Eleazar Wheelock, who later founded Dartmouth College, was the Congregational minister in Columbia from 1735 to 1770. His house, built in 1735, is located on the Green, next to the Congregational Church. Wheelock, a prominent figure during the Great Awakening, also trained young men for college and in 1743 he began privately teaching a young Mohegan named Samson Occom, who became a missionary to other Indians. He soon started teaching and converting other Native Americans in his home, then founding a school, called Moor’s Charity School in 1754, named for Joshua Moor, who donated land for the school. Wheelock used a school building, which is now located behind the Congregational Church in Columbia. Later, he moved to New Hampshire to establish Dartmouth College.
When Columbia’s library, called the Saxton B. Little Free Library, had outgrown its 1903 building, a farmhouse across the road, adjacent to Columbia Green and built around 1800, was completely remodeled to become the library’s new and expanded home. The house had belonged to Gladys Rice Soracchi, who had been head librarian from 1959 to 1975 (her mother, Lillian Rice, had preceded her as head librarian from 1908-1959). At one time, the house had served as inn.
The building in Columbia known as The Meeting Place was originally the town’s library. The first building of the Columbia Free Library was 120 square feet and opened in 1883. By 1903, when the library collection had outgrown this space, the old building was sold at auction and was moved to a new location to become a private home. The new library, named the Saxton B. Little Free Library after a benefactor, was used for the next 80 years, although there was no plumbing in the building and no parking space. Eventually, after all the available space had been filled, it was replaced by a third library building across the street. The former library then became The Meeting Place, where groups in town can gather. Members of the Columbia Lion’s Club had painted the exterior of the building and did some interior work when it was still the library. When it became The Meeting Place, the Lions did the landscaping of the property. Lions Club memorabilia is on display in a space inside.
In 1715, settlers in what is now the Town of Columbia successfully petitioned to become a second ecclesiastical society of the Town of Lebanon. Columbia became a town in 1804 and the current Columbia Congregational Church building was erected in 1832.
So run four lines from a poem by Dr. O.B. Lyman in honor of Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, the founder of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The origins of that college began in 1754 in a part of Lebanon which is now the town of Columbia. Rev. Wheelock, an important minister of the Great Awakening, founded a school called Moor’s Charity School, which was dedicated to providing a Christian education for Native American Indians who might serve as missionaries to the Indian tribes. A 1755 school building, used by Wheelock, survives in the town of Lebanon today, although it was later altered in the Greek Revival style. Eventually, as Wheelock was having difficulties recruiting Indian students due to the school’s distance from tribal lands and as he also wished to expand his school to include a college for whites, he decided to move the institution. In 1770, the move to New Hampshire was completed, a year after receiving a royal charter, the last to found a college in Colonial America before the Revolution. For this reason, the Moor’s Charity School in Lebanon was described, in a 1969 plaque placed on the side of the building, as “Proudly remembered for two hundred years by generations of Dartmouth men as seeding ground of Dartmouth College and faithful steward of Eleazar Wheelock’s generous and crusading spirit.”