Vincennes, Indiana

This article is about the United States city Vincennes. For other uses, see Vincennes (disambiguation).
Vincennes, Indiana

Vincennes' most recognizable landmark,
The George Rogers Clark National Historical Park Rotunda


Location in the state of Indiana
Coordinates: 38°40′42″N 87°30′58″W / 38.67833°N 87.51611°W / 38.67833; -87.51611Coordinates: 38°40′42″N 87°30′58″W / 38.67833°N 87.51611°W / 38.67833; -87.51611
Country United States
State Indiana
County Knox
Township Vincennes
Named for François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes
  Mayor Joe Yochum (D)
  Total 7.48 sq mi (19.37 km2)
  Land 7.41 sq mi (19.19 km2)
  Water 0.07 sq mi (0.18 km2)  0.94%
Elevation 420 ft (128 m)
Population (2010)[2]
  Total 18,423
  Estimate (2012[3]) 18,239
  Density 2,486.2/sq mi (959.9/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 47591
Area code(s) 812 & 930
FIPS code 18-79208[4]
GNIS feature ID 0445300[5]

Vincennes is a city in and the county seat of Knox County, Indiana, United States.[6] It is located on the lower Wabash River in the southwestern part of the state, nearly halfway between Evansville and Terre Haute. Founded in 1732 by French fur traders, notably, François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes for whom the Fort was named, Vincennes is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians.

According to the 2010 census, its population was 18,423, a decrease of 1.5% from 18,701 in 2000.[7]


The vicinity of Vincennes was inhabited for thousands of years by different cultures of indigenous peoples.[8] During the Late Woodland period, some of these peoples used local loess hills as burial sites; some of the more prominent examples are the Sugar Loaf Mound and the Pyramid Mound.[9]:668 In historic times, prominent local native groups were the Shawnee, Wabash, and the Miami tribe.

The first European settlers were Canadiens, when Vincennes was founded as part of the French colony of Canada. Later on, it would be transferred to the colony of Louisiana. Several years later, France lost the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years' War), and as result ceded territory east of the Mississippi River, including Vincennes, to the victorious British.

The area was under British rule, associated with the Province of Quebec, until after the American Revolution. It then became part of the Illinois Country of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. Next it became part of Knox County in the Northwest Territory, and it was later included in the Indiana Territory. Vincennes served as capital of the Indiana Territory from 1800 until 1813, when the government was moved to Corydon.

Map of Vincennes from 1876 atlas

New France

The first trading post on the Wabash River was established by Sieur Juchereau, Lieutenant General of Montréal. With thirty-four Canadiens, he founded the company post on October 28, 1702 to trade for Buffalo hides with American Indians. The exact location of Juchereau's trading post is not known, but because the Buffalo Trace crosses the Wabash at Vincennes, many believe it was here. The post was a success; in the first two years, the traders collected over 13,000 buffalo hides.[10] When Juchereau died, the post was abandoned. The French-Canadian settlers left what they considered hostile territory for Mobile (in present-day Alabama), then the capital of Louisiana.

The oldest European town in Indiana, Vincennes was officially established in 1732 as a second French fur trading post in this area. The Compagnie des Indes commissioned a Canadian officer, François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, to build a post along the Wabash River to discourage local nations from trading with the British.[11] de Vincennes founded the new trading post near the meeting points of the Wabash and White rivers, and the overland Buffalo Trace.[12] De Vincennes, who had lived with his father among the Miami tribe, persuaded the Piankeshaw to establish a village at his trading post. He also encouraged Canadien settlers to move there, and started his own family to increase the village population.[13] Because the Wabash post was so remote, however, Vincennes had a hard time getting trade supplies from Louisiana for the native nations, who were also being courted by British traders. The boundary between the French colonies of Louisiana and Canada, although inexact in the first years of the settlement, was decreed in 1745 to run between Fort Ouiatenon (below the site of modern-day Lafayette, Indiana) and Vincennes.[14]

In 1736, during the French war with the Chickasaw nation, de Vincennes was captured and burned at the stake near the present-day town of Fulton, Mississippi.[15] His settlement on the Wabash was renamed Poste Vincennes in his honor.

