Forces opposed to former Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison, who had left the state to help fight the British, wanted to remove the capital from Harrison's
stronghold. Several cities—Charlestown, Clarksville, Jeffersonville,
Lawrenceburg, and Madison (which offered to donate $10,000 if the legislators
located the capital there)—were considered before the lawmakers decided on Corydon. Knox County
Corydon’s selection, according to The Western Gazetteer, caused “great dissatisfaction in other parts of the state.” To forestall any interference with the orderly transfer of the capital, the general assembly gave the territorial governor the power to call out the militia to provide for the “safe conveyance of any books, papers, or other thing by this act made necessary to be conveyed to the said town of
.” The move was
made officially on May 1, 1813, and the tiny hamlet served as the center of
government for Corydon Indiana until 1825, when the
capital was moved to . Indianapolis
In the early nineteenth century the town of Corydon was “an easy-going, old-fashioned Virginia village, with an ambition to be decent and to cultivate the social spirit,” according to Charles Moores, an Indiana Historical Commission member writing in 1917. The town occupied land purchased by William Henry Harrison in 1804; he named the town after his favorite song, “The Pastoral Elegy,” which laments the death of a young shepherd, Corydon.
One of the leading figures in the town’s early history was Dennis Pennington, former speaker in the lower house of the territorial legislature who had come to the area in the early 1800s. Known as a devoted champion of
, “Uncle Dennis,” as he was
called, played a key role in securing for Corydon its distinction as state
capital. Harrison County
A carpenter and contractor by trade, Pennington represented Harrison County at the 1813 session of the Indiana Territory’s general assembly. Maneuvering behind the scenes, Pennington suggested Corydon as the perfect site for the next capital, noting that the Harrison County Courthouse then being built could be used as the territory’s capitol. This new structure, however, would not be completed very quickly. Although Corydon became the capital in May 1813, the courthouse would not be ready for occupancy until 1816. Pennington supervised construction for the $3,000 structure, an immense sum when one considers that surrounding counties were erecting log courthouses for about $500.
During the flurry of building activity in Corydon, the Indiana Territory had reached the necessary 60,000 population to be considered for statehood. Forty-three delegates were elected for a constitutional convention (including Pennington), which met in Corydon from June 10 through 29, 1816. Some sessions were held in the new courthouse but, due to the oppressive summer heat, others were organized beneath the shade of a massive elm tree (now known as the Constitutional Elm) located just a short distance away. Delegates approved the new constitution on June 29, 1816 and, six months later, President James Madison signed legislation designating
the nineteenth state of the Union.
The initial Indiana General Assembly met in the Corydon capitol on November 4, 1816. Space was tight in the two-story building, as the representatives, senators, and lieutenant governor had to share space with the three supreme court judges, some of Governor Jonathan Jennings’s officers, the county court, and county clerk.
A bigger concern to legislators during subsequent years was the cost for boarding in and around Corydon during the sessions. The Corydon Indiana Gazette in December 1820 noted that the “old famous resolution to remove the legislature to Charleston or some other place where it is imagined members can get boarding lower than Corydon is going the formal rounds of legislation, when it is understood that no more is intended by it than to beat down the prices of boarding.” Prices for boarding, fixed by the county commissioners, were 37 1/2 cents for breakfast or dinner, 12 1/2 cents for lodging, and 37 1/2 cents a quart for whiskey.
Corydon’s time as the heart of Indiana government ended in 1820 when the legislature appointed a commission to find a new site for the state capital. In the fall of 1824 Samuel Merrill, state treasurer, led a group of wagons carrying the state’s records and finances on the one hundred and twenty-five-mile trip from Corydon to
. With the loss
of its status as state capitol, the Corydon building reverted to a full-time
Harrison County Courthouse. Indianapolis
During the renewed interest in state history spawned by the Indiana centennial celebration in 1916, plans were made to preserve the old state capitol. In 1917 the general assembly passed an act to purchase the structure “as a memorial to the pioneers who established the
.” In the late
1920s the old capitol building was restored to its original appearance. Commonwealth