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Columbus is a city in Columbia (mostly) and Dodge Counties in the south-central part of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 4,991 at the 2010 census. All of this population resided in the Columbia County portion of the city. Columbus is located about 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Madison on the Crawfish River. The Columbia County portion of the city lies within the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area while the Dodge County portion is a part of the Milwaukee-Waukesha-Racine CSA. Nearly all of the city is located within the town of Columbus in Columbia County, though a small portion lies within the town of Elba in Dodge County.
H. A. Whitney, a Yankee peddler from Vermont, moved to Columbus in 1845 and constructed the first wood frame store building in the community on the land where the Whitney now stands. The building served as a combination store/tavern/rooming house and post office, with Whitney as the first postmaster. In 1857, the building burned down and was replaced by the current Whitney Hotel in 1858. This cream brick, Italianate-style hotel's third floor ballroom was heated by six wood-burning stoves. The local newspaper reported on a ball there in 1863, "if you ever hear of a ball by Fuller, ask no questions, but go at once, and enjoy yourselves, and for one night forget the 'fear of the draft'".