Columbia County, which originally included the land of Montour County, was formed from Northumberland County in 1813. The North Branch of the Susquehanna River cuts through Columbia and forms part of Montour County’s southern border. The Susquehanna played a large role in the early settlement of the area. In 1850, opposition to the relocation of the county seat from Danville to Bloomsburg led to the carving out of Montour County, the smallest county in terms of land mass in the state. Danville became the county seat.
The discovery of iron ore combined with the advent of the railroad accelerated area development in the mid-1800s, particularly in the Danville area. Iron works flourished and local mills were the first to manufacture T-rails, used across the country in constructing the nation’s rail industry. This history is remembered today with the annual Iron Heritage Festival held during the summer in Danville.
At the turn of the century, when the iron ore supply was depleted, new types of manufacturing began to flourish. Textile mills such as The Magee Carpet Company and Bloomsburg Mills began to locate here and remain to this day. Merck Pharmaceuticals is also a substantial employer in manufacturing. Two major roadways, Interstate 80 and Route 11, provide direct access to other business centers across the state and beyond. Today, the service industry is also strong in the area, with Geisinger Health System and Bloomsburg University being two of the area’s top employers.
Much of the area’s past is still visible in the historical and downtown business districts of the two counties. The ongoing preservation and rehabilitation efforts of these 19th and early 20th century structures have made local downtowns premiere attractions. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups recognize the importance of attractive and dynamic downtowns in the vitality of our communities. Professional services, specialty shops and a variety of dining establishments are among the businesses located there.
In addition to these downtown districts, shopping centers featuring today’s major retailers are located in Buckhorn off I-80 in and around the area of the Columbia Mall and along Route 11 between Bloomsburg and Berwick.
Eight school districts with primary and secondary education are located within the two counties. The Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School provides additional opportunities for students in grades 9-12. Several private schools complement the educational offerings available in the surrounding area.
Continuing education is available from several colleges and universities serving the area. Bloomsburg University, in addition to baccalaureate programs, has a School of Extended Programs that provides continuing education and skill specialization courses. Susquehanna University, Bucknell University, Luzerne County Community College, and Penn State University Hazleton Campus, offer degree and non-degree programs as well within a short drive.
The health care needs of residents are well met by three hospitals and other support services. The Berwick Hospital’s 101 acute care and 240 long-term care licensed beds. The Bloomsburg Hospital’s acute, intensive and emergency care. The Geisinger Health System’s 437-bed facility includes trauma and cardiac care, Life Flight, Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, Janet Weis Women’s Health Pavilion and The Heart Hospital. The Columbia-Montour Home Health Services/Visiting Nurses Association provides in-home services for skilled nursing rehabilitation, hospice and intravenous therapy.
Columbia and Montour counties feature something for everyone’s interest. Festivals throughout the year celebrate everything from area history to the many volunteer fire departments. The annual Covered Bridges Festival allows visitors and residents to discover the 24 covered bridges in the counties, including the nation’s only twin covered spans. The biggest event of the year is the Bloomsburg Fair, drawing over a half million people to the area each Fall.
Outdoor enthusiasts can pursue a variety of options including fishing, boating, biking, camping and golf within the two counties. State and local parks, wilderness areas and the Susquehanna River are easily accessible throughout the region.
Live theatre, art galleries and concerts contribute to the area’s cultural diversity. Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble features a resident professional group with an annual schedule of performances at the Alvina Krause Theatre. Danville’s Box of Light Theatre and Bloomsburg University’s Celebrity Artist Series are among the other organizations offering performances and exhibits throughout the year.
Serving the Community
The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is proud to serve the communities and businesses of the area. The Chamber was formed in 1941, as a small collection of downtown business people interested in expanding trade and attracting jobs within the area. These people understood that by working together, they could accomplish what none could do individually. Through the support of its 400 members, many volunteers and a professional staff, the organization possesses a long history of involvement in the important activities of the area it serves. The Chamber not only works to foster and promote those activities which enhance the economy, but supports matters which preserve and improve our quality of life.
A beautiful, safe and healthy environment combined with the benefits of a diverse and progressive business community, strong communities, quality education and recreational opportunities, make Columbia and Montour counties an ideal place to visit, raise a family and operate a business.