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Columbia has distinguished itself as a leader in educational excellence since its 1826 incorporation. Early residents so valued education that three institutions of higher learning were established there by the mid-19th century: Stephens College, Columbia College (formerly Christian College), and the University of Missouri. Located in the states center, this Midwestern city with a small-town feel has witnessed a nonstop influx of people since its first years. The Boones Lick Trail passed through Columbia, connecting the early National Road with the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. The flow of settlers migrating west led to Columbias rapid growth, as stores and businesses were established to provide needed supplies. Numerous battles were fought in Missouri during the Civil War, but none in or near Columbia. The group that protected Columbia against possible encroachers was called the Columbia Tigers Company. The Tigers was the name later adopted by the universitys athletic teams.
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