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"The History of Terre Haute in the 19th Century" by Jonathan Moore, Terre Haute South 2001

"Terre Haute history is filled with soaring achievements, exciting episodes and devastating setbacks. It was the site of the world's fastest harness racing track, the world's largest distillery, the world's largest greenhouse and the world's largest food-processing center under one roof. Corn oil, penicillin, carbonated water, hybrid popcorn, the dictograph, the inboard motor, the American monoplane, bibb lettuce, vaccines for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and typhus, the candy bon bon, the Coca Cola bottle, the compact digital disc and the pay toilet, among other things, find roots here. Its past citizens include a president of Liberia; a five-time candidate for President; at least 11 governors, including the first black governor in history; 20 members of Congress; the Secretary of Interior under Abraham Lincoln; the Secretary of Navy under Rutherford Hayes; diplomats to Mexico, Chile, Prussia, Argentina, Spain, China, Amsterdam, Denmark, Switzerland and Sierra Leone; the first female lawyer in Indiana; and Indiana's first congresswoman" (McCormick, "Historical Journey").

"Between 1720 and 1764, the area called `Terre Haute of the Wabash' was the unofficial dividing line between the French provinces of Canada and Louisiana" (Oakey). On October 5, 1811, General William Henry Harrison selected the site of Fort Harrison on the east bank of the Wabash River north of a small Wea (or Quiatenon) Indian village which was near the future location of Terre Haute. The first commander of Fort Harrison was General Harrison and later Captain Zachary Taylor, both men became Presidents of the United States. The official first settlement of pioneers was opened in 1816.

"There were five organizers of the Terre Haute Company, responsible for platting the village, were Jonathan Lindley, Abraham Markle, Hyacinth Laselle, and the Bullitt brothers" (McCormick, "History"). The first lots of Terre Haute were sold on October 30, and 31, 1816. On December 11, 1816, Indiana was admitted to the Union. The official birthday of the city is the day when the people decided to buy lots of land and called it Terre Haute. There were 268 lots sold out of the Vincennes land office for a total sale of $21,000. The lowest lots were selling for $60.00 and the highest being the lot on the corner of Water and Walnut Street. Terre Haute is 185 years old from the"arbitrary" date of birth of 1816. "A few years before 1816, there was a military post and a community called `Old Terre Haute' in the area" (McCormick, "History").

"Two months after Vigo County separated from Sullivan County on January 21, 1818, Terre Haute obtained the county seat status which increased its chances of survival. The county is named in honor of Colonel Francis Vigo who supplied George Rogers Clark with information, money and materials for use in ending British influence in the Northwest Territory. Francis Vigo wrote his will on Dec. 9, 1834, one of his wishes was a courthouse bell. In 1888 Vigo's wish finally came true, a courthouse bell. In 1832, approximately 1,000 residents voted to incorporate Terre Haute as a town and three years later, the National Road reached Terre Haute. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under Major Cornelius Ogden, located the headquarters of the National Road in Terre Haute. In 1849 marked the arrival of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Three years later, the Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad line completed its Indianapolis to Terre Haute route. In 1854, the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad was completed from Evansville to Terre Haute. The growth of transportion in Terre Haute helped build a prospering community in Terre Haute.

Terre Haute's economic profile changed after the Civil War. Pork processing declined from a peak of 108,791 hogs processed in 1852. In 1867 there was a discovery of black coal fields in Clay county. By 1870 Vigo county was ranked third in the state for coal mining and fifth in manufacturing. The city's dream was to become "The Pittsburgh of the West‚" but this was never fully realized because of inferior iron ore and the development of Lake County's steel industry. Over time the iron furnaces in Terre Haute shut down, but coal still stood second to farm produce as the area's most valuable commodity by 1900.

In the 1880's, agriculture predominated in Vigo county and Terre Haute had become of the nation's most important centers for flour and gristmill products, and fifth in production of distilled liquor. The role of corn was important in the making of alcoholic beverages and various food items. The Terre Haute Brewing Company was incorporated in 1889 and its predecessors date back to 1837. By 1892 the Terre Haute Brewing Company was the seventh largest brewer in the country. In 1904, the Terre Haute Brewing Company introduced "Champagne Velvet Beer" with the slogan, "Drink beer. It's good for you" (Indiana: A New History Guide). The company closed in 1958.

