Parke County, Indiana

Parke County, Indiana

Parke County courthouse in Rockville, Indiana
Map of Indiana highlighting Parke County
Location in the U.S. state of Indiana
Map of the United States highlighting Indiana
Indiana's location in the U.S.
Founded 1821
Named for Benjamin Parke
Seat Rockville
Largest town Rockville
  Total 449.98 sq mi (1,165 km2)
  Land 444.66 sq mi (1,152 km2)
  Water 5.32 sq mi (14 km2), 1.18%
  (2010) 17,339
  Density 39/sq mi (15/km²)
Congressional district 8th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Footnotes: Indiana county number 61

Parke County lies in the western part of the U.S. state of Indiana along the Wabash River. The county was formed in 1821 out of a portion of Vigo County. According to the 2010 census, the population was 17,339, an increase of 0.6% from 17,241 in 2000.[1] The county seat is Rockville.[2]

It has a population density of about 39 inhabitants per square mile (15/km2).[3] The county contains six incorporated towns and many unincorporated communities. It is divided into 13 townships which provide local services.[4][5]

Two U.S. Routes and five state highways pass through or into the county, along with one major railroad line.[6][7]

Parke County has 31 covered bridges and describes itself as the Covered Bridge Capital of the World. It is the site for the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival which has been held in October each year.[8]


This area had been occupied for thousands of years by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples. The first European settlement of the western area of Indiana along the Wabash River was by French-Canadian colonists, who founded Vincennes in 1703.

After the Seven Years' War, France ceded its territory in North America to Great Britain. In turn, after the American Revolutionary War, the Crown ceded this territory east of the Mississippi River to the new United States, including land it did not control, which was occupied by Native American nations.

In 1811 the Shawnee chief Tecumseh rallied several tribes to try to expel the European-American settlers from the area. When General William Henry Harrison took an army from Vincennes to the Battle of Tippecanoe in late 1811 to fight with the Indians, Zachariah Cicott served as a scout. Cicott had traded with Indians up and down the Wabash River, starting around 1801. The trail taken by Harrison's army, on its way to and from the battle site in Tippecanoe County, passed through the area that later became Parke County. The settlement of Armiesburg in Wabash Township was so named because Harrison and his army crossed the Raccoon Creek and camped near there on their way to the battle.[9]

Formed on January 9, 1821 from a portion of Vigo County,[2] Parke County was formed by an act approved by the state legislature. It was named for Captain Benjamin Parke, who commanded a troop of light Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe.[10] Parke was elected as a delegate of Indiana Territory to the U.S. Congress. In 1821, he was appointed as U.S. District Judge for Indiana.

First located at Roseville, the county seat was relocated to Armiesburg. In 1822, the county settled on Rockville as the permanent location. The state act had called for construction of county buildings to start within one year of the county's formation; but in the event, it did not start until 1824. The first courthouse was completed on the Rockville town square in 1826. The log structure doubled as a church.[11]

The old Parke County courthouse (1832-1879)

In 1832 the log building was replaced by a brick structure, which served for more than 40 years until 1879, when it was demolisted for replacement by a new stone courthouse. The architects for this building were Thomas J. Tolan and his son Brentwood of Fort Wayne; they designed seven Indiana courthouses, as well as several in Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee.

Construction of the courthouse at Rockville was completed in 1882 at a cost of about $79,000.[n 1][13] Items deposited in the cornerstone included documents of the town's history, postage stamps, several varieties of grain grown in the county, coins, and photographs. A dedication ceremony took place on February 22, 1882, the anniversary of George Washington's birthday. The clock and bell were added later at a cost of about $1,500.[14]

The Wabash and Erie Canal was completed through the area around 1850 and ran through Parke County on the east side of the Wabash River. It served several communities along the banks of the river until it was discontinued in the 1870s.[15]


