S1E12 - The Yankee Diaspora: The South Goes North

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Brian & Lyman go where no Kentuckians dare venture alone: Indiana. Where did Hoosiers come from, and what traits have historically characterized them? Learn about Hoosier demography, Native American land-sale treaties, and Brian's short rant on America's Ninth President!

Hoosiers, feel free to write us with your jokes about our fine commonwealth to your south. Bring it on!



B: You’re listening to Episode 12 of Migration Nation with Lyman Stone and Brian Hudson, a Podcast about the history of migration in America.

L: I’m an economist and Brian’s a social studies teacher. For this and the who-knows-how-many episodes, we’re going to continue exploring the migrations of Yankees, aaaand some other people, into the Midwest.

B: For today, we’ll be talking 19th century treaty-making practices!

L: And while you might think Brian is joking, well, he is… but we will talk a lot about treaties, especially treaties signed by Indianans.

B: Uhhh… yeah I don’t think they like to be called Indianans. Indianians? Indians? Hm.

L: Oh, I know. I’m just trolling my Indianianese brother-in-law. Which, note, we are going to be really hard on Indiana in this episode, listeners. And it’s not because they did something awful like build their entire economy on genocide and mass kidnapping of natives---

B: Looking at you, South Carolina!

L: Eh, yeah. But really, it’s because… well… it’s Indiana. And we’re from Kentucky. There can be no civility between our two peoples.

B: And we have a lot to say about Indiana, it turns out. This episode has been long-delayed partly because Lyman keeps fleeing the country, he claims for “work,” which sounds like a convenient excuse, but also because we really just found there was a lot to say about Indiana.

L: The result is that we are going to spend two episodes just on Indiana. Sorry, Ohio, but your story just wasn’t as interesting.

B: And talking about Indiana, what we will talk about is, you know, Indians.

L: We’re thinking that, after the Northwest Territory and the Yankee Diaspora has been completed, we’ll probably spend an episode or two on Native American migration because it’s really high time we focused on these people who have been at the margins of so many of our episodes.

B: But, for now, let’s get into Indiana, and the story of treachery, treaties, and how Kentuckians conquered a piece of the midwest.


L: Indiana. It’s not necessarily what we think of as a war-torn frontier, or as a unique ethnic enclave. I think for most Americans it’s just sort of the rectangle in between the Chicago rectangle and the Ohio square.

B: Good to know you learned your shapes.

L: No but really, like how often do people talk about people from Indiana truly distinctly from the midwest in general? Texans are clearly separated from other southerners or westerners. Californians are separated, Utahns are separated. Nobody confuses Coloradans and people from Wyoming. North and South Carolina have extremely different popular profiles. But Indiana? It’s like, okay, NASCAR. Aaaaaand we’re done. It’s just the flat space between Ohio and Illinois.

B: A flat space we apparently don’t care about offending. But I think you’re right that Indiana does get short shrift in terms of its popular and historic prominence because, as we’re going to show, Indiana’s genuinely unique history led to a unique cultural development.

L: So, let’s get to it! Maybe we should start with the data today. Indiana’s population growth from the first Census in 1800 to the mid-1810s follows the usual frontier pattern of very high growth rates, but from a small base, so few people move in. Population grows from under 3,000 in 1800 to about 24,500 in 1810. As a reminder, in 1800, Ohio had over 40,000 people, and by 1810 had over 230,000.

B: So Indiana has literally a tenth of Ohio’s population in 1810.

L: Right. But then in the 1820s, growth really picks up. Then from 1830 to the 1890s, Indiana consistently adds about 25,000 to 35,000 people a year every year. The growth rate declines with each decade, but the raw number of increase stays about the same, giving steady, linear growth.

B: You’re not doing much to save Indiana’s boring reputation here.

L: I know right? I mean I could say, “Indiana added over 300,000 people in each decade up to 1860,” but that’s not that exciting. We can also compare migration levels. In the blog I provide extensive charts on midwestern migration, but the simple version is that, just as Ohio was settled 10 to 20 years before Indiana, so Indiana’s migration remains in the net positive range about 10-20 years longer than Ohio’s. No big surprise there.

B: Okay… still not seeing the excitement here…

L: Right. So the big question is where all these people came from. We talked last time about how Ohio came to be more-or-less Yankee dominated, even though there was a strong southern-origin population in the south of the state. Indiana is a different story. Even though our Yankee diaspora will eventually show up in Indiana, they will never dominate the state. Instead, a strange people group unlike any other in America will come to dominate Indiana: Hoosiers.

B: (pause, then laughing) Wait, you’re serious?

