Clarksville is the oldest American town in the old Northwest Territory,
which included present day Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and part
of Minnesota. Located on the Falls of the Ohio, the town was founded in
1783 by the legislature of colonial Virginia to recognize the
Revolutionary War service of George Rogers Clark and the men of his
small army. Clark conceived and commanded the campaign that secured the
entire Territory for the new United States.
People began to settle in Clarksville in 1784. A stockade, Fort Clark,
was built that year to provide protection for the settlers from the
Indians who still roamed the area. Sheriff John Jackson was appointed
the first law officer for Clarksville in 1785.
In 1803, General Clark built the only home he ever owned on a large
bluff. called “Point of Rocks,” overlooking both the town and the Falls
of the Ohio River. That same year, Meriwether Lewis joined William
Clark, General Clark’s brother and a resident of the town, in
Clarksville. The two men recruited the nucleus of the Corps of Discovery
from the surrounding area. They left Clarksville on their historic Lewis
and Clark Expedition on October 26, 1803.
The Buffalo Trace, an ancient trail leading from the salt licks of
Kentucky to the western plains, crossed the Ohio River at the Falls and
emerged on the west side of Clarksville, moving along Silver Creek
before crossing into Floyd County.
Indiana’s only state prison prior to 1860 was built in Clarksville in
1847 and remained until 1923, when it became the Colgate Palmolive
Clarksville’s earliest history can be seen in the outcrop of 300 million
year old Devonian fossils, that makeup the Ohio River bed along the
length of Clarksville’s river shore. The Interpretive Center of the
Falls of the Ohio State Park, located on the site of the old Civil War
muster site and hospital, Camp Joe Holt, brings visitors from all over