In 1811, Hugh McGary lived in a small cabin near what is now Princeton, Ind. The fur trader traveled often to see the friendlier Indian tribes in the forest area of extreme Southwest Indiana. He sometimes crossed the Ohio River to the Red Banks (now Henderson, Ky.) to do business with the owner of a mill, Jonathon Anthony. Besides, McGary was smitten with Anthony’s teenage daughter Mary.
As McGary floated across the Ohio to the Anthony property, he gazed back on the bank and decided it would be a good place for a home and his trading. On March 27, 1812, McGary walked to Vincennes and purchased the 440 acres of ground that would become the current Downtown of the River City. He built a cabin on the present site of CBS44 WEVV and started a trading post and a flat boat ferry service to the Red Banks side of the river.
His friend from Vincennes, Robert M. Evans, a colonel in the army, later a brigadier general after the War of 1812, helped him secure the land, and bought some plots from McGary to make a homestead himself. Evans lobbied the state government in 1818 to make Evansville, by then a thriving village of 1,200 people, the seat of the newest county, Vanderburgh, carved out of Warrick and Posey counties. Evansville was on its way.
A Quick Look Around:
1803 – Newburgh, Ind.
Originally settled as Sprinklesburg, one of the oldest towns in the Ohio Valley was renamed Newburgh in 1837.
1807 – Rockport, Ind.
Called Hanging Rock, after a huge wall of rock that jutted out over the river, the town’s name was changed to Mt. Duvall, then Rockport in 1820.
1810 – Henderson, Ky.
Settlers occupied the area as early as 1797; the town wasn’t established until 13 years later.
1814 – New Harmony, Ind.
The town of Harmony was settled by the Harmonists, early utopians, and renamed New Harmony when purchased by Robert Owen in 1824.
1814 – Princeton, Ind.
Patoka was originally to be the seat of the new county, but an outbreak of plague caused settlers to relocate to Prince Town.
1816 – Mount Vernon, Ind. Settled by Bowling Green, Ky., hunter Andrew McFadden, who happened upon the site by accident in 1806, the site was originally named McFadden’s Bluff.
1817 – Owensboro, Ky.
Settled as a river port along the Ohio River, it was a site of trading and passenger travel.
1822 – Darmstadt, Ind.
The town was mainly a German settlement.
1858 – Boonville, Ind.
Named for Ratliff Boon, a relative of famous Kentuckian Daniel Boone, the town’s name reflects the difference in spelling of the men’s surname.
1913 – Haubstadt, Ind.
The town was named for local businessman and early resident Henry Haub.
March 27, 1812 – Hugh McGary buys 440 acres from the U.S. Government in Vincennes and establishes homestead and trading post at the foot of what becomes Main Street and Riverside Drive (WEVV building present day).
1814 – Original Evansville plat laid out. Town named for Col. Robert Evans, friend of McGary and financial supporter of new town.
1818 – Vanderburgh County established with Evansville as the county seat.
1821 – First school established on new town square at Third and Main streets
1822 – Financially strapped and having lost his wife and two children to disease, McGary leaves Evansville, never to return.
1824 – Stagecoach service established to Vincennes.
1833–34 – Early flourmills built along Pigeon Creek.
1834 – Evansville announced as end spot for the new Wabash-Erie Canal. Anticipation leads to influx of settlers. A branch of the State Bank opens; later becomes Old National. First church established (became First Presbyterian Church).
1836 – John and William Law, James McCall and Lucius Scott establish Lamasco (combining their last names) adjacent to Evansville, to the west, to capitalize on development of the canal (Evansville annexes in 1857; becomes West Side).
1837 – Financial panic halts construction of canal for five years.
1841 – Lutheran Church established.
1841–43 – Canal construction resumes. (Completed in 1853, the canal was already obsolete — only two flat barges ever made the entire trip. Basin at Fifth and Court streets became site of 1891 courthouse.)
1845 – John A. Reitz builds planing mill near mouth of Pigeon Creek.
1847 – Evansville chartered as city, population: 4,000.
1848–50 – European crisis leads to West Side influx of German immigrants.
1851 – Riverfront wharf brings steamboat traffic and exploding commercial development. Indiana law prohibits slaves from escaping to Indiana. City leaders disregard, and Underground Railroad helps many slaves move north for nearly 15 years.
1852 – First gas light service is available.
1853 – Railroads reach Evansville.
1854 – First large public school built.
1855 – First Library constructed — 1,000 books donated.
1855–57 – Washington Hotel built at Third and Main, and new County Courthouse under construction on opposite corner. Courthouse burns but is rebuilt in 1857. Washington Hotel still stands, was Farmer’s Daughter restaurant, now apartments.
1858 – Population after annexation of Lamasco: 11,484.