L: Yep. See, Indiana isn’t settled from the east like Ohio, where there were entrance routes along Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and roads in the central east. Indiana’s north was swampy and lacked lake access, its center didn’t get major maintained roads until the 1820s or 1830s, and its access to the Ohio was broken up by the Falls of the Ohio at Clark County, across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. The original administrative capital at Vincennes had essentially zero access to the eastern states. The only good way to get there was to come from the south, to cross the Ohio, and head up the Wabash River.

B: Okay, so because Indiana was comparatively isolated, and presumably also because Ohio was big enough to absorb a lot of westward migration before it got to Indiana, the initial Hoosier settlers are southerners.

L: Right. Now, we have limited data on these people, but the classic studies of Hoosier ethnography come from a historian named Gregory S. Rose. Looking at early Census data as well as the bills of sale for land in Indiana, he finds that southerners, and especially Kentuckians, dominated the early settlement of Indiana.

B: Wait so Hoosiers are, like… knock-off Kentuckians?

L: Yep. As late as 1850, decades after the initial settlement, Kentuckians still made up about 7% of Indiana’s population, which is 10 times the ratio they represented in Ohio’s population. Gregory Rose also presents this data at a county level, which I’ve turned into a color-coded map you can see on the blog post. The story it tells is quite clear: Kentuckians moved north from Kentucky, and especially from Louisville.

B: But that’s as of 1850. Do we actually know these movements go back to Indiana’s founding?

L: We do! Again, Rose’s work is an invaluable aid, as he uses family history documents and land office registries to track some suggestive statistics of migration. He finds that, of about 7,000 land office filings made during the 1820s made by people listing a non-Indiana previous county of residence, about 5,500 were Kentuckians. That’s a huge margin. Using family histories, he finds the Kentucky-born to be somewhat less prominent, as many “Kentuckians” were actually Virginia-born, moving to Indiana by way of Kentucky.

B: Wow. So Kentuckians really, really dominated early Indiana.

L: Kentuckians specifically, but also southerners generally: Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee all make strong showings. Early Indiana was a major tobacco-growing area, or at least settlers thought it might become one, so settlers from tobacco country moved there. These southerners tended to be lower-class, unable to afford slaves, and uninterested in the “lowland” plantation culture that dominated migration within the south.

B: So they were southerners… but not southern southerners?

L: There’s a lot of politics at work in what to call these people. Some researchers insist they should be seen as essentially Appalachian, because they came from a broad region identified as the “upland” south, and states in the upland area had large Scots-Irish populations, and the Scots-Irish are those we associate with Appalachia. The problem is the direct linkage of Hoosiers identifying as Scots-Irish has never been strongly demonstrated, while the county origin data we have on them suggests that they mostly came from western Kentucky, or the Bluegrass region, not Appalachia.

B: So calling them “Appalachian” is mostly just a way of saying they were southerners but not cotton-growers.

L: Pretty much. Other authors insist heavily on calling them true southerners, heavily emphasizing the essential southern-ness of Indiana’s politics. This geneological explanation for politics crops up today, with pundits talking about how Indiana is a more conservative state than Ohio or Illinois because southerners settled it instead of Yankees. So the essential “southern-ness” of Indiana is a way for Yankee-sympathetic northern elites to boot Indiana out of the Yankee-diaspora family or the narrative of the Midwest, and as a way to tie political conservatism in Indiana to the racist legacy of the antebellum south.

B: So in that case, calling Indiana’s settlers southern is just a way of saying that Indiana today is conservative.

L: Yeah. And the reality is, yes, many Hoosiers were southerners, and many were Scots-Irish, and so there probably is some residual political effect, and probably are some ties to Appalachia. But Indiana’s state government was no more dominated by southern sectional interests than Illinois or Ohio, and voted for union and Lincoln as or more strongly than either. It’s hard to believe that Indiana’s southern-ness didn’t impact politics around the civil war, but is impacting it so much today.

B: So how should we think about Hoosiers?

L: As Hoosiers! As a unique American cultural identity unto themselves. Nobody even knows for sure where the word Hoosier comes from. There are stories it comes from the name of a Federal contractor in Louisville named Hoosier who only hired people from Indiana. There are stories it comes from an accented way of yelling “Who’s there?” as isolated cabin-dwellers would do when people approached. But the truth is that historians really have no frickin’ clue why Hoosiers are called Hoosiers, and have been called Hoosiers since the 1820s or 1830s.

B: So a unique group of atypical upland southerners moved into Indiana and rapidly started calling themselves by a name whose origins are shrouded in mystery, and they have persisted in having different politics and culture than any of their neighbors for nearly 200 years. Okay, yeah, I’ll buy it: Hoosiers are their own group, distinct from southerners, Appalachians, Yankees, or the rest.

L: Great. So now that we know who these people are… mind telling me how they actually got there?

B: Finally!


B: So you said that Indiana was settled from the south because of basic transportation problems, right?

