Indiana History

The history of Indiana is an examination of the history, social activity, and development of the inhabitants and institutions within the borders of modern Indiana, a U.S. state in the Midwest. Migratory tribes of Native Americans inhabited Indiana as early as 8000 BC. Tribes succeeded one another in dominance for several thousand years and reached their peak of development during the period of Mississippian culture. The region entered recorded history in the 1670s when the first Europeans came to Indiana and claimed the territory for the Kingdom of France. At the conclusion of the French and Indian War and after one hundred years of French rule, the region was claimed by Britain for twenty years. After the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War, the entire Trans-Allegheny region, including what is now Indiana, was ceded to the United States.

The United States government divided the Trans-Allegheny region into several new territories. The largest of these was the Northwest Territory, which was progressively divided into several smaller territories by the United States Congress. In 1800, the Indiana Territory was first new territory established from a portion of the Northwest Territory. It gained population and development until it was admitted to the Union in 1816 as the nineteenth state, Indiana. Following statehood, the newly established state government laid out on an ambitious plan to transform Indiana from a segment of the frontier into a developed, well populated, and thriving state. The state’s founders initiated a program that led to the construction of roads, canals, railroads, and state-funded public schools. Despite the noble aims of the project, profligate spending ruined the state’s credit. By 1841 the state was near bankruptcy and forced to liquidate most of its public works. During the 1850s, the state’s population grew to exceed one million. The ambitious program of its founders was realized as Indiana became the fourth-largest state in terms of population, as measured by the 1860 census.

Indiana became politically influential and played an important role in the Union during the American Civil War. Indiana was the first western state to mobilize for the war, and Indiana soldiers were present in almost every engagement during the war. Following the Civil War, Indiana remained politically important as it became a critical swing state in U.S. Presidential elections. It helped decide control of the presidency for three decades. During the Gas Boom of the late 19th century, industry began to rapidly develop in the state. By the early 20th century, Indiana developed into a strong manufacturing state, but experienced setbacks during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expansion of the auto industry, urban development, and two wars contributed to the state’s industrial growth. During the second half the of the 20th century, Indiana became a leader in the pharmaceutical industry due to the innovations of companies such as Eli Lilly.

Early civilizations

Following the end of the last glacial period, Indiana’s topography was dominated by spruce and pine forests and was home to mastodon, caribou, and saber-toothed cats. While Northern Indiana had been covered by glaciers, Southern Indiana remained unaltered by the ice’s advance, leaving plants and animals that could sustain human communities. Indiana’s earliest known inhabitants were Paleo-Indians. Evidence exists that humans were in Indiana as early as the Archaic stage (8000–6000 BC). Hunting camps of the nomadic Clovis culture have been found in Indiana. Carbon dating of artifacts found in the Wyandotte Caves of Southern Indiana shows humans mined flint there as early 2000 BC. These nomads may have enjoyed the large supply of freshwater mussels in Indiana’s streams, and may have built the shell mounds found throughout southern Indiana.

The Early Woodland period in Indiana is generally dated between 1000 BC and 200 AD. The society of this time is known as the Adena culture, named for the estate in Ohio where its artifacts were first discovered. The Adena culture was noted for domesticating wild squash and making pottery, which were both large cultural advances over the Clovis culture. The Early Woodland period also saw the natives’ introduction of early burial mounds. The oldest mounds in Indiana date from this era, including the oldest earthwork in Anderson’s Mounds State Park.

Humans of the Middle Woodland period were of the Hopewell culture and may have been in Indiana as early as 200 BC. The Hopewells were the first culture to create permanent settlements in Indiana. About 1 AD, the Hopewells mastered agriculture and grew crops of sunflowers and squash. Around 200 AD, the Hopewells began to construct mounds that are believed to have been used for ceremonial and burial purposes. Most modern knowledge of the Hopewells has come from excavation of these mounds. The artifacts in the mounds show the Hopewells in Indiana were connected by trade to other native tribes as far away as Central America. For unknown reasons, the Hopewell culture went into decline around 400 and completely disappeared by 500.

The Late Woodland era is generally considered to have begun about 600 AD and lasted until the arrival of Europeans in Indiana. It was a period of rapid cultural change. One of the new developments—which has yet to be explained—was the introduction of masonry, shown by the construction of large, stone forts, many of which overlook the Ohio River. Romantic legend used to attribute the forts to Welsh Indians who supposedly arrived centuries before Christopher Columbus reached the Caribbean. Archaeologists and other scholars, however, believe that the cultural development was due to the arrival of the Mississippians.


Evidence suggests that after the collapse of the Hopewells, Indiana had a low population until the rise of the Mississippians around 900 AD. The Ohio River Valley was heavily populated by the Mississippians from about 1100 to 1450 AD. Their settlements, like those of the Hopewells, were known for their ceremonial mounds. Some of these remain visible at locations near the Ohio River. The Mississippian mounds were constructed on a grander scale than the mounds built by the Hopewells. The agrarian Mississippians were the first to grow maize in the region. The people developed the bow and arrow and copper working during this time period.

Mississippian society was highly developed; the largest Mississippian city contained as many as 30,000 inhabitants. Their cities were typically sited near rivers and included a large central mound, several smaller mounds, an open courtyard, and were usually enclosed by walls. The remains of a major settlement known as Angel Mounds lie east of present-day Evansville. Mississippian houses were generally square-shaped with plastered walls and thatched roofs. For reasons that remain unclear, the Mississippians disappeared in the middle of the 15th century, about 200 years before the Europeans first entered what would become modern Indiana. Mississippian culture marked the high point of native development in Indiana.

It was during this period that American Bison began a periodic east–west trek through Indiana, crossing the Falls of the Ohio and the Wabash River near modern-day Vincennes. These herds became important to civilizations in southern Indiana and created a well-established Buffalo Trace, later used by European-American pioneers moving west.

European contact

Sometime before 1600, a major war broke out in eastern North America among Native Americans; it was later called the Beaver Wars. Five American Indian Iroquois tribes confederated to battle against their neighbors. The Iroquois were opposed by a confederation of primarily Algonquin tribes including the Shawnee, Miami, Wea, Pottawatomie, and the Illinois. These tribes were significantly less advanced than the Mississippian culture that had preceded them. The tribes were semi-nomadic, used stone tools rather than bronze, and did not create the large-scale construction and farming works of their Mississippian predecessors. The war continued with sporadic fighting for at least a century as the Iroquois sought to dominate the expanding fur trade with the Europeans. They achieved this goal for several decades. During the course of the war, the Iroquois drove their neighboring tribes to the south and west.

As a result of the war, several tribes, including the Shawnee, migrated into Indiana, where they attempted to resettle in land belonging to the Miami. The Iroquois gained the military advantage after they were supplied with firearms by the Dutch in New Netherlands and later by the English. With their superior weapons, the Iroquois subjugated at least thirty tribes and nearly destroyed several others in northern Indiana.

When the first Europeans entered Indiana during the 1670s, the region was in the final years of the Beaver Wars. The French attempted to trade with the Algonquian tribes in Indiana, selling them firearms in exchange for furs. This incurred the wrath of the Iroquois, who destroyed a French outpost in Indiana in retaliation. Appalled by the Iroquois, the French continued to supply the western tribes with firearms and openly allied with the Algonquian tribes. A major battle—and a turning point in the conflict—occurred near modern South Bend when the Miami and their allies repulsed a large Iroquois force in an ambush. With the firearms they received from the French, the odds were evened. The war finally ended in 1701 with the Great Peace of Montreal. Both of the Indian confederacies were left exhausted, having suffered very heavy casualties. Much of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana was left depopulated as many tribes fled west to escape the fighting.

The Miami and Pottawatomie nations returned to Indiana following the war. Other tribes such as the Lenape were pushed westward from the East Coast by encroachment of European colonists. Around 1770 the Miami invited the Lenape to settle on the White River. The Shawnee arrived in present-day Indiana after the three other nations. These four nations were later to be participants in the Sixty Years’ War, a struggle between native nations and European settlers for control of the Great Lakes region. Hostilities with the tribes began early; the first known deaths of Europeans by Indians in Indiana occurred in 1752, when five French fur traders were attacked and killed by members of the Piankeshaw near the Vermilion River.

Colonial period

French fur traders from Canada were the first Europeans to enter Indiana, beginning in the 1670s. The quickest route connecting the New France districts of Canada and Louisiana ran along Indiana’s Wabash River. The Terre Haute highlands were once considered the border between the two French districts. This made Indiana a vital part of French lines of communication and trade routes. The French established Vincennes as a permanent settlement in Indiana during European rule, but the population of the area remained primarily Native American. As French influence grew in the region, Great Britain, competing with France for control of North America, came to believe that control of Indiana was important to halt French expansion on the continent.


The first European outpost within modern Indiana was Tassinong, a French trading post established in 1673 near the Kankakee River. French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle came to the area in 1679, claiming it for King Louis the XIV of France. La Salle came to explore a portage between the St. Joseph and Kankakee rivers, and Father Ribourde, who traveled with La Salle, marked trees along the way. The marks survived to be photographed in the 19th century. In 1681, La Salle negotiated a common defense treaty between the Illinois and Miami nations against the Iroquois.

Further exploration of Indiana led to the French establishing an important trade route between Canada and Louisiana via the Maumee and Wabash rivers. The French built a series of forts and outposts in Indiana as a hedge against the westward expansion of the British colonies from the east coast of North America and to encourage trade with the native tribes. The tribes were able to procure metal tools, cooking utensils, and other manufactured items in exchange for animal pelts. The French built Fort Miamis in the Miami town of Kekionga (modern Fort Wayne, Indiana). France assigned Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, as the first agent to the Miami at Kekionga.

In 1717, François-Marie Picoté de Belestre established the post of Ouiatenon (modern Lafayette, Indiana) to discourage the Wea from coming under British influence. In 1732, François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, established a similar post near the Piankeshaw in the town that still bears his name. Although the forts were garrisoned by men from New France, Fort Vincennes was the only outpost to maintain a permanent European presence until the modern day. Jesuit priests accompanied many of the French soldiers into Indiana in an attempt to convert the natives to Christianity. The Jesuits conducted missionary activities, lived among the natives, and accompanied them on hunts and migrations. Gabriel Marest, one of the first missionaries in Indiana, taught among the Kaskaskia as early as 1712. The missionaries came to have great influence among the natives and played an important role in keeping the native tribes allied with the French.

During the French and Indian War, the British directly challenged France for control of the region, as part of their struggle in Europe of the Seven Years’ War. Although no pitched battles occurred in Indiana, the native tribes of the region supported the French. At the beginning of the war, the tribes sent large groups of warriors to support the French in resisting the British advance and to raid British colonies. Using Fort Pitt as a forward base, British commander Robert Rogers overcame the native resistance and drove deep into the frontier to capture Fort Detroit. The rangers moved south from Detroit and captured many of the key French outposts in Indiana, including Fort Miamis and Fort Vincennes. As the war progressed, the French lost control of Canada after the fall of Montreal. No longer able to effectively fight the British in interior North America, they lost Indiana to British forces. By 1761 the French were entirely forced out of Indiana. Following the French expulsion, the native tribes, led by Chief Pontiac, confederated in an attempt to rebel against the British without French assistance. While Pontiac was besieging British-held Fort Detroit, other tribes in Indiana rose up against the British. They were forced to surrender Fort Miamis and Fort Ouiatenon. In 1763, while Pontiac was fighting the British, the French signed the Treaty of Paris and ceded control of Indiana to the British.

