Columbus is a city in Lowndes County, Mississippi, United States that lies above the Tombigbee River. It is approximately 282 kilometers (175 mi) northeast of Jackson, 193 kilometers (120 mi) north of Meridian, 102 kilometers (63 mi) south of Tupelo, (60 mi) northwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and 198 kilometers (123 mi) west of Birmingham, Alabama. The population was 25,944 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lowndes County and the principal city of the Columbus Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Columbus-West Point Combined Statistical Area. Columbus is also part of the area of northeast Mississippi called The Golden Triangle, consisting of Columbus, West Point and Starkville, in the counties of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha.
The first record of the site of Columbus in Western history is found in the annals of the explorer Hernando de Soto, who is reputed to have crossed the nearby Tombigbee River on his search for El Dorado. However, the site does not enter the main continuity of American history until December 1810, when John Pitchlynn, the U.S. interpreter for the Choctaw Nation, had moved to Plymouth Bluff, where he built a home, established a farm and transacted Choctaw Agency business.
Columbus was founded in 1821. Before its incorporation, the town site was referred to informally as Possum Town, a name which was given by the local Native Americans. The name Possum Town remains the town's nickname by locals even today. Columbus's existence is owed to the failure of a flooded settlement across the river, Plymouth, which was established in 1817. The Plymouth Bluff (above the ruined settlement) is today an environmental center for Mississippi University for Women. The survivors of the flood moved to a site occupied by Thomas Moore and Dr. Gideon Lincenum. Silas McBee suggested the name Columbus; in return, a small local creek bears McBee's name.