April 19, 1816 – Pres. James Madison Signs Enabling Act for Indiana Statehood


In 1787 the U.S. considered present-day Indiana to be part of its Northwest Territory. In 1800, Congress separated out Ohio and designated the rest of the land as the Indiana Territory. President Thomas Jefferson chose William Henry Harrison as the governor of the territory and Vincennes was designated as the capital. Indiana was further reduced after Michigan and Illinois were formed.

On November 7, 1811, a battle with important consequences was fought between U.S. forces led by Indiana Territorial Governor Harrison and Native American warriors under Tecumseh near the confluence of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers in northern Indiana. Harrison proclaimed a decisive victory (although that interpretation of the outcome has been contested by historians) and acquired the nickname “Tippecanoe,” which was popularized in the song “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” during the election of 1840, when Harrison was elected president.


On December 11, 1815 the Indiana Territory General Assembly passed a Memorial to Congress stating that Indiana was qualified to become a state, by virtue of having over sixty thousand “free white inhabitants.”

Delegates to the June 1816 constitutional convention apparently often worked in the shade of the “Constitution Elm."   Said to be enormous with branches that spanned over 100 feet, it died of Dutch Elm Disease in 1925.

Delegates to the June 1816 constitutional convention apparently often worked in the shade of the “Constitution Elm.” Said to be enormous with branches that spanned over 100 feet, it died of Dutch Elm Disease in 1925.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved Indiana’s petition for statehood on March 30, and the U.S. Senate followed suit on April 13. On April 19, 1816, President James Madison signed into law the act passed by Congress which would enable Indiana to become a state “on an equal footing with the original States.” On December 11, 1816, Indiana was admitted to the Union as the 19th state.

You can read a detailed timeline of the quest for Indiana statehood here.

Various religious emissaries arrived in the new state to set up schools and ministries. A Jesuit missionary born in France, Benjamin Marie Petit, was ordained a priest at Vincennes, Indiana and served in a mission to the Potawatomi Indians near the South Bend of the St. Joseph River. When the Potawatomi were forcibly removed to the west, the priest went with them.

After turning over the spiritual care of the Potawatomi to another Jesuit priest in Kasas, Father Petit fell ill and started back to Indiana. He reached the Jesuit seminary at St. Louis University in January, 1839, and died in February, still only 27 years old. He was buried in a cemetery in St. Louis that was demolished in 1856. Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, came and took Father Petit’s body back to Indiana. Father Petit’s remains rest under the Log Chapel at the University of Notre Dame.

Father Edward Sorin, Founder of Notre Dame in Indiana

Father Edward Sorin, Founder of Notre Dame in Indiana

Some Indiana trivia:

State Flag:For many years, Indiana was the only state without a flag. The official state banner was adopted in 1917, and renamed the state flag in 1955.

The torch in the middle of the flag represents liberty and enlightenment.

State Bird: Cardinal

Longest River in Indiana: The Wabash, which flows from Ohio across Northern Indiana until it forms the border between Indiana and Illinois.

Official State Stone: Limestone. Indiana limestone was used in the Empire State Building and the Pentagon. In addition, the interior walls and columns of the Lincoln Memorial are Indiana limestone.

Quilt Gardens: Every year from Memorial Day through the end of September, the seven communities comprising northern Indiana’s Amish Country band together to create blooming quilts along a 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour. Each garden/mural is juried and accepted by a committee of master gardeners, horticulturalists and professional landscapers, and utilizes some 90,000 blooms.



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