Great Britain

When the British gained ownership of Indiana, the entire region was in the middle of Pontiac’s Rebellion. During the next year, British officials negotiated with the various tribes, splitting them from their alliance with Pontiac. Eventually, Pontiac lost most of his allies, forcing him to make peace with the British on July 25, 1766. As a concession to Pontiac, Great Britain issued a proclamation that the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains was to be reserved for Native Americans. Despite the treaty, Pontiac was still considered a threat to British interests, but after he was murdered on April 20, 1769, the region saw several years of peace.

After Britain established peace with the natives, many of the former French trading posts and forts in the region were abandoned. Fort Miamis was maintained for several years because it was considered to be “of great importance”, but even it was eventually abandoned. The Jesuit priests were expelled, and no provisional government was established; the British hoped the French in the area would leave. Many did leave, but the British gradually became more accommodating to the French who remained and continued the fur trade with the Native American nations.

In 1768, a treaty was negotiated between several of the British colonies and the Iroquois. The Iroquois sold their territorial claims to the colonies as part of the treaty. The company created to hold that claim was named the Indiana Land Company, the first recorded use of the word Indiana. The claim was disputed by the colony of Virginia, which did not participate in the treaty because it already laid claim to the land through its royal charter. In 1773, the territory of Indiana was brought under the administration of Province of Quebec to appease its French population. The Quebec Act was listed as one of the Intolerable Acts the Thirteen Colonies cited as a reason for the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The thirteen colonies thought themselves entitled to the territory for their support of Great Britain during the French and Indian War, and were incensed that it was given to the enemy the colonies had been fighting.

Although the United States gained official possession of the region following the conclusion of the American Revolution, British influence on its Native American allies in the region remained strong, especially near Fort Detroit. This influence caused the Northwest Indian War, which began when British-influenced native tribes refused to recognize American authority and were backed in their resistance by British merchants in the area. American military victories in the region and the ratification of the Jay Treaty, which called for British withdrawal from the region’s forts caused a formal evacuation, but the British were not fully expelled from the area until the conclusion of the War of 1812.

United States

After the outbreak of the American Revolution, George Rogers Clark was sent from Virginia to enforce its claim to much of the land in the Great Lakes region. In July 1778, Clark and about 175 men crossed the Ohio River and took control of Kaskaskia, Vincennes, and several other villages in British Indiana. The occupation was accomplished without firing a shot because Clark carried letters from the French ambassador stating that France supported the Americans. These letters made most of the French and Native American inhabitants of the area unwilling to support the British.

The fort at Vincennes, renamed Fort Sackville by the British, had been abandoned years earlier and no garrison was present when the Americans occupied it. Captain Leonard Helm became the first American commandant at Vincennes. To counter Clark’s advance, the British under Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton reoccupied Vincennes with a small force. In February 1779, Clark arrived at Vincennes in a surprise winter expedition and retook the town, capturing Hamilton in the process. This expedition secured most of southern Indiana for the United States.

In 1780, emulating Clark’s success at Vincennes, French officer Augustin de La Balme organized a militia force of French residents to capture Fort Detroit. While marching to Detroit, the force stopped to sack Kekionga. The delay proved fatal when the expedition met the warriors of the Miami tribe under Miami Chief Little Turtle along the Eel River, and the entire force was killed or captured. Clark organized another assault on Fort Detroit in 1781, but it was aborted when Chief Joseph Brant captured a significant part of Clark’s army at a battle known as Lochry’s Defeat, near present-day Aurora, Indiana.

Other minor skirmishes occurred in Indiana, including the battle at Petit Fort in 1780. In 1783, when the war came to an end, Britain ceded the entire trans-Allegheny region to the United States—including Indiana—in the peace treaty negotiated in Paris.

Clark’s militia was under the authority of the State of Virginia, and although a continental flag was flown over Fort Sackville, the area was governed as Virginia territory until the state gifted it to the United States federal government in 1784. Clark was awarded large tracts of land in southern Indiana for his service in the war and modern Clark County is named in his honor.

Indiana Territory

In 1785, the Northwest Indian War began. In an attempt to end the native rebellion, the Miami town of Kekionga was attacked unsuccessfully by General Josiah Harmar and Northwest Territory Governor Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair’s defeat is the worst defeat of the U.S. Army by Native Americans in history, leaving almost the entire army dead or captured. The defeat led to the appointment of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne who organized the Legion of the United States and defeated a Native American force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville was signed and a small part of eastern Indiana was opened for settlement. Fort Miamis at Kekionga was occupied by the United States, who rebuilt it as Fort Wayne. After the treaty, the powerful Miami nation considered themselves allies with the United States. The war ended hostilities with the Native Americans, leaving them victorious in 31 of the 37 recorded incidents involving white settlers during the 18th century.

The Northwest Territory was formed by the Congress of the Confederation on July 13, 1787, and included all land between the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. This single territory became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of eastern Minnesota. The act established an administration to oversee the territory and had the land surveyed in accordance with The Land Ordinance of 1785. At the time the territory was created, there were only two American settlements in what would become Indiana: Vincennes and Clark’s Grant. The population of the northwest included fewer than 5,000 Europeans. The Native American population was estimated to be near 20,000, but may have been as high as 75,000.