Growth of population in Terre Haute had increased from 4,051 in 1850 to 36,673 by 1900. "Terre Haute had the largest percentage of foreign born (11% in 1870) in west-central Indiana and the percentage of blacks increased from 2.4% to 4.0% between 1860 and 1900" (Indiana: A New History Guide). During this period of time, unions were beginning to take form in Terre Haute. The railroads, ironworks, coal mines, brick yards, breweries and distilleries all formed labor unions. The first to unionize was the Typographical Union in 1873 and by 1900 there were some 27 unions organized in the area. In 1881 Terre Haute hosted an organizational meeting of the midwest craft unions that led to the 1886 creation of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). "A major union organizer of the American Railway Union, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was Eugene V. Debs" (McCormick, "History").

Eugene Victor Debs was born on November 8, 1855. He was the greatest labor leader of his time, and ran five times for President of United States in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920 on the Socialist ticket. In 1920, he was serving a sentence in Atlanta Prison. He was convicted of espionage in connection with his speech made in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, June 16, 1918 against the participation of the United States in World War I. He was imprisoned under the 1917 Espionage Act. Petitions circulated for his release with more than 21,000 signatures from the citizens of Terre Haute. He received a million votes in the 1920 election and the man who defeated him, Warren G. Harding released him on Christmas Day, 1921. He spent his last four years devoted to reforming prisons and died on October 20, 1926.

While Eugene V. Debs was making giant leaps in labor rights, Richard Thompson, Daniel Voorhees and Thomas Nelson, were making a tremendous political impact in American history. All three were members of the elite group, the "Big Five" of Terre Haute in the 1890's. Two other members of the "Big Five" were William Riley McKeen, president of the Vandilia Railroad and William McLean, the founder of Indiana's 43rd Regiment. There are two forgotten men that have made a rich economical impact in the history of Terre Haute. William Linton, campaigned for the National Road and the navigability of the Wabash River and Thomas Blake saved the collapsing Wabash & Erie Canal project.

A native of Virginia, Richard W. Thompson, at the age of 82 had known every President since Jefferson. He moved to Indiana in his 20's and was elected as a state representative in 1834. In 1836 Thompson was elected to the state Senate, served as President Pro-Tem and married Harriet Gardiner. However, after this term of office Thompson did not seek re-election, but did remain on the board of trustees of Indiana University. In 1840 he was involved in the Great Whig Campaign that brought him into contact with the great men of the day. The next year, Thompson was elected to the Indiana 2nd district of the U.S. Congress. In 1843 he moved to Terre Haute. In 1847 he returned to Congress and then retired again, rejecting offers to be ambassador to Austria and recorder of the General Land Office. Richard Thompson served on the board of trustees of DePauw for 26 years. DePauw eventually honored him with a Doctor of Laws degrees. Thompson served on the Vandalia Railroad board of trustees and published the newspaper, Terre Haute Union. When the Civil War began Thompson was named Provost Marshal for Indiana and Commandant of Camp Dick Thompson. "Camp Dick Thompson was one of two training camps in Terre Haute, the first was Camp Vigo" (McCormick, "History"). In 1876 President Hayes appointed him Secretary of the Navy. Thompson was given the title of the "Ancient Mariner of the Wabash" (McCormick, "Big Five") to poke fun at him since he had no experience in the military when named Secretary of the Navy. An American destroyer was named after him early in the 20th Century. In 1880 he became Chairman of the American Department of the Panama Canal Company. At his death he was criticized for his conservatism. And although he was anti-Catholic his best friend was a local Catholic priest and he was often invited to St. Mary's of the Woods.

