McCormick Cabin Site
The McCormick Cabin Site marks the location of a cabin built by John Wesley McCormick in 1820. It was within this cabin that commissioners, appointed by the state legislature, met in June of 1820 to select the future site of Indiana’s capital city. While McCormick’s cabin no longer exists at the site that is now located on a grassy triangle of land along the White River Trail, a large granite boulder with a historical marker designating where the cabin stood was placed there in 1924. The McCormick Cabin Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Backstory and Context
Revolutionary War veteran, John McCormick, came to the Indiana Territory via Virginia and Ohio. He and his family first settled at a fort near present day Connersville. In 1816 the family left the safety of the fort and settled in what is now Owen County near McCormick Creek State Park. That same year, Indiana became the 19th state admitted to the Union with the state capital located at Corydon, in the southern part of the state near Louisville, Kentucky and the Ohio River. By 1820, McCormick had moved on to a settlement located along the White River and the state legislature was looking to move the capital to a more centralized location along a navigable river, which the White turned out NOT to be.
To that end, the legislature then tasked several commissioners to “…select and locate a site for the permanent seat of government of the state of Indiana.” The commissioners agreed upon a site just to the east of McCormick’s cabin as the location for the new capital. They drafted a report, signed it within the cabin and then submitted it to the legislature in November of 1820.
Alexander Ralston and Elias Pym Fordham where then hired by commissioner Christopher Harrison to survey the land McCormick’s commission had selected and to then design the new capital. Ralston was, by trade, an experienced surveyor who had assisted Pierre L’Enfant in planning the nation’s new capital at Washington D.C. Ralston had left the relative comfort of the East Coast for the Indiana wilderness after his involvement in the 1805 Burr Conspiracy.
The two men then platted out a town of one square mile with a Governor’s Circle at its center. At the center of this circle was to be the governor’s mansion. However, this location provided little privacy and the mansion was demolished in 1857. The state capital was then moved from Corydon to Indianapolis (Indiana + polis, or Greek for “city”) in 1825. Ralston died in the town he designed two years later and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery. Engraved on his headstone is an image of the original plat of Indianapolis.
Today, the site of McCormick’s cabin is located along the east bank of the White River near NCAA Headquarters and the Celebration Plaza Amphitheater within the larger White River State Park. Also located nearby is the pedestrian bridge that was once part of the National Road and now connects White River State Park to the Indianapolis Zoo.
Lorentz, Lisa. "Which came First, the McCormick or the Pogue?" Historic Indianapolis. March 7, 2014. Accessed March 3, 2017. http://historicindianapolis.com/friday-favorites-which-came-first-the-mccormick-or-the-pogue/
Krasean, Thomas. "National Register of Historic Places -- Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. August 16, 1979. Accessed March 3, 2017. https://secure.in.gov/apps/dnr/shaard/r/2160e/N/McCormick_Cabin_Site_Marion_CO_Nom.pdf
Bennett, Pamela, ed. "Indianapolis, the Capital." The Indiana Historian. June, 1996. Accessed March 3, 2017. https://www.in.gov/history/files/tiharch-jun96.pdf