Louisiana Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville next appointed Louis Groston de Saint-Ange de Bellerive to command Poste Vincennes.[16] With little help from the colonial government, St. Ange was able to build up the small village and attract new tribes to trade. In 1742, he received a grant from the Piankeshaw for 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) to the north and east of Poste Vincennes.[17] The opportunity for land attracted many new Canadien settlers, and the growing village was sometimes called St. Ange.[18]

As the French colonials pushed north from Louisiana and south from Canada, however, the British colonists to the east continued to push west. In addition, British traders lured away many of Indians who had traded with the Canadiens. This competition escalated in the Ohio Country until 1754 and the eruption of the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War between England and France.)

British Empire

Diorama of Fort Sackville

On February 10, 1763, when New France was ceded to the British Empire at the conclusion of the French and Indian War, Vincennes fell under the dominion of Great Britain. British Lt. John Ramsey came to Vincennes in 1766. He took a census of the settlement, built up the fort, and renamed it Fort Sackville. The population grew quickly in the years that followed, resulting in a unique culture of interdependent Native Americans, Canadiens and British colonials and traders.

Vincennes was far from centers of colonial power. In 1770 and 1772 General Thomas Gage, the commander in chief of Britain's North American forces, received warnings that the residents of Vincennes were not remaining loyal, and were inciting native tribes along the river trade routes against the British. The British Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Hillsborough, ordered the residents to be removed from Vincennes. Gage delayed while the residents responded to the charges against them, claiming to be "peaceful settlers, cultivating the land which His Most Christian Majesty granted us." The issue was resolved by Hillsborough's successor, Lord Dartmouth, who insisted to Gage that the residents were not lawless vagabonds, but English subjects whose rights were protected by the King.[19] In 1778, residents at Poste Vincennes received word of the French alliance with the American Second Continental Congress from Father Pierre Gibault and Dr. Jean Laffont. They revolted in support of the Americans, as did the local Piankeshaw, led by Chief Young Tobacco.

Battle of Vincennes 1779

Clark's march against Vincennes, across the Wabash River through wilderness and flood, unknown artist, from the National Archives and Records Administration

Lieutenant Colonel George R. Clark, Captain Leonard Helm and others created a plan to capture the French forts that the British occupied after Louisiana was ceded. After Kaskaskia was captured by Clark, Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton sent British soldiers and reinforcements from Detroit to Fort Vincennes and helped to rebuild the fort.

Italian trader Francis Vigo, who was captured once by the British at Vincennes, found Clark and warned him of the British at the fort. Vigo served with the Patriots, ordered war supplies from the Spanish to help, and acted as a secret agent for the Patriots. Clark rounded up enough men to outnumber the British and planned a brilliant surprise attack on Fort Vincennes in the heart of winter, a horrible time when no armies were expected to be able to attack due to illness, lack of food, and the flood waters that were high during this time. The Patriots won the Battle of Vincennes on February 23–24, 1779. Hamilton thought Poste Vincennes as "a refuge for debtors and Vagabonds from Canada." George Rogers Clark recaptured Fort Sackville in the Battle of Vincennes without losing a single soldier.

United States

American Revolutionary War Historic Memorial Plaque in Vincennes, Indiana

Although the Americans would remain in control of Vincennes, it took years to establish peace. In 1786, Captain John Hardin led a mounted Kentucky militia across the Ohio River and destroyed a friendly Piankeshaw town near Vincennes. This led to a series of attacks and counter-attacks between Wabash Indians and American settlers. Finally, on 15 July 1786, the Wabash landed in forty-seven war canoes at Vincennes to drive the Americans back to Kentucky.[20] The Indians warned the Canadians in advance of their attack and assured them that they would not be harmed, but the Canadians warned the Americans. They quickly supplied Fort Patrick Henry and waited out the siege. One American was killed and four wounded, and the war party left after destroying the Americans' farms.

