Indiana History

You will be able to learn a great deal about the history of Indiana at the Indiana History Center, managed by the Indiana Historical Society and located in downtown Indianapolis, which is the capital and largest city in the state. The Indiana History Center is named for Eugene and Marilyn Glick, who have generously endowed it as well as other attractions in the city, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Indiana history gives few definitive clues about how the word "Indiana" came into being, but it seems clear that it was named for the original Native American residents. Main tribes found in the territory when Europeans first arrived are the Chippewa, Erie, Kikapoo, Delaware, Mohegan, Shawnee, Pontiac, Illinois, and Miami. Since the tribes did not settle within the boundaries of the present states, you will find many Native American place names in the state and the surrounding states of Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. While there are casinos in Indiana, they are all riverboat casinos, not Native American as is the case across much of the United States.

The facts about Indiana history is that the region now known as Indiana was named when the Ohio Territory was divided 1800, and the history of Indiana as we know it today began with that.

The French held sway in the region beginning in the late seventeenth century, when they began to explore and exploit it for the fur trade in what was then called the "Northwest." There was little French colonization and few French settlers, since the French were little interested in the frontier territory except as a source for fur. Indiana history reveals the establishment of more French settlements other than forts and trading posts once it was realized that the English colonies were spreading westward. The largest French settlement was centered in what is now Vincennes, but you can see the French influence is place names such as Terre Haute (French for "High Land") and Lafayette (named for the French general who would later serve in the Continental Army under George Washington).

The eighteenth century history of Indiana is dominated by conflict and competition over the fur trade between the French, British, and Native Americans. This culminated in the French and Indian War of 1754-1763, after which the English controlled the Northwest. In 1774, the Quebec Act ceded lands north of the Ohio River (today's border between Indiana and Kentucky) to Canada. It is one of the little known facts about Indiana that this, coupled with increasing British taxation of the American colonies, was one of the foundations for the American struggle for independence from England.

Unlike both the French and the British, Americans quickly settled Indiana, and it became its own territory in 1800. The American population of Indiana exploded during the eighteenth century. These subsistence farming pioneers were primarily from Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia who settled in the southern part of the state. Indiana history also chronicles several large group migrations into the northern part of the state. 2,500 French-speaking Swiss immigrants arrived in Vevay (near today's Cincinnati, Ohio) with the purpose of cultivating grapes for wine. Today, this is Switzerland County, and is site of one of the state's major events, the Swiss Wine Festival. A group of Quakers from North Carolina settled in what is now Richmond. Indiana was admitted to Union as the nineteenth state in 1816.

One of the little known facts about Indiana is that there was slavery in the state in spite of 1787 ban on the practice. But it was not widespread and the history of Indiana shows that the state played an important role in support of the Union's fight against secession. Until the early twentieth century, Indiana was primarily an agricultural state. During the twentieth century, the state became a major industrialized state like its Midwest neighbors Ohio and Michigan.

If you want to learn even more about the history of Indiana, you will be able to find it at the Indiana History Center when you visit Indianapolis.

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