Daniel Voorhees, the "Tall Sycamore of the Wabash" (McCormick, "Big Five") is best remembered for his promotion of the building of the the Library of Congress, and for serving from 1877 to 1897 in the U.S. Senate. Voorhees was also known as one of Terre Haute's ``Big Five'' in prominence and one of the most eloquent speakers in Indiana. Voorhees was a native of Butler County, Ohio. He started practicing law in Covington, Indiana with the `Baron of Covington' and former U.S. Senator, Edward A. Hannagan. He achieved national prominence for defending John E. Cook, one of John Brown's lieutenants at Harper's Ferry and the nephew of then Indiana Governor Willard. Voorhees didn't save Cook from the gallows but his plea to the jury was famous for its oratory. Daniel Voorhees was elected to four terms in Congress, 1860, 1862, 1868 and 1870, and upon the death of Indiana's Senator Morton in 1869, was appointed to his unexpired term. In 1878 he was elected to serve as Senator and served three terms total until his death in 1897. While a Senator he had a national following and received more mail than any other member of the Senate at the time.

Thomas Henry Nelson, a proud citizen was one of the nation's most recognized ambassador and a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was born in 1820 in Kentucky. He married in 1844 and moved to Rockville, Indiana where his wife's family were friends with Covington's Senator Hannagan. By 1848 Nelson had gained a reputation as a grand trial lawyer and he lost his only attempt at public office running for Congress against Daniel Voorhees. He continued to be active in Republican politics often speaking around the midwest. He once rode the train to a political gathering in Indianapolis with his friend and Terre Haute attorney, Abram Hammond (later governor of Indiana) and an obscure tall, lanky‚ gentleman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln. From this trip the three shared a long-standing friendship.

In 1860, when Lincoln was elected President, he appointed Nelson to an ambassadorship in Chile, where that country grew to honor him and develop closer relationships with the United States. In 1864, while serving as ambassador, Nelson risked his life to save victims of the massive Dec. 8, 1864 fire of the Church of the Compania in Santiago, which claimed nearly 2,500 lives. Thomas Henry Nelson became a national hero in Chile. When President Grant was elected, he called Nelson the accomplish diplomat‚ and appointed him as United States minister to Mexico. Nelson's wife died while in Mexico. Later he returned to Terre Haute to practice law and to lecture until his death in 1896.

Thomas Holdsworth Blake was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Indiana in 1817. He was one of the three to cast Indiana's first electoral votes for president of the United States. Thomas Blake was the first presiding judge for the first Circuit Court in 1818, and represented the state of Indiana in Europe in 1847. Blake was also the first Terre Haute resident elected to the Indiana Senate and House. He served as trustee to the Wabash and Erie Canal from 1846 to 1849 and brought the canal headquarters to Terre Haute. Thomas Blake was instrumental in his efforts to route the National Road (Cumberland Road) and the Wabash and Erie Canal extending through Terre Haute.

Thomas Blake was one of the most influential citizens to the economic growth of Terre Haute. When appointed Chief Commissioner of the U.S. Land Office in Washington D.C., the canal project was collapsing and he returned in two years to save the canal. His return made Terre Haute the national headquarters of the largest manmade body of water ever built in the western hemisphere (468 miles long) from 1847 to 1872. Business of the Wabash & Erie Canal was conducted in Terre Haute from 1847 until 1876. Blake's attempt saved the canal and gave a boost to Terre Haute's economy. He died at the age of 57 on November 28, 1849 only 34 days after seeing his dream completed with the arrival of the first boat. Blake is one of the forgotten men of this city's rich history and is remembered to the few as the man most responsible for making Terre Haute the nation's transportion focus.

"No man did more for Terre Haute than William Crawford Linton in his day" (McCormick, "Historical Journey"). Both Linton Square which no longer exist and Linton Street which is now Sycamore Street were named for him. Linton was Vigo County commissioner who superintended construction of the first courthouse. For a decade, he held the position of president of the first Terre Haute library. Linton co-founded and authorized the construction of the Indiana Historical society. In 1827, Linton was elected to the Indiana Senate and lobbied for the National Road, Wabash River, State Bank of Indiana, and building libraries in every county. He especially fought for the Wabash and Erie Canal.

