Discover the Oldest Town in Indiana

Written by Rob Amend
Updated: November 7, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The oldest town in Indiana is called Vincennes.
  • Francois Vincennes established a trading post with the original fort in 1732.
  • For 13 years, Vincennes was the capital of the Indiana Territory.

Though Indiana became a U.S. state in 1816, the land was settled long before then. Native American peoples inhabited the land as far back as 8,000 BC. Europeans first came to the land in the late 17th century as French fur traders set up outposts after discovering a route from the Great Lakes.

So, what is the oldest extant town in Indiana?

Vincennes was controlled by the French, then the British, then folded into the Northwest Territory in its early days.

The Oldest Town in Indiana

The oldest European town still in existence is Vincennes, IN. Before the French arrived, the land was inhabited by the Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wyandotte, Piankaska, Delaware, and Miami peoples. When the French arrived in Indiana, a Canadian soldier and explorer, Francois Vincennes, established a trading post with a fort in 1732.

Since its founding in 1732, Vincennes has undergone several changes in governance. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the Fort at Vincennes was under British control. After America’s Revolutionary War, Vincennes became part of what was known as the Northwest Territory.

For part of that time (1800 to 1813), Vincennes was the capital of the Indiana Territory. In 1813, the capital was moved to Corydon. Indiana achieved statehood in 1816. Vincennes was the site for several Indiana firsts: the first Catholic church, first county, first newspaper, and first bank, among others.

The Wabash River

Vincennes is the oldest town in Indiana.


Things To Do in Vincennes

In 1779, George Rogers Clark, an American military officer, commanded troops that marched on the fort at Vincennes and took it. You can visit the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes. The 9th president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, had a home in Vincennes—Grouseland—which you can tour. Vincennes was also the birthplace of the comedian Red Skelton, and you can see memorabilia related to him at the Red Skelton Museum of Comedy.

george rogers clark national historical park

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is one of many sites you can visit in Vincennes, Indiana.


Where Vincennes Is Located in Indiana

Vincennes is in southwest Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash River, which forms the border with Illinois. It is enclosed within a triangle formed by Indianapolis, Louisville, and St. Louis.

Wildlife You’ll Find in Vincennes

Vincennes sits on the east bank of the Wabash River. You will find sauger, catfish, rock bass, paddlefish, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass in the river. Along the shores of the Wabash, you can find osprey, bald eagles, and river otters.

The wooded areas surrounding Vincennes teem with wildlife, including white-tail deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, red and gray foxes, squirrels, badgers, muskrats, opossums, raccoons, beavers, and rabbits. You may see cardinals, robins, wild turkeys, bobwhite quails, and ruffed grouse in the trees. As dusk falls, the Indiana bat may make an appearance. Reptiles and amphibians include the eastern hellbender, alligator snapping turtle, and the eastern hog-nosed snake.

Animals in Indiana

Cardinals are among the animals that you can see in Vincennes.

©Bonnie Taylor Barry/


Vincennes has a long and colorful history with its share of personalities, heroes, and dramatic events. Its position in the American midwest along the Wabash River also gives it a unique geological and ecological place. Though no longer the capital, Vincennes is a place of firsts for Indiana.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zack Frank/

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About the Author

Rob Amend is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering meteorology, geology, geography, and animal oddities. He attained a Master's Degree in Library Science in 2000 and served as reference librarian in an urban public library for 22 years. Rob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, photography, woodworking, listening to classic rock, and watching classic films—his favorite animal is a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey.

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