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Indiana History: 8 Events That Shaped the State

By    |   Monday, 23 February 2015 11:32 PM

Indian wars, auto racing and the Ku Klux Klan have all been part of the colorful history of Indiana. These eight events have played key roles in shaping the Hoosier State:

1. LaSalle Claims Indiana: Frenchman Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, led an expedition that in 1679 entered and explored present-day Indiana. In 1682, LaSalle claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France, naming it Louisiana. The French ceded control of present-day Indiana to the British at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.

2. Americans Take Indiana: George Rogers Clark — acting under the authority of the state of Virginia — in 1778 took about 175 men and without firing a shot crossed the Ohio River and took control of Kaskaskia, Vincennes and several other villages in present-day Indiana from the British. Britain ceded the trans-Allegheny region, which included Indiana to the United States at the end of the war in 1783.

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3. Indiana becomes a territory: Congress established the Indiana Territory in 1800 and appointed William Henry Harrison — who would later become the nation's ninth president — as its first governor. The name "Indiana" meant "Land of the Indians" and referred to the fact that most of the area north of the Ohio River was still inhabited by Native Americans. In addition to present-day Indiana, Indiana Territory included Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota, reports Politico.

4. Indian Uprising: William Henry Harrison led a contingent of soldiers that in 1811 put down an uprising led by Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskatawa, known as "the Prophet," according to the Tippecanoe County Historical Association. The the two sides fought at the Battle of Tippecanoe, where the Indians were defeated and their spirit crushed. The battle allowed the Americans to take full control of all of Indiana.

5. Indiana Gains Statehood: President James Madison in 1816 signed an act of Congress admitting Indiana to the Union as the 19th state, according to Politico. The state's new government quickly sought to transform Indiana from a segment of the frontier into a developed, well-populated and thriving state by taking steps that included initiating a program that spurred the construction of roads, canals, railroads and state-financed public schools.

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6. Population Shift: The Civil War brought about a major population shift in Indiana between 1861 and 1865. The population before the war was located generally in the southern part of the state, where many had entered by the Ohio River, which provided a cheap and convenient means to export products and agriculture to New Orleans. The closing of the Mississippi River to traffic for nearly four years during the war forced Indiana residents to find other means to export products and brought about a population shift to the north, where the state came to rely more for exports on railroads and the Great Lakes.

7. Auto Industry Revs Up: Most Indiana cities within 200 miles of Detroit became part of the massive automobile industry after 1910.The Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex was built in 1909 and two years later became the site of the Indianapolis 500, a race that "quickly became the standard in auto racing." With an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 today remains the best-attended event in U.S. sports, according to History.com.

8. Rise of the Klan: Made up of native-born, white Protestants, the Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence in Indiana politics and society after World War I while taking stances against Catholics, Jews, African-Americans, immorality and drinking. The Klan's importance peaked with the 1924 election as governor of one of its members, Edward Jackson. But the organization's image as upholders of law and order was destroyed by a subsequent scandal that resulted in a murder conviction for Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson, and by 1926 the Klan in Indiana was "crippled and discredited."

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Indian wars, auto racing and the Ku Klux Klan have all been part of the colorful history of Indiana. These eight events have played key roles in shaping the Hoosier State.
Indiana History, Hoosier State, Indianapolis 500
Monday, 23 February 2015 11:32 PM
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