Map of Parke County, showing townships and settlements

Parke County lies in western Indiana about halfway between the state's north and south borders. It is bordered by Fountain County to the north; Montgomery County to the northeast; Putnam County to the east; Clay County to the south; and Vigo County to the southwest. The county's western border is defined by the Wabash River; on the west side of the river lies Vermillion County, beyond which is the state of Illinois, less than 5 miles (8.0 km) from Parke County's northwestern corner. The state capital of Indianapolis lies about 60 miles (97 km) to the east.[16]

The entire county is within the drainage area of the Wabash River. North of Rockville, the gently undulating land is glacial till resulting from Wisconsinan glaciation. The Shelbyville moraine divides this from the nearly level Illinoisan till plain in the south part of the county.[17]

Turkey Run State Park is located in northern Parke County. It was set aside as one of Indiana's first state parks and consists of 2,382 acres (964 ha) of land.[18] The county also contains a portion of Shades State Park, a 3,082-acre (1,247 ha) park about 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Turkey Run; the majority of Shades is located in Montgomery County.[19]

According to the 2010 census, the county has a total area of 449.98 square miles (1,165.4 km2), of which 444.66 square miles (1,151.7 km2) (or 98.82%) is land and 5.32 square miles (13.8 km2) (or 1.18%) is water.[3]

Cities and towns

Parke County contains six incorporated settlements. The largest is Rockville with a population of about 2,600; located near the center of the county at the intersections of U.S. Routes 36 and 41, it is also the county seat. Bloomingdale is about 5 miles (8.0 km) to the north-northwest of Rockville and has a population of 335. To the north-northeast of Rockville lies Marshall, on Indiana State Road 236; its population is 324. To the southwest of Rockville, Mecca has a population of 335. Montezuma is at the far western edge of the county on U.S. Route 36; its population is 1,022. Finally, Rosedale is near the southern border of the county and has a population of 725.



Two United States highways pass through the county. U.S. Route 36 passes east-west through the middle of the county, entering from Putnam County to the east, through Rockville and Montezuma, then into Vermillion County to the west.[20] U.S. Route 41 enters from Fountain County to the north and intersects U.S. Route 36 in Rockville; it goes southwest toward Clinton before continuing south to Vigo County and Terre Haute, Indiana.[21]

Indiana State Road 47 begins at U.S. Route 41 in the northern part of the county and goes east into Montgomery County, veering north to Crawfordsville.[22] Indiana State Road 59 enters from Clay County to the south and runs north through the eastern part of the county until it terminates at Indiana State Road 236, which runs east from U.S. Route 41.[23][24] Indiana State Road 163 runs for less than a mile in Parke County, crossing the river at Clinton and terminating at U.S. Route 41 in the far southwest corner of the county.[25] In the far northwestern corner, Indiana State Road 234 enters from Cayuga and runs for less than a mile to Lodi before going north and leaving the county.[26]

A small portion of a major CSX Transportation railroad line passes through the southwest corner of the county, entering from Clinton to the west, then going south toward Terre Haute. Another CSX line enters the far southeastern corner of the county on its way from Terre Haute to Indianapolis.[7]


Historically a rural county with extensive agriculture, today Parke County's economy is supported by a labor force of approximately 8,050 workers. The unemployment rate in November 2011 was 9.6%.[27]

Climate and weather

Rockville, Indiana
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: The Weather Channel[28]

In recent years, average temperatures in Rockville have ranged from a low of 19 °F (−7 °C) in January to a high of 87 °F (31 °C) in July, although a record low of −25 °F (−32 °C) was recorded in January 1994 and a record high of 109 °F (43 °C) was recorded in July 1936. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 2.25 inches (57 mm) in February to 4.89 inches (124 mm) in July.[28] From 1950 through 2009, eight tornadoes were reported in Parke County; none resulted in any deaths or injuries, but the total estimated property damage was over $280,000.[29]

Notable people

Warder Clyde Allee was born in Bloomingdale in 1885. He attended Earlham College and the University of Chicago, studying zoology and ecology and receiving his Ph.D. in 1912. He taught, conducted research, and wrote a number of books; among other accomplishments, he identified what became known as the Allee effect. He died in Gainesville, Florida in 1955 at age 69.[30]