On July 4, 1800, the Indiana Territory was established out of Northwest Territory in preparation for Ohio’s statehood. The Indiana Land Company, which still held claim to Indiana, had been dissolved by a United States Supreme Court decision in 1798. The name Indiana meant “Land of the Indians”, and referred to the fact that most of the area north of the Ohio River was still inhabited by Native Americans. (Kentucky, South of the Ohio River, had been a traditional hunting ground for tribes that resided north of the river, and early American settlers in Kentucky referred to the North bank as the land of the Indians.) Although the company’s claim was extinguished, Congress used their name for the new territory. The Indiana Territory contained present day Indiana,Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. Those areas were separated out in 1805 and 1809. The first Governor of the Territory was William Henry Harrison, who served from 1800 until 1813. Harrison County was named in honor of Harrison, who later become the ninth President of The United States. He was succeeded by Thomas Posey who served from 1813 until 1816.

The first capital was established in Vincennes where it remained for thirteen years. After the territory was reorganized in 1809, the legislature made plans to move the capital to Corydon to be more centralized with the population. Corydon was established in 1808 on land donated by William Henry Harrison. The new capitol building was finished in 1813 and the government quickly relocated following the outbreak of war on the frontier.

As the population of the territory grew, so did the people’s exercising of their freedoms. In 1809, the territory was granted permission to fully elect its own legislature for the first time. Before that, Governor Harrison appointed the legislature. Although Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance had prohibited slavery, it had existed since French rule and was the major issue in the territory at the time. The anti-slavery party won a strong majority in the first election. Governor Harrison found himself at odds with the new legislature which proceeded to overturn the indenturing and pro-slavery laws he had enacted. Slavery remained the defining issue in the state for the decades to follow.

War of 1812

The first major event in the territory was the resumption of hostilities with the Indians. Unhappy with their treatment since the peace of 1795, the native tribes, led by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, formed a coalition against the Americans. Tecumseh’s War started in 1811 when General William Henry Harrison led his army to rebuff aggressive movements of Tecumseh’s confederation. The war continued until the Battle of Tippecanoe which firmly ended the Native American uprising and allowed the Americans to take full control of all of Indiana. The Battle earned Harrison national fame, and the nickname “Old Tippecanoe”.

The war between Tecumseh and Harrison merged with the War of 1812 when the remnants of the Indian Confederation allied with the British in Canada. The Battle of Fort Harrison is considered to be the United States’ first land victory during the war. Other battles that occurred in the modern state of Indiana include the Siege of Fort Wayne, the Pigeon Roost Massacre and the Battle of the Mississinewa. The Treaty of Ghent, signed in 1814, ended the war and relieved American settlers from their fears of the nearby British and their Indian allies. This marked the end of hostilities with the Native Americans in Indiana. Of the 58 recorded incidents between Native Americans and the United States in Indiana during the 19th century, 43 of these are Indian victories.


In 1812, Jonathan Jennings defeated Harrison’s chosen candidate and became the territory’s representative to Congress. Jennings used his position there to speed up Indiana’s path to statehood by immediately introducing legislation to grant Indiana statehood, even though the population of the entire territory was under 25,000. Jennings did so against the wishes of incoming governor Thomas Posey. No action was taken on the legislation at the time because of the outbreak of the War of 1812.

Posey had created a rift in the politics of the territory by refusing to reside in the capital of Corydon, but instead living in Jeffersonville to be closer to his doctor. He further complicated matters by supporting slavery, much to the chagrin of opponents like Jennings, Dennis Pennington, and others who dominated the Territorial Legislature and who sought to use the bid for statehood to permanently end slavery in the territory.


In February 1815, the United States House of Representatives began debate on granting Indiana Territory statehood. In early 1816, the Territory approved a census and Pennington was named to be the census enumerator. The population of the territory was found to be 63,897, above the limit required for statehood as stated in the Northwest Ordinance. On May 13, 1816, the Enabling Act was passed and the state was granted permission to form a government subject to the approval of Congress. A constitutional convention met on June 10, 1816, in Corydon. Because of the heat of the season, the delegation moved outdoors on many days and wrote the constitution beneath the shade of a giant elm tree. The state’s first constitution was completed on June 29, and elections were held in August to fill the offices of the new state government. In November Congress approved Indiana statehood and the territorial government was dissolved, ending the existence of the Indiana Territory and replacing it with the State of Indiana.

Jennings and his supporters were able to take control of the convention and Jennings was elected president of the convention. Other notable delegates at the convention included Dennis Pennington, Davis Floyd, and William Hendricks. Pennington and Jennings were at the forefront of the effort to prevent slavery from entering Indiana and sought to create a constitutional ban on it. Pennington was quoted as saying “Let us be on our guard when our convention men are chosen that they be men opposed to slavery”. They succeeded in their goal and a ban was placed in the new constitution. That same year Indiana statehood was approved by Congress. Jonathan Jennings, whose motto was “No slavery in Indiana”, was elected governor of the state, defeating Thomas Posey 5,211 to 3,934 votes. Jennings served two terms as governor and then went on to represent the state in congress for another 18 years. Upon election, Jennings declared Indiana a free state. The abolitionists won their final victory in the 1820 Indiana Supreme Court case of Polly v. Lasselle that freed all the remaining slaves in the state.

As the northern tribal lands gradually opened to white settlement, Indiana’s population rapidly increased and the center of population shifted continually northward. Indianapolis was selected to be the site of the new state capital in 1820 because of its central position within the state. Jeremiah Sullivan, a justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, invented the name Indianapolis by joining Indiana with polis, the Greek word for city; literally, Indianapolis means “Indiana City”. The city was founded on the White River under the assumption that the river could serve as a major transportation artery; however, the waterway was too sandy for trade. In 1825, Indianapolis finally replaced Corydon as the seat of government. At the time, Indianapolis was in the wild and 60 miles (97 km) from the nearest settlement. The government established itself in the Marion County Courthouse as the second state capital building.