In response, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry authorized George Rogers Clark to raise the Kentucky militia and mount an expedition against the warring tribes. General Clark gathered a force of 1,000 militia and departed Clarksville 9 September 1786, along the Buffalo Trace.[21] The militia spent ten days in Vincennes before marching north along the Wabash, but men deserted by the hundreds. Clark was soon forced to return to Vincennes without any action taken. Clark left 150 men to help defend Vincennes, but this force soon turned into a lawless mob, and the citizens of Vincennes petitioned Congress for help.[22] Secretary of War Henry Knox sent Colonel Josiah Harmar and the First American Regiment to restore order. The Kentucky militia fled Vincennes at the approach of U.S. Regulars.[23]

Colonel Harmar left 100 regulars under Major Jean François Hamtramck and directed them to build a fort, Fort Knox.[24] Vincennes remained an isolated town, difficult to supply due to its position deep within Indian territory. Secure transport to and from Vincennes meant travelling with a large, armed party, whether over land or via the Wabash River. On 30 September 1790, Major Hamtramck led 350 men from Vincennes as far north as the Vermillion River, to engage some of the Indian villages which had been at war with Vincennes. The Kickapoo tracked the party, however, and evacuated every village along the way before the Americans arrived.[25] Hamtramck destroyed some abandoned villages, but he did not engage any war parties. Faced with desertions from Kentucky militia, Hamtramck returned to Vincennes. The expedition had done no serious harm to the enemies of Vincennes, but it distracted some of the Wabash villages while Josiah Harmar, now a General, led a much larger expedition up through Ohio country towards Kekionga.

Vincennes was not secure until the conclusion of the Northwest Indian War in 1795. By 1798, the population had reached 2,500. Vincennes was no longer considered a trading outpost, but a thriving city.[26]

Elihu Stout published the first newspaper in the Indiana Territory in 1804 at Vincennes. The Indiana Gazette debuted on July 31, 1804. Fire destroyed the printing presses in 1806, but Stout revived the newspaper as the Western Sun in 1807.[27][28]

Vincennes served as the first capital of Indiana Territory until it was moved to Corydon on May 1, 1813.

In 1826, "A party of Shawnee Indians ... in men, women, and children, to 500, passed through this place [Vincennes] ... from their reservation at Wapaghkonetta, moving to the Mississippi. The celebrated Indian prophet, and a son of the great Tecumseh, were in the company."[29]

Flag of Vincennes, Indiana

This flag for the city of Vincennes, Indiana, albeit unofficial, is used around the city. It features the signature V, four fleurs-de-lis, symbolizing the city's French heritage, its existence in four centuries: 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st, since the city's establishment in 1732. Similar in appearance to the flag of Indianapolis, Vincennes' flag is more squared in appearance and has a diamond center rather than a circle. It represents the layout of Vincennes. White stripes radiating from the diamond represent Vincennes' part in the settlement of the frontier, as it was at the crossroads of several great pioneer trails.


Vincennes is located on the banks of the Wabash River at the western edge of Knox County; this is also the western edge of the state of Indiana, and Illinois is across the river to the west. The city lies about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Indianapolis. U.S. Route 41 passes through the city from north to south, and U.S. Route 50 passes just to the north of the city from east to west.

According to the 2010 census, Vincennes has a total area of 7.478 square miles (19.37 km2), of which 7.41 square miles (19.19 km2) (or 99.09%) is land and 0.068 square miles (0.18 km2) (or 0.91%) is water.[1]


Vincennes has a humid continental climate with hot summers and cold winters with heavy rainfall at times throughout much of the year. There are an average of 53.1 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 101.5 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower.[30] Average January temperatures are a high of 36.3 °F (2.4 °C) and a low of 18.3 °F (−7.6 °C). Average July temperatures are a high of 87.7 °F (30.9 °C) and a low of 64.8 °F (18.2 °C). The record high temperature was 104 °F (40 °C) on June 26, 1988. The record low temperature was −26 °F (−32 °C) on January 19, 1994.

Average annual precipitation is 44.43 inches (112.9 cm). Measurable precipitation occurs on an average of 105.6 days each year. The wettest year was 1990 with 60.08 inches (152.6 cm) and the dryest year was 1988 with 36.02 inches (91.5 cm). The most precipitation in one month was 11.18 inches (28.4 cm) in November 1985. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 5.07 inches (12.9 cm).

