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West Columbia was founded in 1801 by William Gilmore Simms, a Revolutionary War veteran. He named the town for his friend, Francis W. Pickens (1777–1835), who later became governor of South Carolina and U.S. senator from that state as well as ambassador to Russia and Great Britain under President Andrew Jackson (1829–37). The city's original name was "Simmsport", but it was changed to West Columbia after its incorporation in 1874 because there already existed another community called Simmsport on the coast of South Carolina near Georgetown County; this other community is now known as Port Royal Sound or Port Royal Borough.