Early development

The National Road reached Indianapolis in 1829, connecting Indiana to the Eastern United States. It was also about this time that citizens of Indiana became known as Hoosiers and the state took on the motto “Crossroads of America”. In 1832, construction began on the Wabash and Erie Canal, a project connecting the waterways of the Great Lakes to the Ohio River. Railroads soon made the canal system obsolete. These developments in transportation served to economically connect Indiana to the Northern East Coast, rather than relying solely on the natural waterways which connected Indiana to the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast states.

In 1831, construction on the third state capitol building began. This building, designed by the firm of Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, had a design inspired by the Greek Parthenon and opened in 1841. It was the first statehouse that was built and used exclusively by the state government.

The state suffered from financial difficulties during its first three decades. Jonathan Jennings attempted to begin a period of internal improvements. Among his projects, the Indiana Canal Company was reestablished to build a canal around the Falls of the Ohio. The Panic of 1819 caused the state’s only two banks to fold. This hurt Indiana’s credit, halted the projects, and hampered the start of any new projects until the 1830s, after the repair of the state’s finances during the terms of William Hendricks and Noah Noble. Beginning in 1831, large scale plans for statewide improvements were set into motion. Overspending on the internal improvements led to a large deficit that had to be funded by state bonds through the newly created Bank of Indiana and sale of over nine million acres (36,000 km²) of public land. By 1841 the debt had become unmanageable. Having borrowed over $13 million, the equivalent to the state’s first fifteen years of tax revenue, the government was unable to even pay interest on the debt. The state narrowly avoided total bankruptcy by negotiating the liquidation of the public works, transferring them to the state’s creditors in exchange for a 50% reduction in the state’s debt. The internal improvements began under Jennings paid off as the state began to experience rapid population growth that slowly remedied the state’s funding problems. The improvements led to a fourfold increase in land value, and an even larger increase in farm produce.

During the 1840s, Indiana completed the process of removing the Native American tribes. The majority of the Potawatomi voluntarily relocated to Kansas in 1838. Those who did not leave were forced to travel to Kansas in what came to be called the Potawatomi Trail of Death, leaving only the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in the Indiana area. The majority of the Miami tribe left in 1846, although many members of the tribe were permitted to remain in the state on lands they held privately under the terms of the 1818 Treaty of St. Mary’s. The other tribes were also convinced to leave the state voluntarily through the payment of subsidies and land grants further west. The Shawnee migrated westward to settle in Missouri, and the Lenape migrated into Canada. The other minor tribes in the state, including the Wea, moved westward, mostly to Kansas.

By the 1850s, Indiana had undergone major changes: what was once a frontier with sparse population had become a developing state with several cities. In 1816, Indiana’s population was around 65,000, and in less than 50 years, it had increased to more than 1,000,000 inhabitants.

Because of the rapidly changing state, the constitution of 1816 began to be criticized. Opponents claimed the constitution had too many appointed positions, the terms established were inadequate, and some of the clauses were too easily manipulated by the political parties that did not exist when then constitution was wrote. The first constitution had not been put to a vote by the general public, and following the great population growth in the state, it was seen as inadequate. A constitutional convention was called in January 1851 to create a new one. The new constitution was approved by the convention on February 10, 1851, and submitted for a vote to the electorate that year. It was approved and has since been the official constitution.

Higher education

The earliest institutions of education in Indiana were missions, established by French Jesuit priests to convert local Native American nations. The Jefferson Academy was founded in 1801 as a public university for the Indiana Territory, and was reincorporated as Vincennes University in 1806, the first in the state.

The 1816 constitution required that Indiana’s state legislature create a “general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation, from township schools to a state university, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all”. It took several years for the legislature to fulfill its promise, partly because of a debate about whether a new public university should be founded to replace the territorial university. The state government chartered Indiana University in Bloomington in 1820 as the State Seminary. Construction began in 1822, the first professor was hired in 1823, and classes were offered in 1824. The 1820s also saw the start of free public township schools. During the administration of William Hendricks a plot of ground was set aside in each township for the construction of a schoolhouse.

Other state colleges were established as the state grew. Some were private institutions, such as Wabash College, established in 1832. The University of Notre Dame received a charter from the Indiana General Assembly in 1844, but was based on the campus of a Potawatomi mission established a decade earlier. Other schools were publicly owned, such as Indiana State University, established in Terre Haute in 1865 as the state normal school. Purdue University was founded in 1869 as the state’s Land Grant university, a school of science and agriculture. Ball State University was founded as a normal school in the early 1900s and gifted to the state in 1918.


In the early 19th century, most transportation of goods in Indiana was done by river. Most of the state’s estuaries drained into the Ohio River, ultimately meeting up with the Mississippi River, where goods were transported to and sold in New Orleans.

The first road in the region was the Buffalo Trace, an old bison trail that ran from the Falls of the Ohio to Vincennes. After the capitol was relocated to Corydon, several local roads were created to connect the new capitol to the Ohio River at Mauckport and to New Albany. The first major road in the state was the National Road, a project funded by the federal government. The road entered Indiana in 1829 connecting Richmond, Indianapolis, and Terre Haute with the eastern states and eventually Illinois and Missouri in the west. The state adopted the advanced methods used to build the national road on a statewide basis and began to build a new road network that was usable year-round. The North-South Michigan Road was built in the 1830s, connecting Michigan and Kentucky and passing through Indianapolis in the middle. These two new roads were roughly perpendicular within the state and served as the foundation for a road system to encompass all of Indiana.

In 1832, the state began construction on the Wabash and Erie Canal. The canal was started at Lake Erie, passed through Fort Wayne, and connected to the Wabash River. This new canal made water transport possible from New Orleans to Lake Erie on a internal route rather than sailing around the whole of the Eastern United States and entering through Canada. Other canal projects were started, but all were abandoned before completion due to the state’s foundering credit after the devaluation of the bonds.

The first railroad in Indiana was built in Shelbyville in the late 1830s. The first major line was completed in 1847, connecting Madison with Indianapolis. By the 1850s, the railroad began to become popular in Indiana. The railroad brought major changes to Indiana and enhanced the state’s economic growth. Although Indiana’s natural waterways connected it to the South via cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans, the new rail lines ran East-West, and connected Indiana with the economies of the northern states. As late as mid-1859, no rail line yet bridged the Ohio or Mississippi rivers. Because of an increased demand on the states resources and the embargo against the Confederacy, the rail system was mostly completed by the end of the American Civil War.

Civil War

Indiana, a free state and the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln, remained a member of the Union during the American Civil War. Indiana regiments were involved in all the major engagements of the war and almost all of the engagements in the western theater. Hoosiers were present in both the first and last battles of the war. During the course of the war, Indiana provided 126 infantry regiments, 26 batteries of artillery, and 13 regiments of cavalry to the cause of the Union.

In the initial call to arms issued in 1861, Indiana was assigned a quota of 7,500 men—a tenth of the total amount called—to join the Union Army in putting down the rebellion. So many volunteered in the first call that thousands had to be turned away. Before the war ended, Indiana contributed 208,367 men to fight and serve in the war. Casualties were over 35% among these men: 24,416 lost their lives in the conflict and over 50,000 more were wounded.

At the outbreak of the war, Indiana was run by a Democratic and southern sympathetic majority in the State Legislature. It was by the actions of Governor Oliver Morton, who illegally borrowed millions of dollars to finance the army, that Indiana was able to contribute so greatly to the war effort. Morton suppressed the state legislature with the help of the Republican minority to prevent it from assembling during 1861 and 1862. This prevented any chance the Democrats might have had to interfere with the war effort or to attempt to secede from the Union.

Morgan’s Raid

The only Civil War battle fought in Indiana occurred during Morgan’s Raid. On the morning of July 9, 1863, Morgan attempted to cross the Ohio River into Indiana with his force of 2,400 Confederate cavalry. After his crossing was briefly contested, he marched north to Corydon where he engaged the Harrison County branch of the Indiana Legion in the short Battle of Corydon before the militia withdrew into the town. Morgan took command of the heights south of Corydon and shot two shells from his batteries into the town, which promptly surrendered. The battle left 15 dead, 40 wounded, and 355 captured.

Morgan’s main body of troopers raided and camped at New Salisbury that night while detachments raided and sacked Crandall, Palmyra and the surrounding countryside. Morgan resumed his northward march, destroying much of the town of Salem. Fear gripped the capitol, and the militia began to form there to contest Morgan’s advance. After Salem, however, Morgan turned east, raiding and skirmishing along this path and leaving Indiana through West Harrison on July 13, ending Indiana’s only military confrontation in the war.


The Civil War had a major impact on the development of Indiana. Before the war, the population was generally in the south of the state where easy access to the Ohio River provided a cheap and convenient means to export products and agriculture to New Orleans to be sold. The war closed the Mississippi River to traffic for nearly four years, forcing Indiana to find other means to export its produce. This led to a population shift to the north where the state came to rely more on the Great Lakes and the railroad for exports.

Before the war, New Albany was the largest city in the state mainly because of its river contacts with the South. Over half of Hoosiers with over $100,000 lived in New Albany. During the war, the trade with the South came to a halt, and much of Indiana saw New Albany as too friendly to the South. The city never regained its stature, remaining a city of 40,000 with its early-Victorian Mansion-Row buildings remaining from the boom period.

Post-Civil War era

Economic growth

Ohio River ports had been stifled by an embargo on the Confederate South and never fully recovered, leading the south into an economic decline. By contrast, northern Indiana experienced an economic boom when natural gas was discovered in the 1880s, which directly contributed to the rapid growth of cities such as Gas City, Hartford City, and Muncie where a glass industry developed to utilize the cheap fuel. At the time, the Indiana gas field was the largest known in the world. The boom lasted until the early 1900s, when the gas supplies ran low. This began northern Indiana’s industrialization and ultimately led to Indiana becoming part of the Rust Belt.

In 1876, chemist Eli Lilly, a Union colonel during the Civil War, founded Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company. His initial innovation of gelatin-coating for pills led to a rapid growth of the company that eventually grew into Indiana’s largest corporation, and one of the largest corporations in the world. Over the years, the corporation saw the development of many widely used drugs including insulin, and became the first company to mass produce penicillin. The company’s many advances made Indiana the leading state in the production and development of medicines.

Charles Conn returned to Elkhart after the Civil War and established C.G. Conn Ltd., a manufacturer of musical instruments. The company’s innovation in band instruments made Elkhart an important center of the music world, and it became a base of Elkhart’s economy for decades. Nearby South Bend experienced continued growth following the Civil War, and became a large manufacturing city. Gary was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation as the home for its new plant.

The administration of Governor James D. Williams proposed the construction of the fourth state capitol building in 1878. The third state capitol building was razed and the new one was constructed on the same site. Two million dollars was appropriated for construction and the new building and it was completed in 1888. The building was still in use in 2008.

The Panic of 1893 had a severe negative effect on the Hoosier economy when a number of factories closed and several railroads declared bankruptcy. The Pullman Strike of 1894 hurt the Chicago area and coal miners in southern Indiana participated in a national strike. Hard times were not limited to industry; farmers also felt a financial pinch from falling prices. The economy began to recover when World War I broke out in Europe creating a higher demand for American goods. Despite economic setbacks, advances in industrial technology continued throughout the last years of the 19th and into the 20th century. On July 4, 1894, Elwood Haynes successfully road tested his first automobile, and opened the Haynes-Apperson auto company in 1896. In 1895, William Johnson invented a process for casting aluminum.

Political ascendancy

During the postwar era, Indiana became a critical swing state that often helped decide which party controlled the Presidency. The national parties each vied for Hoosier support and a Hoosier was included in all but one presidential election between 1880 and 1924. Indiana Representative William Hayden English was nominated for Vice-President and ran with Winfield Scott Hancock in the 1880 election. Their ticket lost to James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. In 1884, former Indiana Governor Thomas A. Hendricks was elected Vice-President of the United States. He served until his death on November 25, 1885, under President Grover Cleveland.

In 1888, Indiana Senator Benjamin Harrison, grandson of territorial Governor William Henry Harrison, was elected President of the United States and served one term. Fort Benjamin Harrison was named in his honor. He remains the only U.S. President from Indiana. Indiana Senator Charles W. Fairbanks was elected Vice-President in 1904, serving under President Theodore Roosevelt until 1913. Fairbanks made another run for Vice-President with Charles Evans Hughes in 1912, but their ticket lost to Woodrow Wilson and Indiana Governor Thomas R. Marshall, who served as Vice-President from 1913 until 1921.

High profile crime

Several major crimes occurred in Indiana during the post-war era. A group of brothers from Seymour, who had served in the Civil War, formed the Reno Gang, the first outlaw gang in the United States. The Reno Gang, named for the brothers, terrorized Indiana and the Midwest for several years. They were responsible for the first train robbery in the United States which occurred near Seymour on October 6, 1866. Their actions inspired a host of other outlaw gangs who copied their work, beginning several decades of high-profile train robberies. Pursued by detectives from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, most of the gang was captured in 1868 and lynched by vigilantes. Other notorious Hoosiers also flourished in the post-war years, including Belle Gunness, an infamous “black widow” serial killer. She is believed to have killed more than twenty people, most of them men, between 1881 and her own suspected murder in 1908.

In response to the Reno Gang and other criminals, several White Cap groups began operating in the state, primarily in the southern counties. They began carrying out lynchings against suspected criminals, leading the state to attempt to crack down on their practices. By the turn of the century they had become so notorious that anti-lynching laws were passed and in one incident the governor called out the militia to protect a prisoner. When the white caps showed up to lynch him the militia opened fire, killing one and wounding eleven. White cap activity decreased following the incident, and remained low until the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Twentieth century

Although industry was rapidly expanding throughout the northern part of the state, Indiana remained largely rural at the turn of the century with a growing population of 2.5 million. Like much of the rest of the American Midwest, Indiana’s exports and job providers remained largely agricultural until after World War I. Indiana’s developing industry, backed by inexpensive natural gas from the large Trenton Gas Field, an educated population, low taxes, easy access to transportation, and business-friendly government, led Indiana to grow into one of the leading manufacturing states by the mid-1920s.

In 1907, during the administration of Governor Frank Hanly, Indiana became the first state in the Union to adopt eugenics legislation, then considered part of the Progressive Movement. It was in effect until ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Indiana in 1921. A revised eugenics law was passed in 1927, and it remained in effect until 1974. Hanly was also a spokesman in the temperance movement.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex was built in 1909, inaugurating a new era in history. With the new invention of the automobile, Indianapolis rivaled Detroit in auto manufacturing for several years. The speedway was a venue for auto companies to show off their products. The Indianapolis 500 quickly became the standard in auto racing as European and American companies competed to build the fastest automobile and win at the track. Industrial and technological industries thrived during this era, George Kingston developed an early carburetor in 1902; in 1912, Elwood Haynes received a patent for stainless steel.

World War I

Although the majority of Hoosiers supported the Entente Powers in the early years of World War I, a significant number of German-American and Irish-Americans supported neutrality or the Central Powers. Influential Hoosiers who opposed involvement in the war included Eugene V. Debs, Senator John W. Kern, and Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. Supporters of the Alliance and military preparedness included James Whitcomb Riley and George Ade. Most of the opposition dissipated when the United States officially declared war against Germany and other Central Powers, but some teachers lost their jobs on suspicion of disloyalty, and public schools could no longer teach in German.

The Indiana National Guard was federalized during WWI; many units were sent to Europe. A separate organization, the Liberty Guard, had been formed in 1910, primarily for social purposes: members marched in parades and at patriotic events. Governor Samuel Ralston had to call out the Liberty Guard in November 1913 to put down a growing workers strike in Indianapolis. By 1920, the state decided to formalize this group, renaming it the Indiana Civil Defense Force and supplying it with equipment and training. In 1941, the unit was named the Indiana Guard Reserve; it effectively became a state militia. During WWII, it was again federalized and members were called up by the Federal government.

Indiana provided 130,670 troops during the war; a majority of them were drafted. Over 3,000 men died, many from influenza and pneumonia. To honor the Hoosier veterans of the war, the state began construction of the Indiana World War Memorial. Hoosier soldiers were involved in operations on the German and Italian fronts. Major Samuel Woodfill, a native of Jefferson County, became the most decorated veteran of any nation: he received the US Congressional Medal of Honor; was awarded the Croix de Guerre and admitted to the Légion d’Honneur by France; was awarded the Meriot di Guerra Cross by Italy; and the Cross of Prince Danilo by Montenegro, among numerous others.

Twenties and the Great Depression

The war-time economy provided a boom to Indiana’s industry and agriculture, which led to more urbanization throughout the 1920s. By 1925, more workers were employed in industry than in agriculture in Indiana. Indiana’s greatest industries were steel production, iron, automobiles, and railroad cars.

Scandal erupted across the state in 1925 when it was discovered that over half the seats in the General Assembly were controlled by the Indiana Ku Klux Klan. During the 1925 General Assembly session, Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson boasted, “I am the law in Indiana.” Stephenson was convicted for the murder of Madge Oberholtzer that year and sentenced to life in prison. After Governor Edward L. Jackson, who Stephenson helped elect, refused to pardon him, Stephenson began to name many of his co-conspirators. This led the state’s making a string of arrests and indictments against political leaders, including the governor, mayor of Indianapolis, the attorney general, and many others. The crackdown effectively rendered the Klan powerless.

After Prohibition took effect in 1920 in the United States, northern Indiana saw crime rise due to involvement with Al Capone and others in the underground bootlegging and smuggling of liquor on the Great Lakes. Prohibition remained in effect until 1933. John Dillinger, a native of Indianapolis, began his streak of bank robberies in Indiana and the Midwest during the 1920s. He was captured in 1924 and served a prison sentence in the Indiana State Prison until parole in 1933. After a return to crime, Dillinger was returned to prison the same year, but escaped with the help of his gang. His gang was responsible for multiple murders and the theft of over $300,000. Dillinger was killed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during a hunt on July 22, 1934 in Chicago.

During the 1930s, Indiana, like the rest of the nation, was affected by the Great Depression. The economic downturn had a wide-ranging negative impact on Indiana. Urbanization declined. The situation was aggravated by the Dust Bowl, which caused an influx of migrants from the rural Midwest. Governor Paul V. McNutt’s administration struggled to build from scratch a state-funded welfare system to help the overwhelmed private charities. During his administration, spending and taxes were both cut drastically in response to the Depression. The state government was completely reorganized. McNutt also ended Prohibition in the state and enacted the state’s first income tax. On several occasions, he declared martial law to put an end to worker strikes.

During the Great Depression, unemployment exceeded 25% statewide. Southern Indiana was particularly hard hit, and unemployment topped 50% during the worst years. The federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) began operations in Indiana in July 1935. By October of that year, the agency had put 74,708 Hoosiers to work. In 1940, there were still 64,700 people working for agency. The majority of these workers were employed to improve the state’s infrastructure: roads, bridges, flood control projects, and water treatment plants. Some helped index collections of libraries, and artists were employed to create murals for post offices and libraries. Nearly every community had a project to work on.

During the 1930s, many of Indiana’s prominent businesses collapsed, several railroads went bankrupt, and numerous banks folded. Manufacturing came to an abrupt halt or was severely cut back due the dwindling demand for products. The Depression continued to negatively affect Indiana until the build up for World War II. The effects continued to be felt for many years thereafter.

World War II

The regional economy began to recover as the federal government built up supplies and armaments going into World War II. Although the WPA continued to employ many Hoosiers, unemployment steadily declined as the Depression gave way to the war-time economy.

Indiana participated in the Total War mobilization of the nation’s economy and resources. Domestically, the state produced munitions in an army plant near Sellersburg. The P-47 fighter-plane was manufactured in Evansville at Republic Aviation.[174] The steel produced in northern Indiana was used in tanks, battleships, and submarines. Other war-related materials were produced throughout the state. Indiana’s military bases were activated, with areas such as Camp Atterbury reaching historical peaks in activity.

An Air Force base was constructed near Seymour, Indiana and was the location of the Freeman Field Mutiny. African Americans objected to being denied the chance to advance in the military: to learn to fly planes and take all roles available. Their mutiny contributed to President Truman’s decision to achieve racial integration of the United States military.

The population was generally supportive of the war efforts; many young men enlisted in the army and navy. The state contributed many young men to fight abroad; nearly 400,000 Hoosiers enlisted or were drafted into the war. More than 11,783 Hoosiers died in the conflict and another 17,000 were wounded. Hoosiers served in all the major theaters of the war. Their sacrifice was honored by additions to the World War Memorial in Indianapolis, which was not finished until 1965.

Modern Indiana

With the end of World War II, Indiana returned to pre-depression levels of production. Industry again became the major employer, a trend that accelerated into the 1960s. Urbanization during the 1950s and 1960s led to large growth in the state’s urban centers; towns and cities dramatically increased in population. The auto, steel, and pharmaceutical industries topped Indiana’s major businesses. Indiana’s population continued to grow during the years after the war, passing five million by the 1970 census.

In the 1960s, there were several significant developments in the state. During the administration of Matthew E. Welsh the state adopted its first sales tax of two percent. The new sales taxes dramatically increased revenues to the state and enabled a host of state improvement projects. Welsh also worked with the General Assembly to pass the Indiana Civil Rights Bill.

Beginning in 1970, a series of amendments to the state constitution were proposed. With adoption, the Indiana Court of Appeals was created and the method of selecting justices on the courts was altered. Term limits were adjusted for the Governor, allowing him to serve consecutive terms.

The 1973 oil crisis created a recession that hurt the automotive industry in Indiana. Companies like Delco Electronics and Delphi began a long series of downsizing that contributed to high unemployment rates in manufacturing in Anderson, Muncie, and Kokomo. The deindustrialization trend continued until the 1980s when the national and state economy began to diversify and recover.

In 1988, Senator Dan Quayle was elected Vice-President under George H. W. Bush. The fifth Vice-President from Indiana, Quayle served one term. Central Indiana was struck by a major flood in 2008, leading to widespread damage and the evacuations of hundreds of thousands of residents. It was the costliest disaster in the history of the state, with early damage estimates topping $1 billion.