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Facts About Indiana History: 7 Things You Might Not Know

By    |   Sunday, 05 Apr 2015 02:34 PM

How much do you know about Indiana's history? For example, Indiana’s earliest known inhabitants were Native American migratory tribes who inhabited what is now the state as early as 8000 BC. Later, tribes apparently became more agricultural and settled.

Here are seven more things you might not know about Indiana's history:

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1. Indiana Territory Formed

In 1800, Indiana Territory was formed and included the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota.

2. First Canal, Railroad and Underground Railroad Stop

In the 1840s the Wabash and Erie Canal opened between Lafayette and Toledo, Ohio, giving Indiana a water route via Lake Erie to eastern markets. Also in the 1840s the state's first railroad line was completed between Indianapolis and Madison, Wisconsin.

The first train robbery in the U.S. occurred in Indiana on Oct. 6, 1866, when a gang known as the Reno Brothers stopped an Ohio and Mississippi train in Jackson County and made off with $13,000.

In addition, the farming community of Newport, Indiana (now Fountain City) became known as the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” for helping more than 2,000 runaway slaves make their way north to freedom. Many families in the state of Indiana sheltered runaway slaves before and during the Civil War.

3. Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too

One of the country’s more memorable political slogans, and a song, grew out of Gov. William Henry Harrison’s victory over Native Americans in 1811 in the battle of Tippecanoe. When he ran for president with John Tyler, this became their slogan. Tyler became president after Harrison died in office.

4. Civil War Population Shift

Before the Civil War most of Indiana’s population was in the south of the state and linked to the Ohio River which provided cheap transport for agricultural goods to New Orleans. When the war closed the Mississippi River for nearly four years, some of the population moved north to make use of the Great Lakes and railroads for exports.

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5. Road and Highways

The first major road to cross the state was the historic Cumberland, or National Road, now labeled US Route 40. This road was built in the early 1800s. The state now has several major U.S. Interstate highways, including I-64 across the bottom of the state, I-80 across the top and many others, intersecting in and around Indianapolis. The highways along with the state's railroads and the canals that once crossed Indiana, are the source of the state's motto, “The Crossroads of America,” adopted in 1937.

In the early 1830s, Indiana passed the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act to develop turnpikes, canals and railroads, but it failed. London creditors eventually took over most of the projects although they completed only two. That 19th century experience found an echo in September 2014, when Macquarie Group of Australia and Spain’s Ferrovial SA – which had spent $3.8 billion in 2006 for a 75-year lease to operate the Indiana Tollroad – filed for bankruptcy.

6. Indianapolis 500 and Automotive Industry

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway held the first Indianapolis 500 mile race on its 2.5-mile track on May 30, 1911, two years after it opened. With seating for more than 250,000, it is the world’s largest spectator sporting venue.

Indiana was an early leader in the manufacturing of automobiles and before Detroit took control of the industry in the 1920s, it had over 300 automobile companies. Today, it has more than 600 automotive companies.

7. Floodprone

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The rivers that cross Indiana, not to mention that about a quarter of the state was once wetlands, make the state susceptible to flooding. Floods in 2013, which reached across the Midwest, wiped out Fort Wayne’s downtown, damaged or destroyed 5,500 homes and businesses and killed seven people. In June 2008, after nearly a foot of rain fell in seven hours, all but 10 of Indiana’s 92 counties were declared presidential disaster areas. Columbus, Indiana suffered nearly $1 billion in damages and its inundated hospital was closed for months. More recently, the state experience heavy flooding in both 2013 and 2014.

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How much do you know about Indiana's history? For example, Indiana's earliest known inhabitants were Native American migratory tribes who inhabited what is now the state as early as 8000 BC. Here are seven more things you might not know about Indiana's history.
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2015-34-05
Sunday, 05 Apr 2015 02:34 PM
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