Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016.
Anyone who’s ever served on a committee can relate to the old laugh line: A committee is a group of people who keep minutes and waste hours.
Such was not the case, however, in 1820 when 10 Hoosier men were named to a committee to find a new state capital.
They were focused, efficient and prescient.
Traveling from different counties in southern Indiana, they met at the home of William Conner on the west fork of White River near present-day Noblesville. From there they headed out to scour the middle section of the state.
A clerk accompanied them to record their proceedings. Each received an allowance: $2 a day and $2 for every 25 miles traveled.
Their official business resembled a camping trip more than a meeting. In preparation for the task, Joseph Bartholomew of Clark County wrote to John Tipton of Harrison County: “You inform me you are preparing a tent to carry on our route to White River. That is very well, and in order that I may not be entirely dependent, I will carry the coffee kettle ... As for the cooking I know you was formerly a very good cook and if you have forgotten I can learn you.”
From May 22 to June 7, the committee surveyed land options before settling on an area “at the mouth of Fall Creek ... 83 miles from Madison, 108 miles from Corydon, 107 miles from Vincennes and 71 miles from Terre Haute.”
Within a year, the area they described would be dubbed Indianapolis.
At the time, the capital was in Corydon, but from the earliest days of statehood Indiana’s framers expected to move it northward as settlers headed that way, populating former Native American lands. The state constitution set Corydon as the capital only until 1825. An 1816 Enabling Act granted land for a new capital “on such lands as may hereafter be acquired by the United States from the Indian tribes within the said territory.”