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Indiana Commission on Public Records

ICPR > State Archives > Collections > Posey County Circuit Court Historical Records at the Indiana State Archives > An introduction to Posey County, its history and its court records > Posey County, Indiana Posey County, Indiana

A painting of Thomas Posey, ca. 1785.A painting of Thomas Posey, ca. 1785.

Location: Posey County occupies the southwestern corner of Indiana, known as the "pocket," where it meets Vanderburgh and Gibson Counties on its eastern and northern borders, and the Ohio and Wabash Rivers on its southern and western borders. The county was named in honor of Thomas Posey (1750-1818), who was an officer during the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars, and Governor of Indiana Territory from 1813 to 1816. Posey County was formed from parts of Gibson and Warrick Counties in 1814. It previously was part of Knox County and acquired its present boundaries when Vanderburgh County was formed from parts of Gibson, Warrick, and Posey Counties.

Geography: Posey County is located at the juncture of two regions of Indiana: 1) the Till Plains and 2) the Southern Hills and Lowlands. A small northwest portion of the county occupies the former, while the rest of the county is dominated by hills and lowlands. In sum, Posey County contains 420 square miles, or 268,000 acres of land. The leading streams are the Ohio, Wabash, and Black Rivers, and Big and other small creeks which bisect the county, giving ample drainage. Much of the land is arable and suitable for agricultural use, though marshes are found in many lowland places. Several large mounds dot the county's landscape; bluffs rise above the Ohio and Wabash giving a wide outlook over the rivers and valleys. The lowest point in Indiana - 320 ft. (98 meters) above sea level - is in Posey County, where the Wabash River flows into the Ohio River.

Establishment: Posey County - the twelfth county created in the state - was formed out of Gibson and Warrick Counties on September 7, 1814 by an act of the Territorial Legislature. On December 18, 1815, a small strip of land in southern Gibson County was attached to Posey. A second tract of land of considerable size was separated from Gibson County and added to Posey on January 1, 1817. When Vanderburgh County was formed on January 7, 1818, Posey lost approximately 20% of its eastern area. A small strip of Posey's northern area was assigned to Gibson on December 31, 1821. The boundaries of Posey County were altered for the last time on January 6, 1823, when a strip of Gibson was affixed to Posey.

An outline map of Posey County showing city and township locations.

 

Settlement: The territory within the present confines of Posey County was at one time occupied, as was all of Indiana, by several Indian tribes who were organized into the Miami Confederation. This organization, which dates back to the early seventeenth-century, was formed for the defense of lands over which the tribes claimed ownership against the encroachments of the Five Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy. The Miami Confederation was made up of several of the central Algonquin tribes, of which in Indiana the Potowatomies, Weas, and Piankashaws were the most powerful. One of their principal settlements was along the Wabash River, about fifty miles south of Vincennes, near where the community of Harmonie/New Harmony was later established. By the time the first European settlers came to the area the tribes were weakened by defeats in war and the disruptions in their traditional life.

During the 1700's, the French made their claim to the area known as the great Northwest, building a fort at the mouth of the Wabash River as early as 1750. After France's defeat in the French and Indian Wars, England took possession of the area. Before the establishment of the Northwest Territory, the area of present-day Indiana was a county of Virginia.

The first European to settle what is now Posey County was Thomas Jones who built a cabin near the mouth of the Wabash River sometime between 1790 and 1800. He was followed by Samuel Block, Nathaniel Miller, William and Isaac James, George Henchet, and Peter Roach. Roach also settled at the mouth of the Wabash, and for many years his place was the landing and trading point for all flatboat business.

Large-scale settlement of Posey County began in June, 1814, when George Rapp and his followers established the community of Harmonie. These people were self-sufficient and made many improvements during their ten year stay. After the Rappite departure, settlement continued when Robert Owen and William Maclure established New Harmony in January, 1825.

County map with contiguous southwest Indiana counties.County map with contiguous southwest Indiana counties.

 

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