Average annual snowfall is 5.8 inches (15 cm). Measurable snowfall occurs on only 2.6 days. The snowiest season was 1989–90 when 16.4 inches (42 cm) fell. The most snow in one month was 8.5 inches (22 cm) in December 1990. The most snow in 24 hours was 8.0 inches (20 cm) on March 24, 1990.[31]


Knox County Courthouse

Public schools

Elementary Schools

Middle School

High School

Parochial schools

Elementary School

High School

Other private schools

Higher education


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201518,012[32]−2.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[33]

2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 18,423 people, 7,407 households, and 4,108 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,486.2 inhabitants per square mile (959.9/km2). There were 8,259 housing units at an average density of 1,114.6 per square mile (430.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.9% White, 4.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.7% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.

There were 7,407 households of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.5% were non-families. 36.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.83.

The median age in the city was 33 years. 19.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 20.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21.4% were from 25 to 44; 23.6% were from 45 to 64; and 15% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.3% male and 49.7% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 18,701 people, 7,614 households, and 4,332 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,620.3 people per square mile (1,011.3/km²). There were 8,574 housing units at an average density of 1,201.4 per square mile (463.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.34% White, 3.28% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.72% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.02% of the population.

There were 7,614 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.8% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.1% were non-families. 35.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.0% under the age of 18, 20.5% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,289, and the median income for a family was $35,424. Males had a median income of $27,029 versus $20,254 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,993. About 15.0% of families and 20.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 12.7% of those age 65 or over.


The city government consists of a seven-member city council. Five of whom are elected from districts the other two are elected at large. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote.

Time zone controversy

On November 4, 2007, Knox County joined Daviess, Martin, Pike, and Dubois counties in returning to the Eastern Time zone. Controversy concerning time in Indiana has caused a change in the time zone of Vincennes on three different occasions since the Standard Time Act of 1918.


The Revolutionary War battle at Vincennes was featured in the 1901 novel Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson.[34] Also, the cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49) (now retired and scrapped) was later named in honor of this battle; as well as for the city.

Notable people

Local attractions

Xavier Cathedral





List of Vincennes' Firsts

State Championships

Vincennes High School or Vincennes Lincoln High School

Rivet High School (Vincennes, Indiana)


  1. 1 2 "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-07-29.
  2. 1 2 "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  3. "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  4. 1 2 "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  7. "Vincennes (city), Indiana – QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  8. Jones, James R., III; Amy L. Johnson (2012). "Early Peoples of Indiana" (PDF). Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  9. Stafford, C. Russell. "The Geomorphology of Sugar Loaf Mound: Prehistoric Cemeteries and the Formation of Loess Cones in the Lower Wabash Valley," Geoarchaeology: An International Journal 13.7 (1998): 649–672.
  10. Lasselle, Charles B (March 1906). "The Old Indian Traders of Indiana". The Indiana Magazine of History. Indianapolis: George S. Cottman. II (1): 3. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  11. Derleth, p. 4.
  12. Derleth, p. 8.
  13. Derleth, p. 9.
  14. Ekberg, Carl (2000). French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times. Urbana and Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois Press. p. 32. ISBN 9780252069246. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  15. Roy, Pierre-Georges (1923). "Sieur de Vincennes Identified". Indiana Historical Society Publications. VII. Indianapolis: C. E. Pauley and Company. pp. 17–18.
  16. Derleth, p. 14.
  17. Derleth, p. 16.
  18. Derleth, p. 17.
  19. Barnhart, p. 172–173.
  20. Allison, p. 57.
  21. Allison, p. 58.
  22. Allison, p. 58: One resident of Vincennes was heard to pray "Lord, please send the Kentuckians home and bring back the Indians."
  23. Allison, p. 61.
  24. Allison, p. 62.
  25. Allison, p. 68.
  26. Allison, p. 87.
  27. 1 2 "Indiana Historic Newspaper Digitization Project Blog".
  28. John W. Miller, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography (Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 210–13.
  29. "Shawnee Indians – Wapakoneta Ohio – Vincennes Indiana". Boston Reporter and Telegraph. 1826-12-15. p. 3. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  32. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  33. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  34. Alice of Old Vincennes
  35. National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  36. "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 9/16/13 through 9/30/13. National Park Service. 2013-10-18.

See also


Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Vincennes.
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