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By Chris McHenry
Hundreds of years before white settlers approached Dearborn County, a mysterious group of Native Americans lived here, in a hilltop fortress covering about 12 acres of land. Early explorers sailed past on the Ohio River, including Celeron, a French Canadian who reportedly buried a lead plate claiming the land for France near the mouth of the Miami River. George Rogers Clark and explorers from Virginia and Pennsylvania passed by on their way up or down the Ohio River, but none made permanent settlements.
Less than ten years after the end of the Revolutionary War, new settlers began taking up land in Dearborn. The Federal Government did not begin land sales until after 1800. Among those the first settlers were at least 50 to 75 veterans of the Revolutionary War. In 1802 Army Captain Samuel Colville Vance bought the land on which Lawrenceburg now stands and founded a town. At that point, Lawrenceburg wasn't in Indiana, but was part of Hamilton County, Ohio. Settlers first built their homes near the river, gradually worked working their way up the Whitewater, Tanners Creek, Hogan Creek and Laughery. Six hundred and sixteen men over 21 were counted in 1807, but a few years later, families began fleeing to Kentucky when Indians joined with the British in the War of 1812.
With the arrival of the 1830s and 1840s came several waves of German immigrants. Catholic immigrants tended to settle in the northeastern part of the county, and in Lawrenceburg and Aurora, while Lutherans gravitated toward the southwestern part of the area, along with the two biggest towns. By 1830, opposition to slavery was increasing and anti-slavery societies were being formed. One of the earliest in Indiana was at East Fork Methodist Church, founded, and mostly attended, by hardy English immigrants. Because of its location right across the Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state, Dearborn County was a logical place for escaping slaves to find help on their way to Canada. In 1862, young men of Dearborn County rushed to volunteer. So many of them in fact, that one whole company led by Aurora Mayor Frederick Slater, arrived in Indianapolis after the quota for that call had been filled. Not one to waste manpower, governor Morton sent them to help fill out the Kentucky ranks, and they served throughout the entire Civil War as part of the 11th Kentucky Regiment. Dearborn County men, both black and white, fought in every major battle of the war, including those along the rivers.
In the 1830's, the Whitewater Canal had been built, opening up the interior of Indiana to the possibility of shipping to Lawrenceburg and then on the Ohio River. Its usefulness was short lived. Spring floods washed out the banks over and over and eventually the Canal, and almost the State of Indiana, went bust. In the 1850's, two railroads were built through Dearborn County. One went from Lawrenceburg northwest through Guilford to Indianapolis, and the other came west from Cincinnati, through Aurora, and through Milan and on to St. Louis. Dearborn County's young men marched off to battle in the Spanish-American War and again in World War I. When the survivors came marching home again, they found a booming economy. New industries arrived, a new power plant was built, and Dearborn County built a hospital in the 1950's. \ [Included by permission of the author, Chris McHenry.]
For the complete article, please refer to https://www.lpld.lib.in.us/briefhistory
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