Columbia, formerly Wright's Ferry, is a borough (town) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 28 miles (45 km) southeast of Harrisburg on the east (left) bank of the Susquehanna River, across from Wrightsville and York County and just south of U.S. Route 30. The settlement was founded in 1726 by Colonial English Quakers from Chester County led by entrepreneur and evangelist John Wright. Establishment of the eponymous Wright's Ferry, the first commercial Susquehanna crossing in the region, inflamed territorial conflict with neighboring Maryland but brought growth and prosperity to the small town, which was just a few votes shy of becoming the new United States' capital. Though besieged for a short while by Civil War destruction, Columbia remained a lively center of transport and industry throughout the 19th century, once serving as a terminus of the Pennsylvania Canal. Later, however, the Great Depression and 20th-century changes in economy and technology sent the borough into decline. It is notable today as the site of one of the world's few museums devoted entirely to horology.
The area around present-day Columbia was originally populated by Native American tribes, most notably the Susquehannocks, who migrated to the area between 1575 and 1600 after separating from the Iroquois Confederacy. They established villages just south of Columbia, in what is now Washington Boro, as well as claiming at least hunting lands as far south as Maryland and Northern Virginia. Captain John Smith reported on the Susquehannock in glowing superlatives when a traveling group visited Jamestown, Virginia; he estimated their numbers to be about 2,000 in the early 1600s. The French ran across them in the area around Buffalo, apparently visiting the Wenro, and suggesting their numbers were far greater.