|Seat Information||The 1790 legislation creating Columbia County made no mention of a county seat or location of a courthouse. It is believed that Cobbham, a long-dead town on the Columbia-McDuffie county line, briefly served as county seat. Afterwards, the community of Kiokee (which Baptists had settled in 1772) served as county seat for a brief period. Located near the Savannah River, Kiokee was too far east for most of the county's population, so William Appling offered the county land eight miles to the southwest for building a courthouse and jail. Appling had settled in this area in 1772, and a small community had grown up. County officials accepted Appling's offer and in 1792 or 1793 built a courthouse and jail on the site, which was named Appling or Applington. On Nov. 29, 1794, the Georgia General Assembly enacted legislation designating the improved land lot as the official county seat for Columbia (Ga. Laws 1794-95, p. 14). On Dec. 12, 1816, legislation was enacted incorporating Appling as a village and setting its boundaries as a 600 x 600 yard square, with the courthouse in the middle (Ga. Laws 1816, p. 50). Since then, Appling has continued to serve as Columbia County's official county seat. However, it was not able to maintain its status as an incorporated city. As result of 1993 legislation requiring incorporated cities to provide at least three municipal services, Appling was one of 187 inactive cities in Georgia that lost its charter on June 1, 1995.
By the 1970s, most of Columbia County's population growth was occurring in the eastern portion of the county near Richmond County. This led to pressure to locate county government agencies near the area where most citizens lived. In the 1980s, the county built the Columbia County Government Center in Evans, followed by the Government Complex Addition in 1994, and the new Courthouse Annex in 1999-2001. This means that almost all of Columbia County's government is now located at the government complex at Evans - which makes Evans de facto county seat of Columbia County. Never incorporated as a town, Evans was settled sometime after the Civil War (appearing on a Georgia map of 1883). It is not known for whom the community was named, though it may have been former Confederate general Clement Evans (for whom Evans County was named).|
|Courthouse Details||A year after Columbia County's creation, the General Assembly provided for commissioners to select the site and provide for construction of a courthouse and jail for the county (Ga. Laws 1791, p. 31). Cobbham briefly served as county seat, though it is not clear what was used as the courthouse. In 1791 or 1792, the small settlement of Kiokee (Kioka) was designated county seat, and a courthouse was built here. Around 1792, William Appling, who owned land some eight miles southwest of Kiokee, offered the county five acres on which a new courthouse and jail could be constructed. County officials accepted his offer and in 1793 erected a courthouse at the site which now bore Appling's name. In 1806, the General Assembly authorized Columbia County to levy a special tax for construction of a new courthouse (Ga. Laws 1806, p. 28), and again in 1807 (Ga. Laws 1807, p. 103). Finally, a new courthouse was completed in 1812. This structure became the core of a new courthouse built in 1856. The original solid wood doors from the earlier courthouse are still in use today.
By the 1970s, the old courthouse was in a terrible state of repair. The roof leaked, paint on the walls was peeling, and the building had neither air conditioning nor central heat. Also, the county was undergoing a population boom - and the small courthouse was no longer adequate to house county government. Third, Appling was now removed from the area near the Columbia-Richmond county boundary - where most of the population growth was occurring.
After the fire marshal condemned the courthouse was unsafe in 1977, the superior court judge ordered the county commission to undertake needed repairs and improvements. After repeated delays, commissioners finally authorized renovation of the upstairs portion of the historic courthouse (which was completed in 1980). However, in recognition of the population and economic growth taking place in the eastern potions of the county, commissioners authorized construction of a county government complex in Evans known as the Columbia County Government Center . As the county continued to grow in population, additional facilities were soon needed. A new Columbia County Government Complex Addition, built immediately behind the Government Center in Evans, was dedicated in Aug. 1994 .
One problem complicating the location of the courthouse in Columbia County was the long-standing requirement under Georgia law that superior court sessions must be held at the county seat and courthouse of each county not less than twice a year. This meant that Columbia County superior court had to be held at the courthouse in Appling, which is the legal county seat. However, the 1998 General Assembly enacted legislation providing that in any Georgia county where the county seat is located in an unincorporated area of the county, and that county's governing authority determines by resolution that the citizens of the county would be best served by constructing a courthouse annex or satellite courthouse outside the county seat, superior court sessions may legally be held at such annex or satellite. Because Appling lost its incorporated status in 1995 (see "County Seat" discussion below), it was now legal for Columbia County to build a courthouse annex in Evans.
Following the passage of this legislation, Columbia County voters in 1998 approved a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to fund construction of a new 70,000-square-foot Columbia County Courthouse Annex adjacent to the Government Center in Evans Construction of the facility began in November 1999. When completed in November 2001, this new facility will house the magistrate court, juvenile court, clerk of superior court, probate court, superior court judges, district attorney, probation office, and court administrator on the first floor. Located on the second floor will be a jury assembly room, a small courtroom, two medium-size courtrooms, and a large courtroom.
After the new Columbia County Courthouse Annex in Evans is completed, SPLOST funds will be used to restore the old 1856 courthouse in Appling so that superior court can meet there on a limited basis in the future. |