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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Shop > Books Listed by Topic > The Indiana Historian > Indianapolis, the Capital, Part 2 > Government Moves to Indianapolis Government Moves to Indianapolis

First state building in Indianapolis

The building on the left is the first state structure, built to house the offices of the state treasurer and auditor. It was located on the corner of Washington and Tennessee (Capitol) streets. Samuel Merrill lived here with his family. The state auditor, William H. Lilley, had an office on the second floor.

Merrill's daughter, Jane Merrill Ketcham, wrote of her father's office: "The office was paved with brick. Full one-third of it was covered with a vault, as we called it. It was of brick built up four feet, plastered and with an iron door on top. Up and down thro' this double locked door went boxes and bags of silver." Ketcham presented her reminiscences to her children, Christmas 1898.

Source: Indiana State Library, Indiana Division, Manuscripts.

Schrader, Indianapolis Remembered, 114.

The following is excerpted from "Two of Indiana's Capitals," a handwritten manuscript by Colonel Samuel Merrill, in the Colonel Samuel Merrill Collection, Indiana State Library, Indiana Division, Manuscripts. The manuscript is not dated, but Merrill writes that he was born seven years after 1824 and was sixty-four at the time of the writing, circa 1895.

The text here is reproduced line for line, with original punctuation and spelling. The lines of dots indicate where text has been omitted.

Colonel Merrill was the son of Treasurer of State Samuel Merrill. Since the move he describes took place seven years before the author was born, he apparently obtained his information from versions told by his family and others. It was, obviously, a momentous event for those who took part in the journey.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .It was a lovely day in the

latter part of October 1824 when the State

Treasurer who had charge of all there was

movable belonging to Indiana, started from

Corydon to the new seat of government.

His little family occupied a large cov-

ered wagon, & with them beside the docu

ments & records, was the strong box con-

taining about twenty five thousand Dollar.

Five powerful horses, four whit

& the one in the lead a magnificent

gray, driven by Mr. Seibert, drew the

wagon through every mudhole through

out the long journey without once

stalling. Behind came another wagon

drawn by two horses, & in this convey

ance was the family of Mr. John Douglass,

the State Printer. Tied behind

this vehicle was a cow, invaluable

for the milk she furnished, to the little

pilgrims. There was a saddle horse

ridden by Mr. Douglass.

Four men, two mothers, one beau-

tiful girl of sixteen, one boy of eleven,

& six little children.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The first days journey was

eleven miles, & the place of entertainment

at night was a small one room frame

house. Frame dwellings were rare

in the country, but the pioneer who

built this, was wealthy enough to own

a little sawmill, & cut the lumber

himself. The men slept in the

wagons, for the money had to be guar-

ded. Under the head of the Treasurer

were two flint lock horse pistols,

carefully loaded for robbers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The floor of the little house

where the families stayed was cov-

ered with slumberers . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The three little girls who slept on

the floor that night, still honor

Indianapolis by making it their home . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The road, if road you

might call it, was so bad that at

times the men had to take axes, &

cut a way thro. the woods around

the mudholes. Once the State Printers

wagon stuck in the mire & would

not come out, till all hands & all

horses overcame its obstinacy.

After going or trying to go all

day long, the travellers found at night

they were only two miles & a half

from their morning starting place.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Flour was very scarce, but

at one house, the hostess as a great

treat made biscuits for supper.

As she had been dyeing yarn,

the blueing on her hands colored the

dough, & gave the bread a streaked

appearance. The grown folks did

not seem to care for biscuits that

night, but the children enjoyed

them immensely.

At another place, all the cooking

utensils the poor woman had was

a deep skillet with an arched cover.

In the misfortunes that over

take us all in this life, the skillet

had cracked & gone to pieces, so

she turned the lid over, & made a

skillet of it, in which she boiled the

water for the rye coffee, & the sage

tea, then baked the bread, then fried

the meat, & everybody was happy.

Whenever the caravan came to a

small hamlet like Columbus or Frank

lin, Mr. Seibert who was very proud

of his team, would put immense sleigh

bells in arches over the horses shoulders

to give everybody to understand that

something important was coming.

After ten days journey, it being

early in November, as they approached

Indianapolis, coming along the road

now called South Meridian St. the

happy teamster, feeling that this was

the proudest day of his life, refusing

to listen to the pleadings of the ladies

to the contrary, decked the horses

with the loud sounding bells, & sent

forward a country man, who chanced

to be passing, to inform the people

that the seat of government was

coming. At the word, out poured

most of the five hundred inhabitants

boys, girls, men & women to see a

sight that will never again be

seen in Indiana.

When the teams stopped at Blake &

Hendersons tavern . . . every citizen

went home rubbing his hands & saying

the fortune of Indianapolis is made.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Merrill submitted his report on the move to the Indiana Senate on January 11, 1825. The final cost reported for the move was $65.55. Senate Journal, 1825, p. 7.