The area surrounding Clarksville,
Indiana boasts a proud heritage with diverse elements, some dating
back 350 million years. This area played a major part in the story
of Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark and was the gathering
point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the Louisiana Purchase.
Native Americans set up camps near the area that was to become Clarksville
because of its proximity to the crossing of the Buffalo Trace across
the Ohio River. John James Audubon was one of several naturalists
who studied the rich variety of wildlife in the area.
The Falls of the Ohio, a series of
rapids along the 350 million-year-old Devonian fossil beds, created
a natural stopping point for settlers and commerce moving west along
the Ohio River. The rapids also created a natural defense for Gen.
George Rogers Clark and the families of the troops he gathered for
an assault on the British forces in 1778 and 1779.
Clark's successful campaign against
the British in the Northwest Territory was the basis of a continuous
connection to the area that would become Clarksville that lasted
until his death in 1818.
Immediately after the Revolutionary
War, the Virginia legislature rewarded Clark and other veterans
for their service with grants of land, including 150,000 acres in
the territory north of the Ohio River. top
of the Town of Clarksville
The Town of Clarksville, which bills
itself as the "Oldest American Town in the Northwest Territory",
was chartered in 1783 by the Virginia legislature. The original
town was composed of 1,000 acres set aside from the grant of 150,000
acres the legislature donated to George Rogers Clark and his men.
Ten trustees were named in the charter
from Virginia. They were charged with the task of laying off lots
of half an acre along with streets and public lots. The trustees
could sell the lots and use the proceeds "...in such a manner
as they may judge most beneficial for the inhabitants of the said
The trustees were empowered to elect
successors for vacancies due to death or other disability, and the
trustees did not have to reside in Clarksville to serve. Although
this special status of non-resident trustees was challenged at various
times in Clarksville's early history as a town, the practice continued
for several decades. The original Indiana State Constitution in
1816 provided a special exception for the Town of Clarksville to
the requirement that officials live within the boundaries of the
communities in which they hold office.
The challenges of Clarksville residents
to the self-perpetuating, non-resident trustee system were resolved
in the late 19th century. The ten-member board stopped meeting in
1889. However, the three-member board that replaced it still may
have consisted of non-residents, as one was appointed by the Floyd
County commissioners, one appointed by the Clark County commissioners
and one was elected by the residents of Clarksville.
At some point between 1889 and 1937,
the board changed again to five members, all residents of the town
elected by its citizens. However, records of this change were lost
in the 1937 flood.
Two other changes occurred to bring
Clarksville government to its present structure. In 1981, the State
of Indiana recodified its statutes regarding local government, including
changing the structure of town boards. Boards of trustees were designated
town councils with council members rather than trustees. In 1990,
the Clarksville Town Council expanded its membership from five to
seven. The current council consists of one member elected from each
of the five voting districts and two at-large members. top