L: Yeah, at least, that’s what a lot of the reading I did indicated.

B: Well, that does make sense, but it’s not complete. It turns out that although the U.S. acquired the Northwest Territory from the British after the War of Independence, they didn’t really own all of it. Native tribes still lived in the area in large numbers. When the U.S. first tried to take direct control of these lands in the late 1780s, it resulted in a conflict called the Northwest Indian War. By the early 1790s, after stunning events like St. Clair’s Defeat, the Native Americans had pushed the U.S. to send peace commissioners. Unfortunately, moderate pro-peace Natives, like the Six Nations of the Iroquois, couldn’t agree with more pro-war natives like the Miami on what terms to offer, and the conference broke down.

L: So St. Clair’s defeat wasn’t isolated, then?

B: No, the first 7 or 8 years of the Northwest Indian War went really badly for the U.S., losing basically every encounter. Luckily, a heroic American commander gathered a force of Kentuckian volunteers to ride in and save the day. That man, the renowned Clothier-General of the Revolution---


B: Was, of course, James Wilkinson! Yeah. The Traitor of Spanish Kentucky turned out to be the only guy manning the defenses after St. Clair’s Defeat. Well, him, a bunch of Kentucky volunteers, and future president William Henry Harrison, who showed up a few days too late to join the army that marched to St. Clair’s Defeat.

L: I feel like we are going to get to episodes in the 20th century and still find more James Wilkinson connections.

B: Well, so Wilkinson holds some forts, but ultimately General “Mad Anthony” Wayne is sent to crush the Indian confederacy, and he succeeds, recovering St. Clair’s lost cannons, and then beating the native confederacy in battle. And while American ranks could be replenished when they suffered losses, the native confederacy could not be.

L: So what does this all have to do with Indiana?

B: Well, this war made most of Ohio open to American settlement, but only opened an itty-bitty segment of Indiana: specifically, the southeastern segment along the Ohio border, which, as you show in your maps of Indiana settler origins, ended up being settled by more Yankees than southerners. I guess that’s not a coincidence; these lands opening up all at once exposed them to similar flows of migrants.

L: So if only a few tiny slivers of Indiana open up, how does the rest of it get settled?

B: Well, in 1800, William Henry Harrison was named the first governor of the Indiana Territory, which was basically all the Northwest Territory west of Ohio’s border line. His “capital” was at the bustling francophone metropolis of Vincennes.

L: (laughing) Oh right! Yes, bustling metropolis. And actually that’s funny, I guess that explains why smaller Vincennes outlasted larger Kaskaskia as an urban center! Just like St. Louis, Vincennes was a political hub!

B: Yeah I thought of that too! And interestingly, Vincennes got picked because, being disloyal Frenchmen, they revolted against the British during the War of Independence, and sided with the Americans. We rewarded them with William Henry Harrison.

L: Some prize.

B: Hah! Yeah, well, whatever the case, by 1800 the only parts of Indiana where Americans could buy land were in the immediate vicinity of Vincennes along the Illinois border, in “Clark’s Grant” across the river from Louisville, and that small sliver along the Ohio border. The first two parcels filled up with southerners because they were open land, yet shielded from Yankee or other easterner migration. That last sliver filled up with Yankees.

L: And then, what, do they all fight another war with the natives to open more land?

B: Well, President Jefferson had given Harrison authority to make treaties with the natives to open more land. So that meant it was time to bully some tribes into selling their homes, right? Right.

L: Who’s up first?

B: Well, in 1803 and 1804 the Miami and Wea tribes peacefully sold their lands along the Ohio River to the US government, represented by Harrison. Of course, when I say peacefully, keep in mind what’s really been happening is a bunch of Kentuckians have just started crossing the Ohio, planting corn and tobacco, and calling it home. These natives weren’t physically forced off their land, but they could see that continued residence along the Ohio River was not going to end well.

L: And then that treaty would accelerate southern migration much more than northern, because it would open up lots of land right along the Kentucky border with easy river access, while doing absolutely nothing to open lands accessible to Yankee migrants.

B: Right! So you can already see that the different flows of migrants into Indiana have a huge policy component to them. Then in 1805, with the Treaty of Grouseland, Harrison buys more land in southern Indiana, connecting the eastern sliver to the main southern land tracts, while also finally buying a slice of land in eastern and northern Indiana.

L: So the southern settlement arc continues, Yankees are still shut out mostly, but I guess Ohioans can move in? The 1850 Census data shows those eastern counties mostly settled by Ohioans and Pennsylvanians. And for any readers, you can find a map of all these treaty land cessions on the blog, as usual.

B: With all this land purchased, Indiana was starting to get filled in. So in 1809, Harrison figured he’d go and buy some more land north of Vincennes in the west, and expanding some of the southeastern areas. So he gathered up the tribes he’d bought from before in the same area, made’em an offer, and bought the land.

