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December 08, 2016

Bicentennials: Looking Backwards and Forwards

bicentennial-logoBicentennials: Looking Backwards and Forwards

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

The events to celebrate the Indiana State Bicentennial will officially end on December 11, Statehood Day, and Hamilton County has had a lot of activity to show for it.  Everything began last December with a flag raising at the courthouse.  In the intervening year, there have been a variety of events and projects to highlight the four Key Pillars established by the State Bicentennial Commission: Historic Celebration; Youth & Education; Nature Conservation; Community Involvement.

The effort was led by Hamilton County Tourism who gave grants to groups such as Roberts Settlement for a play about Frederick Douglass, Noblesville Main Street for a Noblesville Then and Now video, Carmel-Clay Historical Society, Conner Prairie, Civic Theater, Great American Songbook, Lights over Morse, Museum of Miniature Houses, Ambassador House, Nickel Plate Players, and others.   HCT also organized programs like the Bicentennial Tree of Hope – planting ten trees around the county in April as a living legacy to future generations – and a Bicentennial Wreath Laying event to honor James Noble in June.  They talk about this on their own blog.

The state commission endorsed Legacy Projects from several groups around the county, particularly the Hamilton County Parks Department.

The Hamilton East Public Library has been deeply involved in the bicentennial and has done a number of projects.  Among those are a series of programs put on by the Indiana Room, our summer reading program “A Summer Under the Stars”, and humorous educational videos about Hamilton County history (funded by a grant from HCT).

[vc_video link=’https://youtu.be/Xk7VvVOiiNk’][vc_video link=’https://youtu.be/ZrfbQ_cVY2g’][vc_video link=’https://youtu.be/Q0qOoPRaFNY’][vc_video link=’https://youtu.be/vnd0A2GNeD8′]


The events reached their peak with the statewide Torch relay in the autumn.  It came through Hamilton County on October 13, stopping briefly in Carmel, Westfield, and Fishers, before arriving on Courthouse Square in Noblesville.

You might think that the excitement is over, but now we have to start planning for upcoming bicentennials.  Hamilton County didn’t exist in 1816, so until now, we’ve been talking about state history in general.  Over the next seven years, we’ll have the opportunity to explore and celebrate several important dates in our own county’s history.

October 6, 2018 – The signing of Treaty of St. Mary’s. This is when the land in central Indiana was officially opened for settlement.  The Native Americans ceded the land and the Delaware Indians (Lenape) who lived here moved father west.  William Conner helped negotiate the treaty even though his Delaware wife went with her tribe.  The first white settlers came into the area in April of 1819 and were met by the African American fur trader Pete Smith.

May 22, 2020 – The commission to determine the site of the new state capitol met at William Conner’s trading post.  They would eventually decide on a spot near where Fall Creek met White River and gave it official approval on June 7.  The city was platted and named Indianapolis the next year .

2022 – The Great Squirrel Stampede

2023 – The establishment of Hamilton County and Noblesville.  The city was platted in January and official designation of the county was on April 7.  Interestingly, when the centennial was celebrated in 1923, October 3 & 4 were chosen for the date.