The Stories of Indiana’s Counties
Chapter title – Adams County
County Seat – Decatur
Area – 339.97 sq mi
Population – 35,491 (2017)
Founded – March 1, 1836
Named for – John Quincy Adams
Adams County Indiana Government
313 W. Jefferson Street
Decatur, IN 46733
Visiting Adams County
Settlers began arriving in the area from New England around 1835. Most were descended from New England Puritan ancestors and were drawn to the cheap land and the final expulsion of the native tribes at the end of the Black Hawk War. Many came via the newly completed Erie Canal. When these settlers arrived, northeast Indiana was still covered with prairie and virgin forests.
The Indiana General Assembly created Adams County on January 23,1836, naming it for John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States.
Begun in 1817, construction on the main canal ended in 1825 and the canal opened for business on October 26, 1825. The canal ran from a connection with the Hudson River at Albany New York to a connection with Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York. The canal connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes and reduced the cost of transportation.
Black Hawk War
The 1832 Black Hawk War Black Hawk War ended at the Battle of Bad Ax on August 2, 1832. William Henry Harrison had negotiated a treaty in St. Louis in 1804 which the Sauk tribe disputed. Claiming that the Americans claimed more land than the treaty intended, a Sauk band under the leadership of Black Hawk entered Illinois to reclaim ancestral territory. The dispute became a war, which Black Hawk’s band lost at the Battle of Bad Axe. After the war, President Andrew Jackson persuaded the remaining Amerindian tribes that remained east of the Mississippi River to sell their lands and move west of the Mississippi. Most remaining tribes in Indiana were forced out of the state in the mid 1830’s.
Creation of the County
Resident Samuel Rugg offered to donate land, $3100, and temporarily pay the expenses for housing the county commissioners if they would use his land for the county seat. He also offered the use of a house for use as a court house until one could be built. The county commissioners accepted the offer, calling the new town Decatur, probably after naval hero Stephen Decatur.
Adams County Courthouse
Adams County officials contracted to construct the first courthouse in May 1839. The contract stipulated that the courthouse would be,
“…shall be a framed house built of good material, thirty by forty feet in size and two stories high; the lower story or room to be left without any partitions, and the upper story or room divided into rooms to accommodate the grand and petit juries…The weather boarding on the two sides next to the streets shall be planed.”
This building served as courthouse until 1873, when it was sold and moved to another site on Front Street in Decatur.
By 1870 the courthouse was no longer sufficient to fit the needs of the county, thus Adams County officials began discussing building a new structure. The county commissioners appointed a committee composed of four men to visit various buildings in other counties to determine the style of the new courthouse. The committee members performed as requested and filed a report on February 8,1872, recommending Second Empire-style structure based upon the design of the Defiance Court House in Defiance, Ohio. The commissioners agreed with this recommendation and their proposal to contract with architect J. C. Johnson to design the building. Later that year contracts were signed with the target date of December 1, 1873 for the building to be completed. Construction did not complete on that date, but was on January 29, 1874. The National Register of Historic Places listed the Adams County Courthouse on August 6, 2008.
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