Jeffersonville is a city and the county seat of Clark County, Indiana, United States, situated along the Ohio River. Locally, the city is often referred to by the abbreviated name Jeff. It lies directly across the Ohio River to the north of Louisville, Kentucky, along I-65. The population was 49,447 at the 2020 census.
Jeffersonville began its existence as a settlement around Fort Finney some time after 1786, and was named after Thomas Jefferson in 1801, the year he took office.
The foundation for what would become Jeffersonville began in 1786 when Fort Finney was established near where the Kennedy Bridge is today. U.S. Army planners chose the location for its view of a nearby bend in the Ohio River, which offered a strategic advantage in the protection of settlers from Native Americans. Overtime, a settlement grew. In 1791 the fort was renamed to Fort Steuben in honor of Baron von Steuben. Then in 1793 the fort was abandoned.
Precisely when the settlement became known as Jeffersonville is unclear, but it was probably around 1801, the year in which President Thomas Jefferson took office. In 1802 local residents used a grid pattern designed by Thomas Jefferson for the formation of a city. On September 13, 1803, a post office was established in the city. In 1808 Indiana's second federal land sale office was established in Jeffersonville, which initiated a growth in settling in Indiana that was further spurred by the end of the War of 1812.
Shortly after formation, Jeffersonville was named to be the county seat of Clark County in 1802, replacing Springville. In 1812 Charlestown was named the county seat, but the county seat returned to Jeffersonville in 1878, where it remains.
In 1813 and 1814 Jeffersonville was briefly the de facto capital of the Indiana Territory, as then-governor Thomas Posey disliked then-capital Corydon, and wanting to be closer to his personal physician in Louisville, decided to live in Jeffersonville. However, it is debated by some that Dennis Pennington had some involvement in his location to Jeffersonville. The territorial legislature remained in Corydon and communicated with Posey by messenger.
In 1819 the first shipbuilding took place in Jeffersonville, and steamboats would become key to Jeffersonville's economy. In 1834, James Howard built his first steamboat, named the Hyperion, in Jeffersonville. He established his ship building company in Jeffersonville that year but moved his business to Madison, Indiana in 1836 and remained there until 1844. Howard returned his business to the Jeffersonville area to its final location in Port Fulton in 1849. There is an annual festival held in September called Steamboat Days that celebrates Jeffersonville's heritage.
As a free state bordering the south, Indiana served as a crucial step along the Underground Railroad. By 1830, Jeffersonville was the first and largest route for fugitives crossing the Ohio River at Louisville. Hundreds of freedom seekers made their way north to Canada through Clark County.
= Gateway to the south =
The Civil War increased the importance of Jeffersonville, as the city was one of the principal gateways to the South during the war. This was largely due to its location directly opposite Louisville. Three railroads served Jeffersonville from the north, as well as the waterway of the Ohio River. This factor influenced its selection as one of the principal bases for supplies and troops for the Union Army. Operating in the South, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad furnished the connecting link between Louisville and the rest of the South. Camp Joe Holt was instrumental in keeping Kentucky within the Union.
= Evacuation to Jeffersonville =
In September and October 1862, two Confederate armies led by Generals Braxton Bragg and E. Kirby Smith closed in on Louisville, a key strategic prize. General William "Bull" Nelson ordered women and children to evacuate. So many fled across the river to Jeffersonville that the city's hotels and rooming houses were filled to capacity. On September 24, General Don Carlos Buell and his men managed to reach Louisville barely ahead of the Confederates. The force of 100,000 Union soldiers successfully defended Louisville and forestalled any invasion.
= Jefferson General Hospital =
The third largest Civil War hospital, Jefferson General Hospital, was located in nearby Port Fulton (now within Jeffersonville) from 1864 to 1866. This location was chosen as it was close to the river and Louisville. The original land was seized by the federal government from the Honorable Jesse D. Bright, United States Senator, a sympathizer of the Confederate cause. During the war it housed 16,120 patients in its 5,200 beds and was under the command of Dr. Middleton Goldsmith. A cemetery was built for fallen soldiers down the hill, but the wooden grave markers had decayed by 1927. Jeffersonville city council built a ball field over the cemetery, not bothering to move the graves. In 2011 and 2012, hundreds of graves, including Civil War era dead, were discovered under the Jeffersonville ballpark. A city representative stated that an archaeological dig and study were being contemplated.
