County History

County History

Short History of Dubois County

Dubois County, Indiana, which is composed of 432 square miles of territory, originally was an area populated by the Short Piankishaw/Shawnee Indian tribe. It was a land covered mostly by primeval forest, populated by wild animals and by Indians, who had established several principal trails that crossed the area.

Prior to the American Revolution, the area was considered as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but in 1787, Congress established the Northwest Territory, which included the current State of Indiana. By the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the prior claim of the Indian tribes to the area was terminated. In 1800, Congress created a separate Indiana Territory, and the area which is now Dubois County, was made part of the original Knox County, later to be subdivided into Gibson and Pike Counties. It was not until December 20, 1817, that a separate Dubois County was created effective February 1, 1818.

The early development of Dubois County was enhanced by its location on early Indian trails, by its two rivers (White River and Patoka River) and its location on the Buffalo Trace. The Trace, which was a cleared path 10 to 20 feet wide, was formed by the annual trip of thousands of buffalo from the plains of Illinois to the salt licks of Kentucky. The Trace served as a road for many early travelers and was the principal road to the Fort and Territorial Capital at Vincennes. Territory Governor (and later U.S. President) William Henry Harrison traveled this trail, and would spend evenings at Federal Ranger Camps at Fort McDonald or Cuzco in Dubois County. The Trace crossed the northern portion of the County and much of current State Highway #56 east of Haysville is built over the Trace. Numerous small cemeteries containing the graves of early settlers and travelers can be seen near this Highway.

The first permanent white settlers came to the Dubois County area in approximately 1801 and Fort McDonald was established near the Buffalo Trace south of what is now Portersville. Toussaint Dubois of Vincennes, a captain and chief of scouts in the Indian War of 1811, made the first land entry within the County in this area in 1807. Soon thereafter settlements began near the current Ireland and Portersville communities, followed by Haysville in 1818, and Jasper in the mid-1820’s. Other communities in Dubois County, not being located upon principal travel routes, followed over the next 20 to 30 years.

Portersville, located on White River and near the Buffalo Trace, was the first seat of county government in Dubois County. Initial governmental proceedings were conducted at the residence at Fort McDonald, south of Portersville, but by 1818, there was a two-story log courthouse and a two-story log jail. In 1830, the State legislature moved the County seat of government to Jasper, where a new Courthouse and jail was constructed. This courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1839, and almost all county records were lost. A new brick courthouse, constructed under the supervision of Rev. Joseph Kundeck replaced it in 1844. That Courthouse was replaced in 1911 by the current Courthouse facility, at a cost of $56,088.00, plus $10,554.00 for fixtures and contents. An Annex was added in 1992. A second Annex was purchased in 2002.

Dubois County, as is true in all but one of Indiana counties, is governed by an elected three member Board of Commissioners, which exercises both legislative and executive authority. The Board supervises, controls, and maintains all county real and personal property and roads. Jurisdiction over County finances is shared between the Board and the County Council, an elected seven member body which has sole authority to levy taxes, appropriate funds, approve budgets, and approve the sale of public lands.

Dubois County is divided into 12 townships, has 2 cities and 3 incorporated towns, and each of these units has a separate governing body or official.

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