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Growth of the Young State


Erie Canal
Erie Canal

In December 1815 the territorial legislature met at Corydon, which had succeeded Vincennes as the capital in 1813, to draw up a petition for statehood. The petition was approved by Congress, a state constitution was drawn up, and on December 1, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state to enter the federal Union. Jonathan Jennings was elected the first governor of the new state.

At the time of statehood the Native Americans were officially recognized as the owners of most of central and northern Indiana, or about two-thirds of the state’s area. Most of the settlers, who by 1816 totaled more than 60,000, lived in the Ohio and Wabash river valleys in the south. In 1818, to encourage more settlement, the state government purchased more Native American lands in central Indiana.

The New Purchase, as it was called, was officially opened for settlement early in 1820. Later in the year, a site near the confluence of Fall Creek and the west branch of White River, named Indianapolis (“city of Indiana”) by the state legislature, was chosen as the future state capital because of its central location. In 1824 the state government was moved in four farm wagons to Indianapolis from the old capital at Corydon, and in January 1825 the legislature convened in Indianapolis.

Following the opening of the New Purchase, various Native American groups gave up their titles to extensive land in northern Indiana. With more vast amounts of territory thus open for settlement, the young state’s settler population rose sharply, from 147,178 in 1820 to 685,866 in 1840 and then to 1,350,428 in 1860.

At first the farms in central and northern Indiana, like those in the hilly uplands to the south, were small, self-sustaining units where a variety of crops was raised for local use. Then, in the late 1830s, farming in central and northern Indiana began to develop toward large-scale commercial operation in which farmers concentrated almost exclusively on cultivating corn and wheat and raising livestock. In large part these changes were spurred by the expansion of the national market for agricultural products, particularly in the eastern United States.

Another major factor was the suitability of the rich soils and the flat or gently rolling terrain of the region. In addition, important advances were made in farming techniques about this time. The increasing availability of improved plows, new reapers, threshers, and other types of farm machinery made vastly increased farm output possible. By 1860 northern and central Indiana had been made so productive that Indiana was one of the leading states in the production of corn, wheat, and livestock. Much of the grain crop was and still is used to feed livestock, especially hogs.

The growth of large-scale specialized agriculture in Indiana was accompanied by the development of transportation facilities for marketing farm products. Until about 1830 most of the state’s surplus farm produce was sent down the Wabash and Ohio rivers to New Orleans. However, as settlement spread to other parts of the state, additional transportation facilities became necessary. In 1832 work was begun on the Wabash and Erie Canal to connect Lake Erie with the Wabash at Lafayette by way of the Maumee River. In addition, in 1836 the legislature passed an extensive internal improvements bill that provided for the construction of numerous canals, railroads, and roads in the state.

However, the project was interrupted by the nationwide financial panic of 1837 and was not completed by the state. Instead, private companies eventually completed most of the work. The state’s financial difficulties also slowed work on the Wabash and Erie Canal, which became the nation’s longest canal by extending it to Evansville and was not finished until 1853. By the 1840s, completion of the section between the upper Wabash and Lake Erie had given Indiana an outlet to Eastern markets.

The first major railroad line in Indiana, between Indianapolis and Madison, was opened in 1847. In the 1850s there was extensive railroad building in the state, and a number of railroad lines were extended across Indiana from the east. By the end of the decade, railroads had begun to displace waterways as the principal form of transportation between Indiana and the Eastern states. "Indiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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