Hoosier Dusty Files - December 24, 1824 - William Digby Purchased Land for Lafayette

A Year of Indiana History - 2016
A Year of Indiana History - 2016

December 24, 1824 - William Digby Purchased Land for Lafayette
County - Tippecanoe
Platted - 1825
Incorporated - 1853
Founded by - William Digby
Named for - General Lafayette
Area - 27.74 sq mi
Elevation - 692 ft
Population (2010) - 67,140
ZIP code - 47901, 47904, 47905, 47909
Area code - 765
Major Highways
Interstate I-65
US Route 52
US Route 31
Indiana State Road 25
Indiana State Road 26
Indiana State Road 38
Lafayette derives its name from the French Revolutionary War here, Marquis de Lafayette
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de la Fayette (September 6, 1757 - May 20, 1834)
The son of Michel du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette and Marie Louise Jolie de La Rivière, Motier was a native of Le Puy-en-Velay, France. The Motier's possessed land, wealth and influence. Commissioned an officer in the French army at age thirteen, Motieer gained his father's title when his father died in 1757. His mother died in 1770, bequeathing him his wealth at age thirteen. La Fayette married the twelve-year-old Marie Adrienne Françoise in 1773 when La Fayette was fifteen. The couple traveled to Versailles to live. The couple would be devoted spouses until her death in 1807. While in Versailles, La Fayette learned of the American colonies struggle against the British and resolved to travel to the colonies. He arrived, at age nineteen, near Georgetown, South Carolina, on June 13, 1777. La Fayette would go on to become a hero of the American Revolution and a devoted friend of George Washington. Many places in the United States bear the name of the beloved La Fayette.
French occupation of the area began in 1717 when they constructed Fort Ouiatenon on the north side of the Wabash River about three miles south of present day Lafayette. The fort developed into a hub of fur traders, Amerindians and merchants. The fort was the first fortified settlement in Indiana. The Wea tribe had a village on the other side of the river. During the French and Indian War, British forces captured the fort in 1761 from the French and used it as a base of operations of Amerindian attacks against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. An American force captured it in 1778. President George Washington had the fort destroyed in 1791. A trader named William purchased the land for the town on December 24, 1824. He named the new town Lafayette after the famous French American Revolutionary War hero.
William Digby, Jr. (1802 - May 23, 1864)
The son of William Digby and  Catharine Bailey Digby, William was native to Kentucky. He spent some years in Ohio while still a young child, then agreed to become a “bound boy” for a man named John Sample at Winchester, Indiana. A “bound boy was essentially an indentured servant that agreed to work for another person for a specified length of time in exchange for food, clothing and shelter. Digby had little in the way of a formal education. When his term of service expired, Digby moved to Illinois to live the life of a river trader along the Wabash River. In this way, he learned the intracacities of the river. When he learned that the government would open land sales in the area he traveled to the land office in Crawfordsville, purchasing the land of December 24, 1824. Digby would later plat the nearby town of Americus when he learned that the Wabash and Erie Canal would terminate there. Instead, the canal extended into Lafayette, bypassing his settlement. Digby would spend his life working on the river, passing away in Lafayette. He is interred in Greenbush Cemetery.
It became the county seat for Tippecanoe County. The Wabash and Erie Canal connected the town to the Great Lakes from the 1840's until operations ceased in 1874. The development of the railroad made canals obsolete. By the 1850's railroads reached Lafayette. Purdue University was established on May 6, 1869. The Purdue Agricultural Works Building was abandoned by the University and purchased by the Lafayette Car Works for its new factory in 1880.
Portions of these articles excerpted from the author's books:
A Day in Indiana History - January
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - East Central Edition
Indiana possesses a rich history that is fun to read and learn. This Hoosier Dusty Files is in an easy to read “this day in history format” and includes articles from the author's A Year in Indiana History series. Visitors may read the articles as they appear or purchase the book:
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning