Columbia County was organized in 1846, by some of the first settlers who had purchased land nearly ten years before, in an area where Poynette now stands. Villages had been sprouting up at Columbus, Dekorra and Wyocena, each of which wished to become the county seat. But it was Fort Winnebago (Portage) that was eventually chosen.
The County’s early growth came at a time of poverty and political disturbance in Europe. Although the majority of its settlers were from New York, Ohio and New England, others came from overseas. Among them were citizens of Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian and German heritage.
The first railroad was built across Columbia County in 1857. Other lines followed, making Portage an important railroad center. Soon State roads, and eventually Interstate highways crisscrossed the county. With its abundant waterways, Columbia County steadily developed into the region’s agricultural, industrial and travel hub we know today.
Present day Columbia County covers 774 square miles with 19% covered in forest land. The County also boasts 2 area hospitals, 2 local airports, 6 county parks, 10 community libraries and 22,055 acres of state-owned wildlife areas. The County contains 90 wind turbines capable of powering approximately 45,000
average residential homes.
Columbia County is governed by the Board of Supervisors representing 28 area districts. The County Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, Judges, District Attorney, Clerk of Courts, and Sheriff are elected officials.
Columbia County services are administered from 8 different County building locations. Some of the largest County Departments include the Highway Department; the Columbia County Jail, Huber Center, and Sheriff’s Department; Health and Human Services; and the Columbia County Health Care Center.
Other high profile citizen service areas include Judicial Services, Child Support, Treasurer, Planning & Zoning, County Clerk, Veteran’s Services and Land Information among others.