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About Clark County
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Local Indiana History - Geneology

Indiana Historical Bureau

The above referenced map is from Gailbraith's 1897 Railway Mail Service Map.

Clark County lies on the North bank of the Ohio River. A significant gateway to the state of Indiana, Clark County’s settlement began in 1783. The state of Virginia rewarded General George Rogers Clark and his regiment for their victorious capture of Forts Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes from the British by granting them 150,000 acres of land. A small portion of this land, 1000 acres, became known as Clarksville. Clarksville, the first authorized American settlement in Northwest Territory, was founded the following year in 1784.

Organized in 1801, Clark County originally included all or part of Floyd, Clark, Harrison, Washington, Scott, Jennings, Jackson, Ripley, Decatur, Bartholemew, Franklin, Shelby, Rush, Fayette, Union, Randolph, Henry, Wayne, Jay, and Switzerland Counties. The platting of Jeffersonville occurred a year later.

From its beginning Clark County’s history, culture and growth has been linked to the development of the river. The use of the steamboat in the early 1800’s to transport goods and services provided Clark County opportunities for commercial and industrial growth. In 1832, James Howard founded the Howard shipyards making Clark County a leader in ship building and bringing with it economic growth.

The railroad brought further economic growth. Two railroad lines, the Monon, which spanned from New Albany to Chicago and the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis railroad, provided Clark County and southern Indiana with access to the northern trading centers of Indianapolis and Chicago.

Industries locating to Clark County during the 1800’s included the Louisville Cement Company in Speed, Indiana and the Ford Plate Glass Company established in Jeffersonville in 1876.

On September 23, 1878 the county seat returned to Jeffersonville from Charlestown, after an absence of 66 years.

During the 1920’s, Clark County attracted the Colgate-Palmolive Company to the Clarksville Riverfront. Colgate purchased the former Indiana Reformatory building in 1923. The Company rehabilitated and adapted the building for its dedication in 1924.

Throughout the years of the Second World War, Clark County prospered. The United States began construction on the Indiana Arsenal near Charlestown, Indiana in 1940. Producing smokeless powder for the conflict overseas, the arsenal, at times, employed as many as 20,000. During the war, Howard shipyards was Commissioned by the Navy to produce landing craft. Later Howard shipyards reorganized as Jeffersonville Boat and Machine Company (Jeffboat) — a current major employer (1991).

After World War II ended, Clark County as well as the United States experienced significant residential and commercial growth. The Interstate Highway System act of 1956 aided this growth. Because of the improved access and efficiency brought by the interstate system, especially Interstate 65, new development in the form of subdivisions and shopping centers located near these roads.

Mindful of its rich past, Clark County progresses toward the future boasting a diversified economic base and excellent development opportunities.

Clark County history has been closely associated with the development of the Ohio River. From its beginnings, Clark County relied on the river for economic opportunities. Clark County has diversified its economic base, lessened its dependency on the river, and continues to develop in new directions. However, the county still looks to the river as one link to its significant pioneer heritage.

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