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Sullivan County Courthouse
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History of Sullivan
25 February 1779 Col. George Rogers Clark captured
Fort Sackville at Vincennes from the British.
About six miles west at Pointe Coupee on the
Wabash River on 2 March 1779, Capt. Leonard Helm
commanding three boats and 50 volunteers from
Vincennes captured a reinforcement fleet of seven
boats carrying 40 soldiers and valuable supplies
and Indian trade goods. This small naval battle
completed the destruction of British military
strength in the Wabash Valley.
The county's first settlement occurred between
1808 and 1812, by a religious society of celibates
known as Shakers. The 400 members of this communal
group occupied 1,300 acres, seven miles west of
General William Henry Harrison's army made its
camp in Sullivan County at Big Springs on
September 29, 1811. Harrison used Benjamin
Turman's fort as his headquarters. With spring
water available, it was an ideal location for 1000
men, including 160 dragoons and 60 mounted
riflemen. A Kentucky soldier killed a fellow
Kentuckian, Clark, either accidentally or in a
grudge fight. The deceased was buried at the top
of a hill that became the Mann Truman Cemetery.
General Harrison and his troops continued north of
the Wea Indian Trail to build Fort Harrison and
then proceeded to the Battle of Tippecanoe.
A War of 1812 military action occurred in
September 1812, three miles WSW of Sullivan
County. While escorting supplied from Fort Knox
near Vincennes to Fort Harrison at Terre Haute,
Sergeant Nathan Fairbanks and approximately a
dozen soldiers were ambused, and most killed by
In 1815, Carlisle was founded. Sullivan County was
formed in 1817. It was named for Daniel Sullivan,
said by some sources to have been a Revolutionary
War general killed by Native Americans while
carrying a dispatch between Fort Vincennes and
A log courthouse in Merom served as Sullivan
County's first county seat from 1819-1842. Merom
was an important river port and a spot on the
stage route known as The Olde Harrison Trail.
William Henry Harrison's troops camped near her on
their 1811 march to the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Pioneer heroine of abdominal surgery Jane Todd is
buried in Sullivan County. Born in Virginia in
1763, she and her husband, Thomas Crawford, moved
to Green County, Kentucky, in 1805. Suffering from
a huge abdominal tumor, she rode 60 miles to
Danville, Kentucky, to submit to an operation
never before performed. On December 25, 1809, Dr.
Ephraim McDowell performed this, the first
ovariotomy, in his home. The ordeal lasted 25
minutes. There was no anesthesia. Mrs. Crawford
recovered completely and years later came to
Graysville to live with her son, Thomas, a
Presbyterian minister. She died in 1842 at age 78.
The restored McDowell home in Danville, Kentucky
is a surgical shrine.
Sullivan was found in 1853 and became the county
seat. Dedicated in 1862, Union Christian College
served as a preparatory school and college until
1924. In 1936 it became Merom Institute, a rural
enrichment center. Now owned by the United Church
of Christ, it serves as a camp, conference and
retreat center. Numerous violent conflicts erupted
in Sullivan County during the American Civil War
over differing war sentiments. On July 14, 1864,
anti-war Democrat John Drake was fatally shot at a
community picnic near here.
Organized nationally to bring culture to rural
communities, Merom's 10-day religious and
educational Chautauqua event featured concerts,
debates, plays and lectures. Carrie Nation,
William Jennings Bryan, William Howard Taft,
Warren G. Harding and Billy Sunday were among the
Cass - Curry - Fairbanks - Gill - Haddon -
Hamiliton - Jackson - Jefferson - Turman
CITIES AND TOWNS
Carlisle - Dugger - Farmersburg -
Hymera - Merom - Shelburn - Sullivan
Baker - Baldridge - Benefiel Corner - Bucktown -
Campbell Corner - Cass - Curryville - Dodds
Bridge - East Shelburn - Fairbanks - Gambill -
Gilmour - Glendora - Graysville - Greenville -
Hawton - Jericho - Jackson Hill - Lewis -
Massacre - Merom Station - New Lebanon - Paxton
- Pleasantville - Riverton - Riverview -
Scotchtown - Scott City - Shiloh - Standard -
Stringtown - Wilfred
County Seat: Sullivan
Caledonia - Farnsworth
Year Organized: 1817
Square Miles: 454.12
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Where to find information in Sullivan County,
|Sullivan County Public
100 S. Crowder St
Sullivan, IN 47882
|Sullivan County Recorder
100 Court House Sq, Room 205
Sullivan, IN 47882
|Sullivan County Health
102 North Section Street
Sullivan, IN 47882
(birth, death, marriage, divorce records)
10 S. Court St
Sullivan, IN 47882-1510
Donna K. Adams
8422 W, Phillip St.
Merom, IN 47862-8033
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