Monday, May 1, 2017

Hoosier Dusty Files - May 01, 1813 - Corydon Becomes Capital of Indiana Territory

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

May 01, 1813 - Corydon Becomes Capital of Indiana Territory
The Indiana General Assembly passed the State Capital Act on March 11, 1813 that would move the Indiana Territorial Capital from Vincennes to Corydon. The law became effective on May 1, 1813.
When the United States Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, they placed the Territorial Capital at Vincennes, then the approximate center of population in the huge expanse of land. By 1813 proponents for statehood, anticipating that Indiana would soon become a state passed an ordinance that moved the Territorial Capital to Corydon, which was closer to the population center of the proposed state of Indiana.
Corydon
Early in the Nineteenth Century, a man named Edward Smith migrated into the Corydon area at a spot in a valley and a spring near the current fairgrounds. Territorial Governor William Harrison traveled through the area and stopped at the Smith's cabin to rest. Harrison purchased a plot of ground at the junction of Big and Little Indian Creeks. Local lore says he planned to establish a town there and asked Smith's daughter to name it. She suggested a name from Harrison's favorite hymn, Pastoral Elegy.
The first stanza of the hymn goes like this:
"What sorrowful sounds do I hear,
Move slowly along in the gale,
How solemn they fall on my ear,
As softly they pass through the vale.
Sweet Corydon's notes are all o'er,
Now lonely he sleeps in the clay,
His cheeks bloom with roses no more,
Since death called his spirit away."
He used the name. He later sold this property to Harvey Heth, who was a surveyor. Heth platted Corydon in 1808
Harvey Heth (1770–1816)
Heth was a native of Virginia who moved to the Indiana Territory in the late 1700's. He served a short time in the Territorial Legislature and surveyed most of Harrison County. While in the legislature, he served on the commission that picked the new capital at Corydon. He donated some of his land for the town's use. He also designed his friend, Squire Boone's tomb
Move from Vincennes
Dennis Pennington, Speaker of the Territorial Legislature, started building the building that would eventually house the Territorial and State capitol building in 1811 or 1812. The legislature also considered Madison and Jeffersonville for the capital, however they eventually settled on Corydon because of its central location. On November 3, 1813, the Indiana Territorial Legislature passed a bill that authorized the move to Corydon. It served that role until 1816, when Indiana became a state. It then served as the state's capital until the legislature moved it to the more centrally located Indianapolis in 1825.
The Indiana Territory Legislature contracted with Dennis Pennington to build the new Territorial capitol at Corydon. Pennington was a builder and prominent citizen of Corydon and served as Speaker of the House. He began construction of the building in either 1811 or 1812. The building would serve as the Harrison County Court House at first, then as the territorial capitol when it moved to Corydon. When the legislature did move in 1813, they met in the building.
The Capitol
Pennington used limestone quarried nearby to construct the building, which was two stories tall and forty feet square. The two and a half foot thick stone foundation delved three feet into the earth and supported the two-foot thick stone walls. The lower room had fifteen-foot ceilings, the upper floor ten feet. One large fireplace on each floor provided heat. The cost to build the capitol was $1500.
The First Legislature
The first General Assembly consisted of 29 representatives, 10 senators and the lieutenant governor met in the building in November 1816. Indiana received Statehood on December 16, 1816. Corydon remained the State Capital until 1825, when it moved to the new city of Indianapolis on the White River in the center of the state. After the capital move to Indianapolis, the building became the Harrison County Courthouse. Harrison County renovated the building in 1873, covering the stone floors with wood and closing the fireplaces. In 1917, the State of Indiana purchased the building with the intent of preserving it. Harrison County built the current courthouse in 1929 and the State took over the building. The State renovated the building to its original condition.
This article exerpted from the author’s book:
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - South 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
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