Terre Haute 2
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A 2nd History of Terre Haute, Indiana
HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES, Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute, pp. 30-35
The township info was contributed by Kim Holley.
Visit her site at Vigo County Indiana Info

The rapid growth of American cities during the past thirty years, especially in the great valley of the Mississippi, which seemingly have sprang like magic from the ground, equipped with all the resources wealth and population, the "push" and energy which so unmistakably characterize commercial cities of greater age and slower development, is the wonder and marvel of the age.

Among the cities of Indiana which have grown into prominence within the past twenty-five years, and whose advance in trade and commerce challenge the admiration of her rivals and has excited the jeolousy of some, is Terre Haute, beautifully situated on the east bank of the Wabash river, in Vigo county, on a high, level plateau about fifty feet above the river surface.

Its name is derived from the French "terre," land, and "haute," high, signifying "high land." This name was bestowed by the early explorers not so much on account of its elevation above the surrounding country as from the fact that this is the only high ground approaching the river for a distance of several miles. For this reason the first royageurs, in ascending the Wabash and preceiving the bold outline of the bank, named it "Terre Haute."

In attempting to write the history of this small area called Terre Haute, we find it nearly impossible to seperate the general history of the wide region around from the local interest attaching to the spot under consideration.

The trials and dangers incident to the early settlement of this section do not differ materially from the experiences of settlers in other sections of our common country. Not much more than a half century has passed since the history of this locality, so far as real progress is concerned, began; but what wonderful changes have occurred. Then the few people in this region lived in log cabins, utterly devoid of any adornment, and in many cases wanting in the common necessaries of life. One side of the only room was taken up by the huge fire-place, before which the simple fare of "corn bread" and venison was cooked, and around which in the evening the family, and perchance the "stranger," congregated. This one room was the parlor, kitchen, dining-room and bed-room. The furniture consisted of a few splint-bottomed chairs of the simplest kind, made with such tools as axe, auger and heavy pocket or hunting knife; bedsteads and table of the same kind, and a scanty supply of cooking utensils, among which the skillet and "Dutch oven" were indispensible. The "puncheon" floors were uncarpeted, and the walls were festooned with bunches of herbs, ears of corn "traced" up, and the rifle and powder-horn. Often the only glass in the windows (of which there were sometimes two) was oiled or greased paper, and the entire library consisted of a bible and almanac. A tallow dip - an article now almost wholly unknown - furnished the only artificial light.

Terre Haute was laid out and platted in the fall of 1816, by the "Terre Haute Land Company." The company consisted of Cuthbert and Thomas BULLETT, of Louisville, Kentucky; Abraham MARKLE, of Fort Harrison; Hyacinth La SALLE, of Vincennes, and Jonathan LINDLEY, of Orange county, Indiana. The articles of organization bear date September 19, 1816. This company held patents from the United States to "thirteen tracts of land on the Wabash river in the vicinity of Fort Harrison." All titles to lots in this purchase are derived from these men as original proprietors. These lands were divided into twelve shares, of which LINDLEY had four, MARKLE had three, La SALLE had three, and the BULLETTs had two. The first sale of lots took place on October 31, 1816, and the settlement commenced immediately. The original site for the town was a spot some three miles below the present location, but it was soon abandoned for the present more desirable one. Probably one of the principal reasons for making this change was that the national road, already projected, would cross the Wabash at this point.

In 1817 the new town presented a truly pioneer appearance. There were only a few log cabins scattered along the river, and these were of the rudest description. But in 1818, when the county seat was established here, new life was infused into the inhabitants, and the settlement at once began to improve. In January, 1818, Vigo county was organized, and as an inducement to locate the county seat at Terre Haute the proprietors deeded to the county some eighty lots, besides the public square, and paid into the county treasury $4,000. In this intelligent action of these proprietors we see the character of the men who founded the town, and the immediate result of this sagacity was the impulse given toward that prosperity which has since continued to be manifested in an increasing ratio.

The original site extended from the river east to the west side of Fifth street, and from the north side of Oak on the south to the south side of Eagle street on the north. The lots were numbered from 1 to 308. The street usually called "Third" is named "Market" on the plat. "Main" street was named "Wabash." A piece of land at the southwest corner of Fourth and Mulberry streets, of the area of two lots, is not numbered on the original plat, but marked "Seminary lots." All east and west streets are sixty-five feet wide except Wabash, which is eighty-one and a half feet. The streets extending north and south are the same width as Wabash, except Market, which is ninety-nine feet wide. Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets are sixty-five feet in width. These streets bounded the out-lots, of which there were seventy-two. What was called the "county road" was identical with Eighth street.


The "highland" on which Terre Haute is situated is not in outline a bluff, but a gently undulating plateau, the surface sloping somewhat upward from the river as far as Sixth street, where it very gently descends until about Ninth street, from which line it seems to maintain a general level for some distance in the same direction. The surface also descends both northwesterly and southwesterly. The ground upon which the Normal-school building stands is one of the highest points in the city. On the south, at a distance of nearly a mile from Main street, is a beautiful elevation called "Strawberry Hill," covered with a grove of natural and transplanted trees. From this elevation the surface gradually descends in an easterly and southerly direction into what was once the valley of Lost creek. Certainly no more beautiful location could have been chosen for the "Prairie City." Originally, a belt of heavy timber and a tangled growth of underbrush and vines extended along the river bank, reaching westward as far as Sixth street, where it met the prairie, which in turn extended to the "Bluff." The stranger who now traverses the thronged streets of this busy city would hardly suspect that men are now living who assisted in clearing away this natural growth; yet Mr. Henry ROSS says that on one occasion, in endeavoring to make his way homeward on a dark evening, about where market street now runs, he lost his way in the tangled undergrowth, and could not find the path he had followed until a friendly lantern, carried by a neighbor, made its appearance, shedding its welcome light on the surrounding gloom. Many of the older citizens have vivid recollections of squirrel shooting in the woods where Sixth street now runs. Mrs. Chauncey WARREN distinctly remembers the beautiful bank bordering the river, with its grass and flowers and large trees. Where busy streets and magnificent business blocks are now seen, once waved the tall prairie grass, in which a horse could be hidden.

The soil is dry and porous, sufficiently rolling to secure good drainage, and is not easily worked into mud, even after long-continued rains. No city in the state has a more desirable location, both as to beauty and healthfulness, yet this healthful condition was not fully secured until the morasses on the east and south, known as Lost creek, had been thoroughly drained. The venerable Mr. SPARKS says that when he first came to Terre Haute he could almost swim his horse across the lower ground southeast of Strawberry Hill.


The earliest reliable and detailed knowledge of the section of the country we are considering is derived chiefly from the reports of Gen. HARRISON and the officers and men serving under him, in their operations against the Indians previous to 1815. Dillian's History of Indiana says: "The army under command of Gen. Harrison moved from Vincennes September 26, 1811, and on the 3d of October * * * encamped at the place where Fort Harrison was afterward built. This place of encampment was selected on the eastern bank of the Wabash, at a point about two miles above an old Wea village that stood on a prairie where Terre Haute now stands." We thus discover that some of the reasons that induced settlement at this point were such as could be appreciated by savages, who had selected the place as a site for one of their villages long years before the advent of the white man.

Perhaps these and other reasons cannot be more concisely set forth than by quoting from Rev. Blackford Condit (Historical discourse delivered December 27, 1873): "The town of Terre Haute was organized in 1816, the same year the state was received into the Federal Union. The life of the town began, therefore, with the life of the state. Situated a thousand miles from the sea-coast, with no highway of intercourse, and no approach even, excepting by the back door of Vincennes, by way of Cincinnati, in a region of interminable forests - in a region subject to the incursions of the Indians - little could have been expected by those who located in the town. Yet, from the very beginning, there was much that was encouraging. In 1815, the year previous to the laying out of the town, a settled peace had been concluded with the Indians. At this time permanent settlers, attracted by the richness of the soil, were pouring into the state with unexampled rapidity. And then the town, on account of the beauty of its location, had its attractions. Situated on the east side of the Wabash, sixty feet from the level of the river, on a rolling prairie of some nine miles in length and three miles in breadth, the river furnishing an outlet for trade; and then the location was geographically on the direct line of travel from the east to the far unexplored west, which very soon appeared where the great national road was projected. So that, from the beginning, our town had its geographical advantages and local attractions. And not the least among the latter was the character of the first inhabitants of the place, for while the early settlements on the frontier at that time were characterized by ignorance and rowdyism, comparatively the early settlement of Terre Haute was characterized by its intelligence, good order, and by a certain gentility that has always marked the place. And then for years afterward the internal improvements, such as the National road, of which mention has been made, and the Wabash and Erie canal, made Terre Haute a center of attraction for enterprising men." The first settlement on Fort Harrison prairie we find were made about the fort, chiefly for the protection afforded by the presence of United States troops. These settlements gradually extended as the fear of the Indians decreased.

The first person to turn a furrow on this prairie, and to raise a crop of corn, was Joseph LISTON. Mr. LISTON says, "In the year 1811 I turned the first furrow that was plowed in what is now called Vigo county, on the road leading from Terre Haute to Lockport, on what is represented as the DEAN farm. I, with my father, Edmund LISTON, William G. ADAMS, William DRAKE, Reuben MOORE and Martin ADAMS broke, fenced and planted seventy-five acres of corn, and sold the corn raised to HARRISON's army while building the fort near the Wabash. Since that time I have not been absent from Vigo county to exceed four months at any one time. During that time I was engaged through the war in pursuing Indians who were committing depredations on the settlement below, and in burying the dead, who were killed by them. Isaac LAMBERT, John DICKSON, a Mr. HUDSON, CHATRY and MALLORY, all cultivated the lands under protection of the fort." Some, at least, of those named by Mr. LISTON, had been, or were at the time mentioned, soldiers, who, after their discharge, settled upon these fertile lands.

Among the first settlers in Terre Haute were Dr. Charles B. MODESITT, Lewis HODGE, Henry REDFORD, Robert CARR, John EARLE, Abner SCOTT, Ezekiel BUXTON, and perhaps a few others, all of whom came in 1816. Dr. MODESITT built the first log house, which also was the first house of any kind erected in Terre Haute. This house stood on the southwest corner of Water and Ohio streets; the logs were not hewed.

To be continued

HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES, Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute, pp. 30-35

View the Biographical Sketches associated with this township
View additional Biographical Sketches associated with this township
Terre Haute & Harrison Twp. biographies.

Submitted by Charles Lewis
Data entry by Kim Holly - used with permission.

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