In the News

The Columbia Depot Was Once Center of Activity

By Jill Garrett 

The Daily Herald March 27, 1976 


Train Depot 1976

In this photograph the Columbia Depot is as it appears today with freight cars waiting to be loaded. (1976)

The very first time I came to Columbia was in 1933 and I arrived in style – by train!

We caught the train in Florence, Alabama, for a trip to Nashville, and it was necessary to change trains in Columbia. As the Florence depot was a rather decrepit one, the Columbia Depot was really an impressive one. (The style is Italianate say those who know.)

The train from Florence was a marvelous, dinky little train. Depending where you lived along the line, it was called variously the Hucklebuck, the Doodleburg, the Toonerville Trolley, and even some things nor suitable for a family newspaper. It stopped at almost every farm to pick up or deposit a passenger – much like a city bus – and the conductor was personally acquainted with all the passengers, inquiring about their health, crops, and learning the latest neighborhood gossip.

The trip took absolutely hours, even though it was only about 75 miles. By the time we arrived in Columbia my hair was stiff as cinders.

Nothing today can quite compare with a train trip – the clickety-clack of the rails, the excitement of the call of “All Aboard”, or the conductor’s announcement that you were arriving at such exciting places as “Leoma”, “Mt.Pleasant”, or “C’Lumby.”

They tell the story that at one station along the old Nashville, Florence, and Sheffield line, the store owners locked up whenever the train arrived so everyone could go to the depot and see the train come through.

In 1904 an irate passenger on the old N.F.&S. wrote an outraged letter to the editor of the Daily Herald and, unfortunately blackberries were ripe. So the engineer stopped the train at several points and let both passengers and crew get off to pick blackberries.

Today there is an air of neglect at the Columbia depot, and it is a far cry from the days when this was a hustling, bustling place – where the action was. Going to the depot at train time was once a favorite local pastime – much better than television any day.

The coming of the railroad in 1859 was possibly one of the greatest things in early Maury history. The entire county celebrated with a great town barbecue the day the first iron horse steamed into Columbia.

In 1860 a branch line was completed to Mt.Pleasant but this was ripped up during the Civil War and was not rebuilt until 1888.


In the rear view photo of the Depot, the automobiles of railroad officials and employees are parked,

The presence of a rail line through the county brought soldiers here during the conflict of 1861-1865. Troops from both armies were in the county to guard the lines at different times as the railroad was an important supply line south. The Federals placed guards at almost every trestle in the county as Confederate partisans tore up the track and burned small depots all along the line.

The first depot at Columbia was built about 1859 and was the scene of much activity in 1861 when thousands of troops boarded the cars for camps near Nashville. This created a problem which brought attention to the Maury County Quarterly Court, and early in 1861 the court ordered the Nashville and Decatur Railroad to build a privy. People in the vicinity were complaining about the lack of such a facility.

One departing soldier was murdered in the depot. It seems as if this soldier had paid attention to another volunteer’s wife. The two men happened to meet at the depot as they were getting ready to board the train for camp.

Words were exchanged, shots rang out, and the soldier was killed. The other was arrested. Both of these men had the shortest careers in the Confederate Army on record.

After the war and during the height of the Ku Klux Klan activity, the depot was the scene of a daring kidnapping. Seymour Barmore, who considered himself the greatest detective in the world, had been sent by Govenor Brownlow to investigate the Klan. Although he had been warned against coming to Klan country, he paid no attention to the threats.

He went to Pulaski where he attended a Klan meeting in disguise of a clansman. The ruse was not discovered until he had boarded a train for Nashville.

At the Columbia depot, however he was taken from the train by masked men. (Some accounts say he was taken at the Carter’s Creek Station, however most say the detective was taken off the train at the Columbia depot about one o’clock in the morning.)

Six weeks later Barmore’s body was found in the river near the railroad bridge on the Santa Fe Pike. A rope was about his neck and he had been shot in the head.

In 1875 so many passengers were being robbed when they got off the train in Columbia after dark that the police department stationed two officers at the depot to meet all trains.

In 1877 a new depot was built and remained until the present one was built in 1903.

Also in 1877 the Duck River Valley Railroad was completed, the first run being made in March, This line ran from Columbia to Lewisburg and was abandoned in the 1940s.

The last passenger train to Columbia was in December 1966 and with it ended one of the exciting chapters in Maury County history.

If I could preserve anything from the past, my choice would be depots and railroads. I miss being able to go to Nashville or Florence by train – the only way to travel.

And if you have never heard the lonesome wail of a steam locomotive whistle in the night, then you cannot say you have heard everything. The diesel train whistle is puny in comparison.

aBOUt exists to showcase the rich architecture and history in Columbia, Tennessee through highlighting properties owned by David and Debra Hill. Each property has gone through extensive preservation and restoration to become timeless landmarks of the community. Mr. and Mrs. Hill were presented with the Association of the Preservation of Tennessee Antiques (APTA) Virginia Alexander Volunteer of the Year Award in 2019 for their historic preservation efforts in Maury County.