Silver was first discovered here in 1863 by Spanish prospectors, but Columbus wouldn't get its start until two years later. At the same time new gold and silver mining operations were initiated, a rich supply of salt was discovered on the huge alkali flat immediately south of the camp. A stamp mill was moved here from Aurora, and by 1866 around 200 people lived in Columbus. A post office opened on April 2 of that year.

1871 brought new growth to Columbus when borax was uncovered on the flat. By 1873 there were four companies shipping borax from town. The largest was the Pacific Borax Company, whose operations were a few miles south.

By 1875 the borax works were operating for eight continuous months of the year night and day, and three mills equalling 28 stamps were processing ore from nearby mines. Columbus had stores, an adobe school, an iron foundry, and a weekly paper, the Borax Miner. Stage companies offered service to Fish Lake Valley, Lida and Candelaria and a freight route was started running to Wadsworth, some 125 miles north and the location of the nearest railroad depot.

In 1875 the Pacific Borax Company moved to a larger plant in Fish Lake Valley and Columbus began to dwindle. Horse racing began on the flat, sponsored by the Columbus Jockey Club who constructed a track and grandstand complex. Columbus continued to fade, however, and by the mid-1880s the camp was all but dead. The post office finally closed on March 2, 1899.

Wadsworth-Columbus Freight Route, 1873-1882