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Evansville History, Indiana

Evansville History – The Initial Years

Evansville history is 200 years long – historians have zeroed in on 1812 as the year of the foundation for this third-largest city of Indiana (after Indianapolis and Fort Wayne). This was the year when the first settler Colonel Hugh McGary (Junior) made a purchase of 200 acres of land from the federal government with the intent of settling there permanently.

Two years later, Colonel McGary started attracting people by selling plots from his land-holding. He sold a plot to Colonel Robert Morgan Evans (the same Evans who had fought for the US Army under the command of General William Henry Harrison in the War of 1812) and named the settlement after him. Thereafter the community was re-planned and when the Vanderburgh County was created in 1818, Evansville was chosen as the county seat. Evansville was formally incorporated the following year.

Evansville History – The Rest of the 19th Century

Evansville was badly hit by the economic depression of the 1820s and then the population was struck by an outbreak of milk sickness. (An Evansville physician by the name of Dr William Trafton ultimately came up with a treatment for the deadly disease, bringing both relief and recognition from the community). To add to the woes of Evansville and its people, the Ohio River froze in the winter of 1831-32, adversely affecting river-trade. The following summer the population was badly affected by cholera.

Evansville was progressing amidst all this and by 1936, it was named the southern boundary of the Wabash & Erie Canal (the canal that would eventually link the Great Lakes to the Ohio River). The work on this canal project came to an end in 1853, resulting in economic growth. Economic prosperity led to an increase in population as Europeans arrived in Evansville in search of livelihood and took up jobs in local factories and foundries. In between, Evansville was chartered as a city in 1847. 1853 proved significant in another front – this is the year when Evansville’s first railroad, Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad began its first operations to/from the city.

The remaining part of the 19th century elapsed in more or less the same way and by 1890, Evansville had a 50000-strong population.

Evansville History – 20th Century to Present Times

The 20th century did not begin too well for Evansville as the city was hit by successive floods in 1884, 1913 and 1937. Seeing all the damage and destruction caused by the floods, a giant levee was erected to protect the city.

Evansville was once again back into action during the WWII days when Tank Landing Ships (or LSTs) and P-47 Thunderbolt planes were being produced at Evansville’s factories.

Evansville history took a new turn in the 1950s as the city underwent rapid industrialization and progress. The beginning of the University of Southern Indiana in the 1960s was another important chapter in Evansville history as it proved a positive step in the cultural progress of the city and its population. By the 1980s, Evansville became a name to be reckoned in every sphere – commercial, cultural, educational, industrial and social – and was consequently recognized as the regional hub of the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky Tri-State Area.

The present city’s excellent transportation networks connecting it to cities like Louisville, St. Louis, etc. make it a perfect global city. No wonder that the city was named ‘All-America City’ by the National Civic League in 2004. Disaster struck the city the very next year as it was hit by the F3 Tornado. The indomitable spirits of the city and its people, however, have reinstated the city on its path of progress.

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