History of Evansville, Indiana

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Evansville, county seat of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, was formed following the War of 1812. Before white settlement, it was the site of an ancient Indian community, as witnessed by Angel Mounds, now a state historic site in Evansville.

The town, established in 1817, was named in honor of Robert Morgan Evans, one of the founding members of the settlement. Robert had earlier served as an officer under General William Henry Harrison during the 1812 war. During the early 1800s, the Angel family, from which the Angel Mounds State Historic Site received its name, settled in this location along the Ohio River.

Evansville was incorporated in 1819. The large scale trade across the Ohio River led to its economic prosperity. The economy received a boost after the completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1843, which connected the town with Toledo, Ohio, almost 400 miles away. The canal led to rapid advancement of the town’s economy. The town was given a city charter in 1847.

In 1850, the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad became the first railroad to reach Evansville. In 1857, the first daily mail route to Evansville by stage was established. Local lumberman John August Reitz built the Reitz Home in 1871, which today is Evansville's only house museum. The main street was paved in 1889. The first bridge across the Ohio River came up in 1932. In the great flood on the Ohio River in 1937, 46 percent of Evansville was under water.

The Evansville Crimson Giants played in the National Football League in 1921-22. The city’s Bosse Field, built in 1915, is the third oldest baseball stadium in the country. It still hosts professional games. Evansville also boasts Indiana's oldest and largest zoo, the Mesker Park Zoo, established in 1928, and the Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science.

The University of Evansville, a private university, opened in 1854. The public University of Southern Indiana was founded in 1965.

The Daughters of Charity opened St. Mary's Hospital in 1871 in a former government hospital for river men. Deaconess Hospital began in a converted home in 1893.

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