Indiana Facts

As is the case in quite a few other southern and Midwestern states, you can find a lot of evidence of ancient Mound Builder civilization in Indiana. There are several areas such as Angel Mound (in the Evansville region) and Mounds State Park where these people’s impressive legacy is preserved. The last of these cultures, the Mississippian culture, left remains of a major village near the city of Newburgh on the banks of the Ohio River.

Upon the arrival of Europeans, the region was inhabited by the descendants of tribes that were speaking Algonquian languages, the Woodland culture. The Potawatomi and Miami Indians migrated in southern directions and were settling in the northern part of the state, whereas the Wea and Kickapoo were moving from regions south of Indiana to settle in the north.

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In the year 1679, a group of Frenchmen led by Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, were the first whites to set foot in Indiana as they were exploring the Mississippi valley, where they founded settlements at Fort Miami (near what now is Fort Wayne), at Quiatenon (near present-day Lafayette), and at Vincennes.

When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, Britain gained control of French Canada and French-controlled American territory. Also, Indiana came under British rule, though Chief Pontiac was fighting hard not to give up a few British-claimed villages, but he surrendered in 1765.

In the year 1779, George Rogers Clark, an American colonel, conquered Vincennes from British rule in the American Revolutionary War. When the war was over, Indiana became U.S. territory in a region that was in those days known as the Northwest Territory. This region included Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and part of Minnesota.

In 1811, Congress established an organizational structure in order to govern the Northwest Territory (the Ordinance of 1787 made that possible), and after an Indian uprising, William Henry Harrison, together with some 1,000 troops, fought and defeated a strong Shawnee Indian force that was lead by The Indian Shawnee Prophet, a brother of Chief Tecumseh.

After he defeated the Indians, Harrison burned their village and returned. Consequently, Harrison was honored and became a national hero. The British interest in the region went on until they were finally defeated during the War of 1812.

Now that the U.S. had taken control over the region, settlers came to establish villages and towns in the Northwest Territory, but they were met with heavy resistance from the Indians.

The federal troops were suffering heavy casualties near Fort Miami inflicted by the Miami Indians in 1791, but the Indians were defeated in 1794, just three years later, by federal troops that were commanded by General Anthony Wayne. The final conflict in Indiana between federal troops and Indians occurred in 1812 when the Miami Indians were defeated close to the city of Peru.

The Northwest Territory became reorganized as Indiana Territory in 1800 and Vincennes became the capital. Later, in 1805, Michigan became an independent territory, and in 1809, the territory of Indiana was brought back to what we now know as the borders of Indiana.

Indiana’s first governor was William Henry Harrison.  Indiana was allowed into the Union as the 19th state in 1816 with Corydon as its capital, but in 1825 Indianapolis became the state’s capital.

The last Indians, the Potawatomi, were forced out of the state in 1846, and in 1851 the state had a new constitution that excluded any black person from settling in Indiana. The state stayed in the Union during the Civil War, despite the fact that it had substantial sympathy for the cause of the Confederates.

During the Civil War, just one raid occurred in Indiana. That was in 1863, when John Hunt, a Confederate general, was leading raids into Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky before he got captured by troops of the Union.

Later, in the 20th Century, many blacks became important in Indiana politics and life in general. In 1967, the city of Gary was actually among the first U.S. cities that elected a black man to become mayor, Richard Hatcher, and Katie Hall was elected as the first Black female Congress member in 1983. Indiana was also the Union’s first state that introduced a state-financed school system. The state founded the modern school system in 1816, and in 1907, the state’s high schools became part of the system too.

When the railroad was completed between Madison and Indianapolis in 1847, Indiana’s agricultural production of corn, hogs, and other produce got a real boost, but the extensive construction of canals and railroads left the state pretty bankrupted with the result that the 1851 constitution required a balanced budget for the state.

When the Civil War was over, the economic activity of Indiana was boosted by farming, timber, and manufacturing, and some other industries that set up shop in Indiana included brick making, leatherworking, glass making, and beer brewing.

Because Indiana had become a leading iron and steel producer, U.S. Steel established its largest U.S.plant in 1905 an area that later became Gary. In the period 1920 – 1930, Indiana was losing the car-manufacturing facilities to Detroit, except for Studebaker, and today, the state’s economy is still mainly divided between manufacturing and farming.

Important Dates
1679 Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, comes to Indiana as he explores the Mississippi valley.
1725 Jesuits were founding settlements at Vincennes.
1763 The Treaty of Paris is forcing France to give up control of lands to Britain, including Indiana.
1779 American Colonel George Rogers Clark is defeating the British at Vincennes.
1809 The Indiana Territory was reorganized and reflects its present-day borders.
1811 (William Henry) Harrison defeated the Shawnee Indians (The Battle of Tippecanoe).
1816 Indiana was admitted to the Union. It was the 19th state.
1824 Robert Owen established the “Utopian Colony” New Harmony.
1825 Indianapolis becomes Indiana’s State Capital.
1851 Indiana’s new constitution forbids black settlers.
1853 Opening of the Wabash and Erie Canal.
1888 Benjamin Harrison’s election as 23rd President of the U.S.
1894 In Kokomo, Elwood Haynes is testing his 1-cylinder horseless carriage.
1905 In Gary, U.S. Steel is opening its largest steel manufacturing plant.