Gordon Allport

Gordon Allport was born in Montezuma in 1897; when he was six years old, his family moved to Ohio. He attended Harvard University and received a Ph.D. in psychology in 1922; his focus was on personality traits. He began teaching at Harvard in 1924, and published a number of works in the following years. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1967 at the age of 69.[31]

William Henry Harrison Beadle was born in a log cabin in Parke County in 1838. His father offered him a farm, but he accepted $1,000 for an education instead and studied civil engineering at the University of Michigan. He fought in the Civil War on the side of the Union and became a brigadier general. After the war, he was named surveyor-general of the Dakota Territory. Later he became president of the Madison State Normal School (now Dakota State University), then taught geography there after his presidency. He died in 1915 at the age of 77.[32]

Mordecai Brown in 1904

Baseball great Mordecai Brown was born in the unincorporated town of Nyesville in Parke County on October 19, 1876. He lost parts of two fingers on his right hand in a farm machinery accident, hence his later nickname "Three Finger". He was also called "Miner" because he had worked in coal mines in western Indiana before his baseball career. He began in the minor leagues in Terre Haute in 1901 and joined the major leagues in 1903, retiring in 1916. He died in Terre Haute in 1948 at age 71.[33]

Grover Jones was born in Rosedale in 1893 and grew up in the Terre Haute area. He became a short story writer, screenwriter, and film director, writing for over 100 films. He died in Hollywood, California in 1940 at age 46.[34]

Knute Cauldwell was born in Parke County and played in the early years of the National Football League.


The county's first newspaper was called The Wabash Herald and was published beginning in 1829. After being sold and renamed several times, it was successively called the The Rockville Intelligencer, The Olive Branch, The Parke County Whig and The Rockville Republican. Several other papers came and went; as of 1912, several newspapers were published in the county: the Republican, the Tribune, the Montezuma Enterprise, and the Bloomingdale World, as well as papers printed in Rosedale and Marshall.[35] The original Wabash Herald continues and since 1977 has been called the Parke County Sentinel.[36]


The county government is a constitutional body granted specific powers by the Constitution of Indiana and the Indiana Code. The county council is the legislative branch of the county government and controls all spending and revenue collection. Representatives are elected from county districts. The council members serve four-year terms and are responsible for setting salaries, the annual budget and special spending. The council also has limited authority to impose local taxes, in the form of an income and property tax that is subject to state level approval, excise taxes and service taxes.[37][38] In 2010, the county budgeted approximately $2.2 million for the district's schools and $2.8 million for other county operations and services, for a total annual budget of approximately $5 million.[39]

The executive body of the county is made of a board of commissioners. The commissioners are elected county-wide, in staggered terms, and each serves a four-year term. One of the commissioners, typically the most senior, serves as president. The commissioners are charged with executing the acts legislated by the council, collecting revenue and managing day-to-day functions of the county government.[37][38]

The county maintains a small claims court that can handle some civil cases. The judge on the court is elected to a term of four years and must be a member of the Indiana Bar Association. The judge is assisted by a constable who is elected to a four-year term. In some cases, court decisions can be appealed to the state level circuit court.[38]

The county has several other elected offices, including sheriff, coroner, auditor, treasurer, recorder, surveyor and circuit court clerk. Each of these elected officers serves a term of four years and oversees a different part of county government. Members elected to county government positions are required to declare party affiliations and be residents of the county.[38]

Each of the townships has a trustee who administers rural fire protection and ambulance service, provides poor relief and manages cemetery care, among other duties.[5] The trustee is assisted in these duties by a three-member township board. The trustees and board members are elected to four-year terms.[40]

