President Obama recently came to Columbus. He stayed overnight at the Westin (formerly the Great Southern Fireproof Hotel) in downtown Columbus. During the following day, he visited a family in Clintonville and attended a fundraiser at the Athenaeum back in downtown.

President Obama recently came to Columbus. He stayed overnight at the Westin (formerly the Great Southern Fireproof Hotel) in downtown Columbus. During the following day, he visited a family in Clintonville and attended a fundraiser at the Athenaeum back in downtown.

All of this is interesting in its own way. But what is most interesting is that this was not the first time the president has come to town. And it will probably not be the last. It is simply a testament to how easy it has become with modern transportation, communication and security protection for the President of the United States or other people to visit any city they like as often as they like.

Such was not always the case.

While many prominent Americans did not come to Columbus many times, they did come at least once. And the reasons they came were obvious. For much of the 19th Century, people traveling anywhere west of the Appalachians had to find a gap in the mountains and easy transportation after they came through to the other side. The place they found it was in Ohio.

The second reason they came was that a lot of people lived in Ohio. And they voted. From the earliest history of our country, presidents and people who wanted to be president recognized that the Ohio country was a place that required their attention.

Should it be all that surprising that it still does?

The first president to visit Columbus was James Monroe. Having been elected in 1816, he decided to tour the nation such as it was in 1817 and talk directly with its people.

He arrived in Columbus on horseback from Delaware after a hot and dusty ride down what is now U.S. Route 23, but was then a trail through the forest. A heavily sunburned Monroe complimented the "Infant City" population 700 on its progress and prospects.

And then, as soon as it was mannerly, he and his entourage left town.

His successor, John Quincy Adams, never made it to Columbus while he was president, and his successor, Andrew Jackson, never made it to Columbus at all.

But Adams did finally make it to the capital city in 1843. He had helped dedicate an observatory in Cincinnati and arrived in Columbus by canal and stage. Welcomed by the mayor, he gave a 20-minute address in a local church and praised Ohio and Columbus for their hospitality. He then left town accompanied for part of the way by the local "German Artillery." Adam's reaction was cordial if not enthusiastic.

The next former president to visit Columbus was Martin Van Buren. Arriving on June 6, 1842, more than a year after he had left office, Van Buren was greeted by a large crowd and the firing of cannons. After a short speech he left town on the way to Dayton and points west.

Van Buren's successor had come to Columbus on a number of occasions. William Henry Harrison had used Franklinton across the river from downtown as his base during the War of 1812. He had been in the city many times since then and had counted on the state to help him win in 1840. It did, and Columbus celebrated excessively when Harrison was elected. Columbus went into deep mourning when Harrison died a month later.

His successor, John Tyler, had visited Columbus for the first and only time during the campaign on September 24, 1840. The mayor welcomed him and he "responded in a most able and feeling manner, amid the cheers and shouts of an admiring and patriotic people."

As far as we know, Tyler's successor, James Knox Polk, never visited Columbus and his successor,

General Zachary Taylor, never came to town either. Taylor came close. Scheduled to travel through Columbus to his inauguration in February 1849, Taylor found the Ohio River free of ice and traveled on to Pittsburgh, missing a winter welcome in the capital city.

Taylor died in office in 1850 and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore. Fillmore visited Columbus once in 1854 after he had left office. On March 25, 1854, Fillmore was greeted by the Ohio General Assembly, "where he received the courtesies of the state."

Sometimes called "Doughfaces" for their pliable acceptance of slavery, northern Democratic Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan never visited Columbus. Their successor, Abraham Lincoln, came to Columbus on three separate occasions. Two visits were made while he was living. On the second trip, he learned in the office of Governor William Dennison that he had officially been elected to the Presidency. On his third visit, Lincoln lay in state in the Statehouse rotunda while thousands of people passed by in one day for one last look at their fallen leader.

Through the rest of the 19th Century, most American presidents were from Ohio and every single one of them Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison and McKinley were in Columbus on many occasions. The only presidents that missed Columbus in these years appear to be Chester Alan Arthur and Grover Cleveland. How exactly Arthur, the patronage boss of New York City, and Cleveland, the former mayor of Buffalo, N.Y., managed to miss Columbus is not fully clear.

I am of the opinion, unsupported by evidence, that they probably passed through on several occasions on the way to somewhere else.

That may have been true as well of some of the other absent presidents mentioned above.

This brings us to the beginning of the 20th Century. And we will leave presidential visits to Columbus in the 1900s for another time. Most of them have visited the city and sometimes many times more than once.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.