= Jeffersonville Quartermaster Depot =
The Jeffersonville Quartermaster Intermediate Depot had its first beginnings, near its present location, in the early days of the Civil War. In 1871, the U.S. Army began consolidating operations, which sprawled the city, into four square blocks. The structure is still in use today.
20th and 21st century
On December 17, 1900, Jeffersonville officially opened a new Jeffersonville Township Public Library in a room above the Citizens National Bank. 1400 books formed the initial collection. Soon, the Carnegie Foundation donated $16,000 for the construction of a new library building - a beaux arts, copper-domed landmark. The building was designed by Jeffersonville architect Arthur Loomis. Masonic officials laid the building's cornerstone on September 19, 1903, in Warder Park. When the Carnegie Library opened in 1905, it contained 3,869 volumes. Whereas in later years grants from the Carnegie Foundation were scaled back to prevent the construction of lavish libraries, the library in Warder Park was relatively ornate.
Due to the Ohio River Flood of 1937, the library suffered a near total loss of its collection. However, it reopened in November 1937 thanks to months of work and donations of money and books.
World War I
During World War I, Jeffersonville contributed to the war effort largely through its production capabilities. On the eve of war, the Quartermaster Depot began producing a wide range in items, including saddles, harnesses, stoves, and kitchen utensils. Most famously, though, the depot produced 700,000 shirts per month, earning it the nickname "America's largest shirt factory." Meanwhile, the American Car and Foundry Company's local plant manufactured a variety of products ranging from components for over 228,000 artillery shells to 18,156 cake turners.
Shortly after the war ended in 1918, civilian employment at the Quartermaster Depot fell to 445, and military presence dropped to just ten officers and two enlisted.
Religious revivals in the 1920s
For a brief period in the mid-1920s and early 1930s, Roy E. Davis, a founding member of the 1915 Ku Klux Klan, hosted a series of religious revivals in Jeffersonville. He also moved his First Pentecostal Baptist Church there, and held revivals in neighboring states. Meanwhile, he routinely challenged the Jeffersonville Evening News for its depiction of his church, eventually starting a new publication called The Banner of Truth to publicize his services and aid recruitment. Much of his popularity stemmed from his vocal opposition of prohibition.
In 1934, a fire destroyed Davis's First Pentecostal Baptist Church. After years of legal trouble, Davis was denied a permit to rebuild. He left Jeffersonville, and William Branham - formerly a ministering elder in Davis's church - became pastor of the congregation. Branham moved the group to a new building, eventually naming it Branham Tabernacle, as it is known today.
"Little Las Vegas"
In the 1930s and 1940s, gambling was instrumental in Jeffersonville's recovery from the Great Depression and the Flood of 1937. This earned the town the nickname "Little Las Vegas". During this time, Jeffersonville attracted the likes of Clark Gable, John Dillinger, Al Capone, and others. After Clarence Amster, a New Albany resident was gunned down on July 2, 1937, public sentiment turned against gambling and the mobsters it brought. In 1938, James L. Bottorff was elected judge and announced that gambling would not be tolerated. The Club Greyhound, a major dog racing track known for fixing races, was raided and closed within a year, with others soon following.
World War II
Having acquired the Howard Shipyards in 1925, the U.S. Navy awarded the Jeffersonville Boat & Machine Company (later known as Jeffboat), an adjacent shipyard, a contract to build boats during World War II. Jeffboat built landing vessels such as the LST, and swelled in number of employees from 200 to 13,000 people. After the war ended, the Navy sold the Howard Shipyard to Jeffboat.
Also during World War II, the Quartermaster Depot, in conjunction with Fort Knox, Kentucky, housed German prisoners of war until 1945.