Parke County is part of Indiana's 8th congressional district; Indiana Senate district 38;[41] and Indiana House of Representatives districts 41, 42 and 44.[42]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201516,901[43]−2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[44]
1790-1960[45] 1900-1990[46]
1990-2000[47] 2010-2013[1]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 17,339 people, 6,222 households, and 4,389 families residing in the county.[48] The population density was 39.0 inhabitants per square mile (15.1/km2). There were 8,085 housing units at an average density of 18.2 per square mile (7.0/km2).[49] The racial makeup of the county was 96.1% white, 2.3% black or African American, 0.4% American Indian, 0.2% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 0.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 1.2% of the population.[48] In terms of ancestry, 27.7% were American, 23.7% were German, 10.7% were Irish, and 10.1% were English.[50]

Of the 6,222 households, 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 29.5% were non-families, and 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 2.97. The median age was 41.3 years.[48]

The median income for a household in the county was $47,697 and the median income for a family was $51,581. Males had a median income of $40,395 versus $27,618 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,494. About 8.8% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.9% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.[51]

See also


  1. A $79,000 capital expense in 1880 would be roughly equivalent to $18,000,000 in 2010.[12]


  1. 1 2 "Parke County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  2. 1 2 "Find a County – Parke County, IN". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  3. 1 2 "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  4. "Parke". Indiana Township Association. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  5. 1 2 "Duties". United Township Association of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
  6. "Indiana Transportation Map 2009–2010" (PDF). Indiana Department of Transportation. 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
  7. 1 2 "State of Indiana 2011 Rail System Map" (PDF). Indiana Department of Transportation. 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  8. Parke County Inc. (2007). "Parke County - Covered Bridge Capital of the World". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  9. Bowen (1913), pp. 52–53, 221.
  10. Baker, Ronald L.; Carmony, Marvin (1975). Indiana Place Names. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 126.
  11. Bowen 1913, pp. 60–62.
  12. Williamson, Samuel H. (April 2010). Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present. MeasuringWorth. Calculations made using Nominal GDP Per Capita, a measure of capital intensivity, using "the 'average' per-person output of the economy in the prices of the current year." This is a measure of the amount of capital and volume of labor required to reproduce the work over varying production methods, but assuming that money represents a proportion of the economy.
  13. Bowen 1913, pp. 62–64.
  14. Counts, Will; Jon Dilts (1991). The 92 Magnificent Indiana Courthouses. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0-253-33638-5.
  15. Bowen (1913), p. 202.
  16. Region of Parke County, Indiana (Map). National Atlas of the United States. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  17. United States Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service (1967). Soil Survey of Parke County, Indiana (PDF) (Report). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  18. "Turkey Run State Park". Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  19. "Shades". Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  20. "U.S. Route 36". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  21. "U.S. Route 41". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  22. "State Road 47". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  23. "State Road 57". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  24. "State Road 236". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  25. "State Road 163". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  26. "State Road 234". Highway Explorer. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  27. STATS Indiana. "InDepth Profile: Parke County, Indiana". Indiana Business Research Center. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  28. 1 2 "Monthly Averages for Rockville, Indiana". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2011-01-27.
  29. "Parke County Tornadoes, 1950–2009". National Weather Service. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  30. "Allee, Warder Clyde (United States 1885-1955)". Western Kentucky University. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  31. "Why should we care about Gordon Allport?". Saint Olaf College. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  32. "William Henry Harrison Beadle". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  33. "Brown, Mordecai". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  34. "Grover Jones". Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  35. Bowen 1913, pp. 119–122.
  36. "About Us". The Parke County Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  37. 1 2 Indiana Code. "Title 36, Article 2, Section 3". Government of Indiana. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  38. 1 2 3 4 Indiana Code. "Title 2, Article 10, Section 2" (PDF). Government of Indiana. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  39. State of Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. "2010 Budget Order (Warren County, Indiana)" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-09-19.
  40. "Government". United Township Association of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
  41. "Indiana Senate Districts". State of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  42. "Indiana House Districts". State of Indiana. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  43. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  44. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  45. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  46. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  47. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  48. 1 2 3 "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  49. "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  50. "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  51. "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-07-10.


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