|Gibson County was once a
wilderness situated in the Northwest Territory which, in 1784, was ceded
to the United States of America by Virginia. The State of Indiana was
organized April 19, 1816.
John Severns is recognized as the first
white settler in Gibson County, arriving in 1789. He operated a ferry on
the south side of the Patoka River.
A Welsh man, Severns answered the call
of the colonists in the Revolutionary War, but on his first trip home to
Virginia, Indians swooped upon the family. Severns' parents, sister, and
younger brother were killed, while he and an older brother were kept as
Severns, a short, heavy-set man, was
held captive seven years before he was able to escape.
He later acquired a knowledge of
surveying and assisted government surveyors in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
In 1789, he penetrated the wilderness of the Northwest Territory and he
and his family settled on the south bank of the Patoka River near what is
now the town of Patoka.
They lived as cave dwellers for several
months until the Indians, remnants of the Shawnee tribe residing on the
north side of the river, allowed the family to construct a crude hut of
boughs, skins and other materials.
Severns was allowed to continue his
residence in that region, now known as Severns' Bridge, and to establish a
ferry upon the conditions that he keep ''firewater'' for the Indians and
allow them free use of the ferry.
Originally belonging to Knox County,
what is now Gibson County came to be in 1813. The county derives its name
from Gen. John Gibson, a gallant soldier of the French and Indian War and
the Revolutionary War.
Gibson was born in Pennsylvania in 1740
of Scottish-Irish ancestry, and he was well educated. In 1763, he was
captured by Indians and was adopted by a squaw whose son had died in
With the Indians, Gibson mastered
several languages, along with the customs of several tribes. He was later
released and he returned to business in Pittsburgh.
Gibson was appointed territorial
secretary of Indiana in 1800 and held that office until 1816. While Gen.
William Henry Harrison, governor of Indiana, was engaged in the War of
1812, Gibson was acting governor. He died in 1822, shortly before his 82nd
Harrison later became the ninth
president of the United States. He caught a cold on his inauguration day
in 1841 and died a month later. He was best known for the first half of
the campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Harrison was
given the nickname of "Tippecanoe" after defeating the Shawnee
Indians in 1811 at Tippecanoe. John Tyler was his vice president, who
succeeded him April 4, 1841.
In February, 1814, at a special session
of the court of common pleas, a county seat was located by commissioners
Capt. William Prince, Robert Elliott, Abel Westfall and William Polk.
The name of the county seat was selected
by the drawing of lots among the commissioners, Prince winning. Hence,
Princeton was named.