Philomath was established around 1829, and quickly became noted for its beauty, hospitality and culture. By the 1830s, a large number of cotton plantations had been laid out in and around Philomath. Much of the early history of Philomath centered around Reid Academy, a boarding school for young men. The school was known throughout the state as one of the finest educational institutions of its time. The name Philomath means "love of knowledge."
Woodrow Wilson was a frequent vacationer and visitor to the town; his father was often a guest preacher at the Historic Philomath Presbyterian Church. Of note are the Great Buffalo Lick and the Bartram Trail Society Library located in the Robertson-Wright-Normandy House.