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Oldest American Town in the old Northwest Territory  

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 Company.

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 the world.