In 1837, Columbus passed a significant milestone: The new state capital celebrated its 25th birthday.

Four men who called themselves "proprietors" -- and whom we would call real-estate developers -- had proposed an arrangement amid a combative environment to an Ohio General Assembly looking for a new home in the central part of the state.

The competition was strong among such places as Circleville, Delaware, Dublin, Newark and Worthington, all seeking to become the new capital city.

In the end, an empty piece of land at the "high banks opposite Franklinton at the forks of the Scioto" called Wolf's Ridge won the contest.

Columbus grew slowly at first. The town had no roads other than Native American trails, and the Scioto River was navigable for canoes but not able to handle large freight boats. For all practical purposes, the new capital city was an isolated village deep in the American frontier.

All that changed in 1831. The small capital city with a quaint 2-story brick statehouse on the square at State and High streets had a population of about 2,000. With the arrival of the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Road, Columbus became a city of 5,000 people by 1834.

In the years after the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, Columbus was a good place to be, as was much of the rest of Ohio. A generation that had grown up after the American Revolution was looking for new opportunities on the edge of a moving frontier. To people who did not wish to battle vicious forest animals or distraught Native Americans, such places as Ohio were appealing. The land was fertile, cheap and not heavily populated.

That bucolic country ideal began to change in the 1830s, when the canal and the National Road brought new people.

The city looked forward to even more growth and rapidly expanded north and south of its city limits at Livingston Avenue and what is now Nationwide Boulevard.

To the south, recently arrived German immigrants made "Die Alte Sud Ende" or "the Old South End" their home. To the north, recent Irish immigrants, many the families of former canal builders, settled along the border street they came to call "Irish Broadway."

All these people, and the people who had preceded them, worked hard, lived hard and saw a bright future in the new city.

However, sickness was a constant threat. Smallpox, typhus and the fevers called the "cold" and "shaking ague" took their toll. George Washington survived smallpox but carried its scars on his face for the rest of his life.

But no one was prepared for the Asiatic cholera. Arriving in America in 1832, it found its way to Columbus the next year. It killed dozens of people quickly with severe dehydration and uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting.

Because it was believed to be caused by "miasmas," or "bad air," people tried to avoid wet, swampy places and nearby ponds.

They were only partly right. Cholera transmits via the consumption of food or water contaminated by the waste of sick victims. In a town without sewers and where people sank wells next to outhouses, it did not take long for cholera to kill more than 175 people in Columbus.

Many people fled west in terror, but the disease followed them.

The people who stayed in Columbus vowed not be defeated by an enemy they could not see.

In 1839, the Ohio General Assembly approved designs for a new Statehouse. As proposed, and as it was eventually built, it would be second only to the U.S. Capitol as the largest legislative building of its kind in America. The plan was a remarkable statement of faith in the future by the government and people of the state.

Confronted by challenges from Ohio cities that wanted the capital city moved to their town, the Ohio General Assembly authorized work on the Statehouse to proceed, largely with nearby prison labor. By 1848, the walls were coming out of the ground.

The Asiatic cholera then struck again, killing hundreds more Columbus residents.

Undeterred, the growth of Columbus continued. By 1860, the city was served by five railroads, and more than 18,000 people lived in the capital city.

Cholera would visit the city again from time to time, but never as seriously as it once had. The difference was an intercepting sewer system that carried the worst of the waste elsewhere.

This town has never been defeated by disease -- and it is fair to believe it never will be.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.