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Indiana State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1679—Robert Cavelier explores the region of Indiana for France

1763—England gains control of the Indiana region

1732—Vincennes becomes the Indiana’s first permanent settlement

1800—Congress creates the Indiana Territory

1811—Indians are defeated in the Battle of Tippecanoe

1816—Indiana becomes the 19th state

1825—Indianapolis becomes the state capital

1842—The University of Notre Dame is founded in South Bend

1889—The Standard Oil Company builds an oil refinery in Whiting

1906—U.S. Steel Company builds steel plant and founds the city of Gary

1911—The first Indy 500 car race takes place

1915—Workmen’s Compensation Act becomes law

1956—The Northern Indiana Toll Road is completed

Native American Indians migrated west into Indiana as European settlers took their lands during the late 1600s.  The Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, Mahican, and Potawatomi tribes were just a few of these different groups.  

In 1679, French-Canadian Robert Cavelier became the first white man to see Indiana.  He was searching for a water route to the Pacific Ocean.  French fur traders soon followed, establishing trading posts throughout the area.  Forts were built during the 1720s in Miami (near Fort Wayne) and Quiatenon (near Lafayette).  Vincennes became the first permanent settlement in Indiana about 1732. 

The French Indian War (1754-1763) ended with British victory and control of all land east of the Mississippi River, including Indiana.  However British troops did not enter the Indiana region until 1777, during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).  George Rogers Clark of Virginia led American soldiers into Indiana to fight Britain and claim Indiana as American land.  Their victory in 1779 of Fort Sackville in Vincennes, led to American control of the northwest.  After the war, Indiana became part of the Northwest Territory in 1787. 

In 1800 the Indiana Territory was created.  Several Indian tribes joined together under chief Tecumseh to fight the new settlers and save their lands.  The Native Americans were defeated in two important battles, the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and the Battle of the Thames in 1813.  In 1815, many of the Native Americans left, leaving settlers free to develop the land. 

On Dec. 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state to join the union.  Indiana struggled financially at first.  Many of the farmers that bought land from the federal government did not have to pay taxes the first five years.  During the 1820s, the state received grants from the government to build roads and canals.   

The economy improved in the 1850s, as railroad expansion linked Indiana to East coast markets.  New industries were developed and several new businesses opened.  In 1852, the Studebaker brothers opened a wagon shop in South Bend that became the largest wagon manufacturer in the nation. 

Indiana sent food to help soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865), but not much fighting occurred near Indiana.  There were several inventions that led to new industries during this time.  Richard Gatling of Indianapolis invented the machine gun in 1862.  In 1885, the first gasoline pump was developed in Fort Wayne.  Elwood Haynes of Kokomo developed the first successful gasoline-powered car in 1894. 

Mining also became a big industry.  Natural gas was discovered near Portland and oil near Keystone.  In 1889, Standard Oil built one of the largest oil refineries in the world in Whiting.  Nearby, United States Steel built its largest steel mill and founded the city of Gary.  The automobile and other metal-product industries also greatly expanded.  In 1911, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held the first Indianapolis 500 car race. 

During the Great Depression (1929-1939) many lost their jobs.  By 1932, one-fourth of the workforce was unemployed.  World War II (1939-1945) required war supplies to be made and helped the economy begin to recover. 

During the 1950s, Indiana’s economy continued to change from agricultural to industrial.  New farm equipment replaced many of the workers, who were left to find jobs in the city.  Clifty Creek, one the nation’s largest power plants, was built in Madison in 1956. 

Indiana’s state government increased taxes in 1973 and during the mid-1980s to help meet rising social needs.  Unemployment increased due to foreign competition in the automobile industry.  Farmers also experienced a depression in their industry.  Indiana is now striving to expand and renovate existing service industries while attracting new industries into the state.