L: Sounds reasonable enough.

B: Well, sure, the other treaties had sounded reasonable enough too, but the reality is that trouble had been brewing for a long time. Each treaty was supposed to guarantee natives that their remaining land would be really theirs: yet they kept losing more land. Squatters kept encroaching on their territory. And their culture was increasingly heavily influenced by and economically dependent upon American society. The native population’s rapid territorial loss and the concentration of treaty-sale wealth in a few tribes and leaders left this culture-in-flux ripe for a revolution. It came in the form of a religious revival movement led by one Tenskwatawa, or “The Prophet,” as well as his brother and chief general, Tecumseh. And when many of the tribal chiefs sold yet more land to the Americans, it triggered widespread outrage,

L: And what year is this again?

B: Well, around 1808 and 1809, the brothers found a new town and start forming a new confederation of native tribes to resist American advances and encourage a return to what they viewed as a traditional spirituality, but which most historians now see as a new and innovative religion. In 1809, the Treaty of Fort Wayne really ticks them off, and by 1811, Tecumseh had gone to recruit further-flung allies and left his brother Tenskwatawa with their gathering force. But William Henry Harrison struck while Tecumseh was away, defeated the native confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and burnt their village.

L: That’s an anticlimactic ending.

B: It’s not the end! In 1812, the War of 1812 begins, and Tecumseh’s confederacy becomes a key part of the British war effort. Again, we have to skip all the war details here, and we really, really do need to do some native-focused episodes soon, but the key outcome is that the war ends up going disastrously for Britain’s numerous native allies. In 1818, the Miami, the dominant tribe in central Indiana and former British allies, had to give up a huge swathe of territory making up nearly half of Indiana throughout the center of the state.

L: And since there’s still been no addition to the northern, Yankee-accessible lands in Indiana at this point, that huge central section is mostly settled by southern-origin Hoosiers.

B: After 1818 came the Treaty of Chicago in 1821 opening up a strip of land from Chicago to Detroit, finally creating an open way for Yankee migration. Then in 1826 a strip of land was bought to build a road from this northern strip into the St. Mary’s Purchase area. Then in 1826 nearly the entire northeastern segment of the state was bought. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which initiated the Trail of Tears, all the remaining Indian lands were bought, in 1832 and 1840, often without the tribes on them consenting to the sale. Forcible removals commenced with hundreds of native Americans being removed across the Mississippi at great human cost.

L: Most of the lands where forcible Indian removals occurred were these later-settled and later-acquired lands; lands ultimately settled by predominantly Yankee- or Pennsylvanian-origin settlers. This is in some sense a fluke of history, but, nonetheless, almost none of the lands settled in southern Indiana were taken at the point of a sword. The only sliver that was, the southeastern bit from the Treaty of Greeneville, was Yankee-dominated. Southerner-dominated Central Indiana was more-or-less militarily conquered, but in a wider war that arguably the US did not start.

B: Someone’s clearly feeling sensitive about his southern honor.

L: Hah! No, look, the Trail of Tears was a product of Jackson and overwhelmingly southern-focused. I’m not saying southerners were all a bunch of innocents compared to them evil Yankees. Just that, in the one setting where both groups operated simultaneously, Yankee areas were settled the same way as southern areas in the deep south. There’s no innocent cultural group here.

B: I mean, except the native Americans.

L: Fair point.


B: And there, we have to abruptly end the 12th episode of Migration Nation. We have a lot more to say about Indiana, but we’ll save it for the next episode.

L: Thanks for listening and, as usual, there will be a summary song by my wife after we’re done talking, but after that will also be Indiana’s state song. We play it mostly to note that it’s kind of just a not-as-good knock-off of My Old Kentucky Home, which is fitting, since you could describe all of Indiana that way.

B: And if, despite our disparagement of the great state of Indiana, you’d still like more information about what we’re doing here, or would like to offer us your support, join us on the web at migrationpodcast.com, where you can find transcripts of our episodes, bonus nerdy materials from Lyman and me, and a donation button.

L: For today’s episode, we wanted to point listeners to some of the resources we found particularly helpful. Probably the most useful single source was Gregory S. Rose’s research. We provide links to some of his papers in the blog post, but his 1986 paper “Upland Southerners: The County Origins of Southern Migrants to Indiana by 1850”, as well as follow-up research, was absolutely indispensable for our work on Indiana. And if you want more information, check his papers out, they’re really good.

B: Also, we want to apologize again for the long delay in producing this episode. That is entirely Lyman’s fault, and he should not be forgiven.

L: We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Indiana’s settlement with us! This is Brian and Lyman saying, let’s Make American Migrate Again!