George Rogers Clark and his poorly equipped soldiers gave the infant United States a claim to the vast Northwest Territory. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created territory out of which Indiana emerged as a state. To the southeast area came the Scribner brothers, Joel, Nathaniel, and Abner in 1812-1813 from New York. They chose the land below the Falls of the Ohio because it held so much potential for transportation, ship building, and other businesses.
Early in 1813, New Albany began taking shape when the first tree fell to clear the land. The first Scribner cabin was built at East Sixth and Main streets. Later in 1814, Joel built the present Scribner House (now owned by The Daughters of the American Revolution) on the southeast corner of Main and State streets. Immediately, the ground for the new settlement was platted and named New Albany in honor of the capital of the Scribner's home state, New York. In 1817 New Albany incorporated as a town even though Clark County still claimed it. But thanks to the efforts of Nathaniel Scribner, in the spring of 1819, Floyd County became a county in its own right. Cut out of Clark and Harrison counties, the county of "Floyd," supposedly after Davis Floyd, was born. Davis Floyd was a territorial politician, a friend of Aaron Burr, and most notably, became the first judge in the county.
The County itself is the second smallest county in land size in Indiana.
Before the locks were built on the Louisville side of the Ohio River, the River's influence established New Albany as one of the largest cities in the middle west. In 1839, the town of New Albany incorporated as a city.
During this time, a man named Epaphras Jones decided to found a town at the foot of Vincennes Street. Jones named it Providence. He hoped to establish a ferry to Louisville here. Jones was not as careful in the mapping of a town as his New Albany neighbors who had carefully planned their land. When he finally became discouraged with his idea, the houses in Providence had straggled out to meet the upcoming New Albany residents. This accounts for the sharp curve at East Tenth Street from East Oak to East Spring streets.
New Albany's location on the river deemed riverboat building and glass manufacturing early important businesses. The most lavishly furnished riverboats, the Eclipse and the Robert E. Lee, were built here. And John B. Ford's New Albany Glass Works produced and installed the first plate glass windows in the United States, in the Hieb Building at 318 Pearl Street. The Libby-Owen-Ford Glass Works at Pittsburgh is the outgrowth of the original New Albany Glass Works.
By 1853, New Albany High School, established at West First and Spring streets, was the first public high school in Indiana. The present New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation was the first of its kind in Indiana. Also, the students of New Albany High School, the first in the United States to own and operate its own radio station, interviewed many notables.
In 1824, a courthouse was built and was replaced by a larger one in 1865. (The early nineteen sixties found the old courthouse razed and replaced by the first City-County government building in Indiana.)
More firsts for New Albany:
1847 - railroads built, among them, the line from New Albany to Salem (later to be known as the Monon)
1858 - Ashbel P. Willard, Governor of the State of Indiana and a New Albany resident, dedicated the Floyd County Fairground, and in 1859 brought the Indiana State Fair to New Albany. During the Civil War the grounds were converted into Camp Noble where regiments from New Albany were mustered.
Civil War - New Albany became a strategic supply center for the Union Armies fighting in the South and a hospital center for the wounded being sent North as well as a part of an "underground railroad' for slaves escaping from the South.
1862 - President Abraham Lincoln established one of the first seven National Cemeteries in the United States in New Albany.
After shipbuilding and glass faded, New Albany became known in the 20th century for its production of veneer. Today, New Albany's main industries are manufacturing of:
fireproof file cabinets, refrigerated dough products, electrical components, plaques and awards, metal working machinery and plastic materials.
Millworks; plywood; leather tanning and finishing; and many more small manufacturing and assembly industries are located here. The city has over 300 acres of land suitable for industrial development. Estimated in 2003, 36,973 people were living within the city limits.
Nationally known figures who have visited or who have been residents:
John Audubon, naturalist, made many sketches of birds and wildlife of Silver Hills.
George W. Morrison, landscape and portrait painter called New Albany his home.
William Vaughn Moody, poet and playwright graduated from New Albany High School in 1885.
Warren Kerrigan, matinee idol of the 1920's came from New Albany.
Also, from New Albany:
William Wallace Atterbury, head of the U.S. Army Railroad Corp in Europe during World War I and later president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was the son of a minister of the Second Presbyterian Church (Camp Atterbury, near Columbus, Indiana was named for him).
Michael Kerr became speaker of the U.S. House of Representative shortly after the Civil War.
Washington C. DePauw, broker, banker and William S. Culbertson, known as a great industrialist were two of the most outstanding millionaires of the nineteenth century.
Charles Allen Prosser became know as the "father" of vocational education.
Sherman Minton was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Compiled from a series of previously printed historical documents, February 1995. Provided by the Floyd County Historical Society and Steve Pearce.