Indiana History

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The following are important dates and events in the history of Indiana. These events affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

1700–1735: The French established three outposts along the Wabash-Maumee trade route: one at the present site of Fort Wayne, one near present-day Lafayette, and the largest and most important at Vincennes.

1763: The British took possession of the area and discouraged settlers, but the few hundred Frenchmen who were already there were permitted to remain, and Americans began filtering in.

1784: Clarksville, Indiana (on the north bank of the Ohio River, opposite Louisville, Kentucky), became the first authorized American settlement in Indiana.

1787: The United States government established the Northwest Territory to open the land to Revolutionary War veterans and other settlers. See the information at the end of this section for The Territorial Papers of the United States.

1790: Knox County was created, with Vincennes as the seat of government.

1800–1809: The Indiana Territory was established in 1800. The Michigan Territory was detached in 1805, and the Illinois Territory was set off in 1809.

1811: The last major battle with the Indians was fought at Tippecanoe. By 1815 there was no effective Indian opposition to settlement in Indiana.

1816: Indiana became a state.

1816–1835: A dispute on the border between northern Indiana and southern Michigan was settled in 1835.

1830s–1850s: New roads, canals, and railroads hastened settlement in central Indiana. The National Road reached Indianapolis in 1834. The Wabash and Erie Canal reached Terre Haute in 1850 and was completed to Evansville in 1853. Major railroad building was underway in the 1850s.

1840s–1910s: Germans, Irish, Scandinavians, Mennonites, and Poles came to rural Indiana for good, inexpensive farmland.

1861–1865: Indiana remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War and contributed about 224,000 federal troops, although the southern heritage of some communities caused trouble. Former slaves coming north began to settle in Indiana.

1882: Studebaker wagon factory began to attract foreign workers to South Bend.

1890s: Oil and gas development in Indiana increased the shift away from rural agriculture toward an urban industrial economy.

1900: The glass industry near Muncie started to attract thousands of skilled Walloon glass workers from Belgium.

1904: Studebaker began manufacturing electric automobiles and recruiting more foreign laborers to South Bend.

1906: U.S. Steel built large mills. Many eastern Europeans came to the new mill town of Gary.

1930s: The Great Depression slowed the immigration of foreigners.

The Family History Library has a good collection of Indiana local histories. The following books are good introductions to the history of the state:

Esarey, Logan. A History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922. Three volumes. Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Historical Society, 1923. (FHL book 977.289 H2e) Each volume is indexed and contains information on the early development of Indiana. Volume three is a history of St. Joseph County.

Dillon, John B. A History of Indiana: From Its Earliest Exploration by Europeans to the Close of the Territorial Government, in 1816; Comprehending a History of the Discovery, Settlement, and Civil and Military Affairs of the Territory of the U.S. Northwest of the River Ohio, and a General View of the Progress of Public Affairs in Indiana, Indiana, from 1816 to 1856. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bingham and Doughty, 1859. (FHL book 977.2 H2dj; fiche 6051127 set of eight). This gives the early history of Indiana, along with early maps of the area. There is an index, but not every name in the history is included.

County History Indexes by the Work Projects Administration

During the late 1930s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) carried out a program of indexing county histories, atlases, gazetteers, and miscellaneous records on a county-by-county basis. These were given the title Index of Names of Persons and Firms. The Family History Library has these indexes in book form or on microfilm for most counties. They are listed under:



For other indexes to local histories, see the "Genealogy" and "Biography" sections in this outline.

Additional Sources For Historical Information

Much historical information about early settlers in Indiana is found in the following collection:

Draper, Lyman Copeland. Draper Manuscript Collection. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Library, 197–?. (On 147 FHL films beginning with 889098). The Draper Manuscript Collection consists of nearly 500 volumes of manuscripts, papers, and books collected by Lyman Copeland Draper about the history of the trans-Allegheny West, a region including the western areas of the Carolinas and Virginia, all of the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley from the 1740s to 1830. The collection is divided into 50 series. Some series are titled by geographic area, some by the names of prominent frontier leaders, and some by topic. The bulk of the collection is composed of notes from interviews, questionnaires, and letters gathered during Draper’s extensive travels and research on frontier history. Personal papers are much more rare than government or military records. It includes many items of a genealogical or biographical nature. For an inventory and partial indexes, see:

Harper, Josephine L. Guide to the Draper Manuscripts. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983. (FHL book 977.583/M1 A3h.) This guide gives series and volume descriptions for some of the Draper Manuscripts. There are several indexes at the end of the book including a name and subject index, an additional personal data index, and a list of references to Indiana.

Wolfe, Barbara Schull. Index to Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts. 'Logansport, Indiana: B.S. Wolfe, 197-?. (FHL book 977.583/M1 A3w) The name index gives the series and volume numbers, but is not complete.

Online Resources

For Indiana records concerning the years 1787 to 1816, see:

United States. Department of State. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 26 volumes. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0721. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1934–1962. (FHL book 973 N2udt; films 929377–931). Volumes two and three are on film 929377 and contain information about persons who resided in the area that now includes Indiana from 1787 to 1803. Each volume contains a name and subject index.

Volumes seven and eight of The Territorial Papers of the United States on film 929380 contain The Territory of Indiana, for 1800 to 1810, and 1810 to 1816. Each volume has an every-name index and contains thousands of names of residents in what is now Indiana. There are lists of residents of particular counties who signed petitions to the government between 1805 and 1816, and information about persons associated with forts, land offices, Indian interpreters, express riders, and post offices.

To find Indiana local histories, see the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under: