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Like many other significant early settlements in colonial America, Columbia is on the fall line from the Piedmont region.The fall line is the spot where a river becomes unnavigable when sailing upstream and where falling water downstream cannot power a mill.In 1801, South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) was founded in Columbia. The city was chosen as the site of the institution in part to unite the citizens of the Upcountry and the Lowcountry and to discourage the youth from migrating to England for their higher education.At the time, South Carolina sent more young men to England than did any other state.According to published accounts, Senator Gervais said he hoped that "in this town we should find refuge under the wings of COLUMBIA", for that was the name which he wished it to be called.
Columbia received a large stimulus to development when it was connected in a direct water route to Charleston by the Santee Canal.
The perimeter streets and two through streets were 150 feet (46 m) wide.
The remaining squares were divided by thoroughfares 100 feet (30 m) wide.
This canal connected the Santee and Cooper rivers in a 22-mile-long (35 km) section.
It was first chartered in 1786 and completed in 1800, making it one of the earliest canals in the United States.
The commissioners comprised the local government until 1797 when a Commission of Streets and Markets was created by the General Assembly.