Ben Saunders, a former council member in the town of Columbia
FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -
Virginia's tiniest town is about to fade into history.
After more than 200 years of history, Columbia will lose its designation as a town Friday, July 1 and dissolve into Fluvanna County.
Just a little more than half of Columbia’s 34 registered voters cast a ballot in a referendum last year to rescind the town's charter. The General Assembly approved the decision this year.
Few things in Columbia besides former town council member Ben Saunder's home still stand from the time of the town's founding in 1788.
“A lot of the people that were here for generations have gotten older and left,” said Saunders.
As the population dwindled, life became quieter.
“Somebody coming to visit me, I just tell them to stop and holler, they'll get me,” said Saunders.
The town along the James River started to struggle.
“The majority of the change, of course, has been due to the flooding and destroying of property on Main Street,” said Saunders.
Saunders served on the town council that decided to allow Columbia residents to choose whether to revoke the 227-year-old charter. Last March, they voted 18-to-1 to end the town's existence and dissolve into Fluvanna County.
“I can't think of any difference it's going to make at all other than if there's something that needs to be done, we'll have the county backing us on getting it done,” said Saunders.
The county hopes its control will help remove some of Columbia’s blight. It plans to purchase and tear down four crumbling properties along Route 6.
"It's important for us to be able to apply appropriate rules and regulations to make the area of Columbia as habitable and safe for residents and visitors as possible,” said Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols.
Columbia postmaster Gary Johnson has heard all the hey-day stories from the town's "old-timers".
“How the businesses were booming, how there was a camp back there, how there was a public school on the grounds that everybody went to,” said Johnson.
Johnson believes Columbia has a brighter future with Fluvanna County.
“Not the end, no, it's just the beginning,” said Johnson.
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