Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Merle Weir and Diana J. Kleiner

WEST COLUMBIA, TEXAS. West Columbia, an incorporated town on State highways 35 and 36 between the Brazos and San Bernard rivers in west central Brazoria County, was founded as Columbia in 1826 by Josiah Hughes Bell, who laid out the town two miles west of Marion (now East Columbia). It was known as Columbia during the Texas Revolution and when it served as the capital of the Republic of Texas from September to December 1836. There the First Congress of the Republic of Texas convened, and Sam Houston was inaugurated president on October 22, 1836. The House of Representatives met in a two-story frame house and the Senate in a smaller house, at the site of which a state historical marker was later placed. On November 30, 1836, Congress met in joint session and decided to move the seat of government to Houston because Columbia did not have adequate accommodations for government personnel. Stephen F. Austin, then secretary of state, died on December 27, 1836, in Columbia at the home of George B. McKinstry. With removal of the seat of government, Columbia, now known as West Columbia, declined as a commercial center. A post office was established in 1905, but further growth awaited the discovery of the twenty-square-mile West Columbia oilfield in 1918. West Columbia again became a trade center for the surrounding area, with an economy based on agriculture (largely rice and cotton), oil, and sulfur. The population reached 2,500 in 1928, but declined to 1,000 with the onset of the Great Depression. In 1932 forty businesses operated in the community. By 1940 the population had risen to 1,573, and there were fifty businesses. In the subsequent decade the population rose to a high of 2,100. In the 1960s many major oil companies had producing wells in or near West Columbia, and the area boasted the largest cattle population in Texas. Recreational opportunities included hunting, fishing, and swimming. A replica of the first capitol was built in 1977, and the Varner-Hogg Plantation was restored. The city celebrates a San Jacinto Festival and Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historical Park Plantation Days in April. The population reached 2,947 in 1960 and 3,335 in 1970 as workers were drawn to employment in area industry. In the 1990s the community published the Brazoria County News, and the population numbered 4,372. The population dropped slightly in 2000 to 4,255.

James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Louis Wiltz Kemp, "The Capitol at Columbia," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 48 (July 1944). Texas State Travel Guide (Austin: State Department of Highways and Public Transportation).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Merle Weir and Diana J. Kleiner, "WEST COLUMBIA, TX," accessed July 17, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on!

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox