Indiana is loaded with history, from important moments in time to famous artifacts, architecture, and natural wonders. While we might all know the highlights of Indiana’s history, can you name 13 of the oldest towns in Indiana? Read on to find out about some of the oldest towns and sites in the state.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
This historic town was officially established by the French in 1732, though it had been occupied by the French during the 1600s. The whole of the population at this time remained primarily Native American. Vincennes was founded by French fur traders who used the Wabash River to easily conduct trades and was named after officer François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes. In 1779 during the Battle of Vincennes, Americans took hold of the French operated town.
2. Fort Wayne
In 1697, an outpost dubbed Fort Miami was established by the French in modern day Fort Wayne. This outpost was later replaced by Fort S. Philippe des Miamis in 1721. The area was seceded to Great Britain in the 1760s, though the Native American Miami population rebelled, taking control of the area for the next three decades. In the 1790s, George Washington set out to secure Indiana Territories, and Fort Wayne was officially renamed and built in 1794.
Like most early Indiana towns, this area was occupied by the Miami tribe. In 1717 the French built Fort Quiatenon inside of modern day Lafayette. The official town was established in 1825 by William Digby, who was a trader. It was named after General Lafayette who aided Washington in his quest to win over the Indiana Territories.
4. New Harmony
First settled in 1814 by George Rapp and 800 followers, New Harmony was dubbed “Harmonie.” This area was colonized in order to attempt to create a utopian society. It took 10 years to build a church, sawmill, granary, and other historic brick buildings in this town. However, in 1825 the followers returned to Pennsylvania and Robert Owen bought this land, calling it “New Harmony.”
Indiana achieved statehood in 1816 and the current land of Indianapolis was bought as part of the New Purchase. Some argue the Pogues were the first to settle here (in 1819, in the area now known as Pogues Run), while other insist it was the McCormicks (settling near the White River around the same time). The city was platted in 1821, becoming the state capital due to its central location. It became a main fixture on the first federally built and funded US highway, making our state the "Crossroads of America."
6. Terre Haute
Originally the site of Fort Harrison, Terre Haute is thought to have been named and founded by the French in the early 18th century. What we know for sure is that Terre Haute was established officially in 1816. In its early years, Terre Haute was a place where pork was processed and was a central site for farming and milling.
Rumored to have been named by Edward Smith's daughter, after her father's favorite hymn, Corydon was an early Indiana establishment. In fact, Corydon was once the state capital, before it was moved to Indianapolis. The state's constitution was even drawn up in Corydon in June of 1816.
When the Indiana Territory was created, the only two towns that existed were Vincennes and Clark's Grant, now Clarksville. Clarksville is the oldest European/American settlement in Indiana and is believed to be the oldest in the entire Northwest Territory. It was named for General George Rogers Clark, who founded the town in 1783. The town struggled greatly due to flooding, and was destroyed almost completely in the Great Flood of 1937. It was rebuilt soon after.
Marion was the site of the famous Battle of the Mississinewa in 1812. It was founded in 1830 by both David Branson and Martin Boots. It was named for the Revolutionary War hero and general, Francis Marion.
Henryville, Indiana started out as Morristown in 1850. In 1853, the name Henryville was established. It is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of KFC founder, Colonel Harland Sanders. Another reason the name might stick out is because of the tragedy of 2012, when a tornado ravaged the town, killing at least three and severely damaging the elementary and high schools.
This city was established in 1871 and was named for a railroad officer, Horace Scott. The Scottsburg Depot is a National Historic Site. This depot is a former historic railroad depot that was constructed in 1872.
Jeffersonville was first settled when Fort Finney was established in 1786, to keep Indians out of the area. The fort was abandoned in 1793 and was likely to have become repopulated and named around 1801. It was named for President Thomas Jefferson.
Madison was established in 1810 and was a place of heavy river traffic during its early years. It was the site of Indiana's first railroad. Today, over 133 blocks of the downtown area are part of the Madison Historic Landmark District.
Of course, Indiana was heavily populated with Native Americans before European and later, American, settlement, so knowing the oldest towns in the area can get pretty subjective. The above are a glimpse at 13 of the oldest towns we have records of and have some pretty awesome landmarks to visit.