The `Case of the Overdue Book' cost Linton his fourth senate term and perhaps a Congressional seat. In 1831 Gov. James Brown Ray did not return a book he borrowed from the State Library. Linton spoke out against the Governor and lost his chances for re-election. The next governor of Indiana, Gov. Noble appointed Linton Indiana's first Canal Fund commissioner. Linton later became the State Bank of Indiana's fund commissioner. He died on January, 1835 during a business trip. Vigo township and Greene County town changed their names to honor Linton.

The history of Terre Haute has left an impressive impact in America through music, literature, politics and bravery. Paul Dresser, a Terre Haute resident composed Indiana's state song. His brother, Theodore Dreiser is one of the last century's most acclaimed novelist. Edward Roye, another Terre Haute resident became the fifth president of Liberia. John Palmer Usher was the secretary of interior under President Lincoln and James Hinton, lived in Terre Haute in his youth and became the first black Indiana state legislator. These individuals are just a few of the citizens that have made a difference in our country. When we look back at the frontiers of America, we must recognize the hard labor that the good citizens of Terre Haute put forth to build a better tomorrow.

Annotated Bibliography

Jerse, Dorothy, Clavert, Judith Stedman. Terre Haute: A Pictorial History. St. Louis: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc.,1993. A primary resource on the pictorial history of Terre Haute recapturing some of the city's triumphs, tragedies and everyday living.

Greninger, Howard. "Terre Haute was classic American hometown in 1926." Tribune-Star, July 22, 2000. Terre Haute in the 1920s was representative of a real American hometown.

McCormick, Mike. "History quiz offers surprise." Tribune-Star, July 23, 1995. Mike McCormick shares with us the story of Thomas Blake and his role in Terre Haute and the nation.

McCormick, Mike. "Linton Great Statesman." Tribune-Star, July 30, 1995. A brief history of William Crawford Linton who had the most impact on the first stages of Terre Haute

Oakey, C.. Greater Terre Haute and Vigo County: Closing the First Century's History of City and County Volume 1. Chicago, New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.  A detailed primary resource of articles and poems on the history of Terre Haute.

Oakey, C.. Greater Terre Haute and Vigo County: Closing the First Century's History of City and County Volume 2. Chicago, New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.  A detailed primary resource of articles and poems on the history of Terre Haute.

McCormick, Michael. "Big Five left impact century ago." Tribune- Star, September 5, 1991.  An secondary article on the five most influential Terre Haute citzens in the 1890s.

McCormick, Michael. "Of city's founders, Lasselle last known." Tribune-Star, September 5, 1991.  An secondary article on the city founders Abraham Markle, Jonathan Lundley, Thomas and Cuthbert Bullitt and Hyacinth Lasselle.

Spragg-Nenov, Stacia. "Terre Haute celebrates birthday today." Tribune-Star, October 30, 1991.  An secondary article on the birthday of Terre Haute that occcured in 1816.

Taylor, Robert, Errol Stevens, May Ponders, and Paul Brockman. Indiana: A New History Guide. Indianapolis, Indiana. Indiana Historical Society, 1989.  The Indiana: A New History Guide includes a brief history of Terre Haute from 1816 to 1989.

Proyect, Louis. "The Importance of Eugene V. Debs." Jan. 2, 2001. <<http://csf.colorado.edu/pen-1/2000I/msg01983.html>>  An essay on the importance Eugene V. Debs played in our nation.

Henson, Lori. "Voorhees man of his time." Tribune-Star, May 2, 1996.  A brief history of the ``Tall Sycamore of the Wabash'' who served from 1877 to 1897 in the U.S. Senate.

McCormick, Michael. "Historical Journey." Terre Haute, Indiana: Tribune Star, January 1, 1995.  An secondary article that introduces the people and events that have molded the city of Terre Haute.

McCormick, Micheal. "History." E-mail to Jonathan Moore. 28 Feb. 2001.  An email from Micheal McCormick on the important historical events that occured in Terre Haute, Indiana.

McCormick, Micheal. Personal Interview. 22 Jan. 2001. A personal interview on the history of Terre Haute from the founding of Terre Haute to the "Big Five."