus and Goldendale farmers. A crude wagon road linked the two towns in 1873. Another ferry, a barge pulled by the tug, Waterwitch, began in 1905.
In 1880, peach and apple orchards were planted in Columbus and thrived. The community thrived until Sam Hill came and built right next to Columbus. This began Columbus' decline.
Sam Hill, a Quaker from Minnesota dreamed of a utopian town in the northwest. He began building the town of Maryhill in 1907. He chose the Columbus area because of the advantage of the railroad, successful apple orchards on the Oregon side, and good grain and stock raising at Goldendale. He bought the Gillenwater ranch of 240 acres for $11,000 to get his start. This is near where the museum now stands. He called it Maryland Ranch. The Spokane, Portland, & Seattle Railway on the north bank was completed in 1909, by which time, Sam's plans were well underway.
Sam's first project was a water power plant at Lyle, where the Klickitat reaches the Columbia. He organized the Klickitat Power and Electric Company, but nothing came of it. In 1908 he formed the Columbia Land Company and began acquiring land, eventually 17 farms and ranches. He ended up with about 7,000 acres, but most of it was in the barren hills since the river side farmers refused to sell. He began building dams for irrigation in 1909. When the SPS railroad came in 1909, half the houses had to move north. There were then three stores, two churches, a school, a post office, railroad depot, small railway hospital, and two saloons.
That year Sam began to advertise for Quaker settlers. No Quakers came so he began to campaign for anyone to come. He had at some point changed the community's name to Maryhill. He also began to put in service roads. The north-south oriented streets were named for fruit trees and plants. East-west oriented streets were named for shade trees, except one to honor his friend Ambassador Jusserand. J and Peach streets were the only ones paved. There was also a weather station, stable, blacksmith shop, garage, housing for road crews, and the Maryhill Land Company. In 1910, Sam finished a house for his daughter and her nurse. In 1913 he built Loops Road, the fist paved road in the Washington. The road was a 3.6 mile long road that winds through the Klickitat Hills just north of the little town of Maryhill and is still in excellent condition.
At first the grapes, apples, and peaches did well. And a few came to live here but it never became Sam's dream town. In 1913, the post office was closed. He still kept building on his home, but stopped in 1917 when he rain out of money and WWI interfered. The ferry service operated until the fall of 1962 when the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge was built at Biggs. The house wasn't finished until after his death.
All that is left are Sam Hills Mansion, the Maryhill Community Church, and the Columbus Cemetary. The waymark is taken at the church, as this was considered the "downtown" area. The area is still farmed, now with both orchards, and vineyards, but home addresses read Goldendale.
Today nothing remains of Columbus, but the current community of Maryhill and Columbus Road.