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Welcome to Vigo County, Indiana
History and Genealogy

Vigo County Courthouse in Terre Haute, Indiana

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Vigo County is named in honor of Francis Vigo, an Italian tradesman who was instrumental in the capture of Fort Vincennes by George Rogers Clark, and assistance both in financing Clark's expedition and American Revolutionary War efforts, and in service as an agent obtaining military information for Clark against British campaigns on the then frontier. Francis Vigo was of Italian heritage but a citizen of Spain due to residence in St. Louis.

Sullivan County was formed in 1817, and the area that later became Vigo County was part of it until 1818, when the county was created by an act of the Indiana General Assembly which took effect on February 1, its borders changed several times; in 1821, part of the county was formed into Parke County, and later that year Putnam County was formed which also affected Vigo's borders. The final change came in 1873 when the present boundaries were defined. 

The county is one of the best bellwether regions for voting in the U.S. presidential elections; it has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1956 and in all but two elections since 1888.

Vigo County's first courthouse began construction in 1818. In the meantime, the temporary courthouse was the Eagle and Lion Tavern on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Second Street. Early records show that on May 13, 1818, Nathaniel P. Huntington was allowed $10 for drawing up bonds; John M Coleman $350 in part pay for building foundations; William Durham $400 in part pay for building walls, and Elihu Hovey and John Brocklebank $300 in part pay for building the Court House. In November 1818, public records show that Charles B. Modesitt was allowed $25 for "clearing off the public square," indicating that the work of building the Courthouse began in 1818, though the structure was not completed until 1822.

The original structure was brick with a broad arched transom and an interior with elevated box seats and steps. A center aisle ran through the center of the building, dividing the structure into a south side dedicated to seating and a north side for the express use of the court and room for a judge's bench, lawyers' tables and a jury box.

The bottom floor of the courthouse was completed in 1822 and quickly became the place for court business, political gatherings, elections, public town meetings, lectures, sermons, and more. Sometime in 1834-35, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon held meetings there defending the fledgling Latter Day Saints movement. In the 1850s, George W. Julian delivered an Abolition speech in the courthouse, where an angry mob gathered to prevent him from speaking but eventually departed.

Numerous notable lawyers from the region began their careers at the first Vigo County Courthouse, including Thomas H. Blake, James Whitcomb, Elisha Mills Huntington and Edward A. Hannegan.

On July 4, 1832, Colonel Francis Vigo, the county's namesake, traveled from his home in Vincennes, Indiana to visit Terre Haute and the urging of some of its prominent citizens. Impressed by the city, Vigo remembered the courthouse in his will (dated Dec 9, 1834) by a gift of $500 to Vigo County to be used "in the purchase of a bell for the courthouse of said county, on which will be inscribed 'Presented by Francis Vigo'."

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Vermillion / Parke / Clay / Sullivan


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