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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Location: Knox County.

The oldest town in Indiana, Vincennes retains to this day something of its French inheritance. The initial date of settlement is not known, but a French trading post may have been located at the site as early as 1683. Settlers were known to have been residing there by 1727, and a fort was constructed about 1732. The early settlement was called by various names, such as Au Poste, Post Ouabache (Wabash), and Post St. Francis Xavier. After Indians captured and executed the commander of the fort, Francois Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, in 1736, the settlers named the town after him. Of the three earliest French settlements in present Indiana—the other two being Fort Ouiatenon and Fort Miami—only Vincennes survived and prospered.

After the French and Indian War, the British took over the settlement and built a new fort, Fort Sackville. In 1779, George Rogers Clark, recognizing Vincennes' strategic location, captured it for the United States. When Indiana Territory was created in 1800, Vincennes became the seat of government, and William Henry Harrison was appointed Governor. In 1813, the capital was moved to Corydon.

The most tangible remaining evidence of French influence in Vincennes today is the Old French Cemetery, located on the grounds of the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, at Second and Church Streets. This cemetery contains the remains of many early settlers; the earliest burial was in 1741. The cathedral, construction of which began in 1825, was built on or near the site of a chapel that had been erected when Vincennes was established.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005