Before there was Cincinnati—a month before there was even Losantiville—there was Columbia. You know it as Columbia-Tusculum, home of Painted Ladies and the Precinct. But long before either of those staples were a glimmer in the city’s mind’s eye, way back in 1788, 27 men and women from New Jersey landed on the banks of the Little Miami River. Their leader, Revolutionary War veteran Captain Benjamin Stites, had purchased 20,000 acres of land from John Symmes with the humble goal of establishing “a great city,” starting from scratch with a smattering of log cabins, a church, a school, and a cemetery. That graveyard, known today as the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, still exists, atop a hill near the Lunken Airfield, making it both the only restored remnant of the Columbia settlement and the oldest cemetery in Hamilton County. Cincinnati Parks, which maintains the area, estimates that settlers began burying their families there as early as 1790. Many of the original headstones remain, and the restored park features a towering Corinthian pillar, taken from a mid-1800s post office building, that commemorates the location of the original Columbia Baptist Church.
Photographs by Devyn Glista.