End of segregation
Jeffersonville ended segregation in its public schools in 1952, two years before the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education ruled that segregation was unconstitutional. Prior to this, Jeffersonville High School was reserved for white high school students. Meanwhile, black students in grades one through twelve were sent to Taylor High School. While the New York Times held up Jeffersonville as a model for all "southern-minded" cities, integration came at a cost. Though black students were allowed to attend the newly integrated Jeffersonville High School, black instructors previously employed at Taylor High School were terminated.
On February 5, 2008 the city of Jeffersonville officially annexed four out of six planned annex zones. The proposed annexation of the other two zones was postponed due to lawsuits. One of the two areas remaining to be annexed was Oak Park, Indiana an area of about 5,000 more citizens. The areas annexed added about to the city and about 4,500 citizens, raising the population to an estimated 33,100. The total area planned to be annexed was . The annexed areas received planning and zoning, building permits and drainage issues services immediately, with new in-city sewer rates which are lower. Other services were phased in, such as police and fire, and worked jointly with the pre-existing non-city services until they were available.
The Clark County Courts dismissed the lawsuits against the city on February 25, 2008. This dismissal brought the remaining Oak Park area into the city. The population of the city grew to nearly 50,000 citizens, making it the largest annexation in Jeffersonville's history.
Big Four Pedestrian Bridge and Big Four Station
Conceived in the 1990s, the Big Four Bridge was converted to a pedestrian bridge in a joint effort between Kentucky and Indiana governments. An average of 1.5 million pedestrians and bicycles cross the roughly-1/2 mile bridge each year. 1/4 mile ramps complete the bridge on each end. The bridge is also decorated with a colorful LED lighting system that operates from twilight to 1 am. The lights can be customized by request.
On the Jeffersonville side of the bridge the city constructed Big Four Station, a plaza and park. The park features green space, fountains, a farmers market on Saturdays, a restroom, a bike-sharing station, a pavilion, a playground, and easy access to downtown shops and restaurants. Big Four Station is also the home of the annual Abbey Road on the River, the largest Beatles-inspired music festival in the world, as well as other annual celebrations.
Jeffersonville is located at (38.295669, -85.731485).
According to the 2010 census, Jeffersonville has a total area of , of which (or 99.14%) is land and (or 0.86%) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 44,953 people, 18,580 households, and 11,697 families living in the city. The population density was . There were 19,991 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the city was 80.4% White, 13.2% African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 1.9% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 4.1% of the population.
There were 18,580 households, of which 31.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.0% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.95.
The median age in the city was 37.3 years. 23.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 29.2% were from 25 to 44; 27.5% were from 45 to 64; and 11.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 27,362 people, 11,643 households, and 7,241 families living in the city. The population density was 2,014.7 people per square mile (777.9/km). There were 12,402 housing units at an average density of 913.2 per square mile (352.6/km). The racial makeup of the city was 82.50% White, 13.68% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.84% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.65% from other races, and 1.97% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.80% of the population.
There were 11,643 households, out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.3% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.90.
The age distribution was 23.6% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,234, and the median income for a family was $45,264. Males had a median income of $32,491 versus $24,738 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,656. About 6.9% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.9% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
A plethora of businesses call Jeffersonville home, including both locally owned and operated companies, as well as national ones. As of 2020, some of the top employers in the city included: Greater Clark County Schools (1600), Clark Memorial Hospital (1500), Clark Memorial Hospital Foundation (1066), Heartland Payment Systems (850), and Republic Bank & Trust of Indiana (721).
Dining and bars
Jeffersonville has a variety of restaurants along the river front, downtown, and other areas such as the Quartermaster Depot. These include small bars, restaurants, and fast food chains. Jeffersonville is also notable for being the birthplace of the pizza chain Papa John's Pizza, which started in Mick's Lounge, a local bar.
Kitchen Kompact manufactures cabinetry in a converted portion of the Quartermaster Depot. The 750,000 square foot facility employs nearly 300 workers with an average tenure of 15 years. They produce around 10,000 cabinets per shift.
National Processing Center
Jeffersonville is home to the United States Bureau of the Census's National Processing Center - the bureau's primary center for collecting, capturing, and delivering data. The facility comprises approximately one million square feet, and processes millions of forms per year. It also employs 1200 to more than 6000 people, making it one of southern Indiana's largest employers.
River Ridge Commerce Center
The River Ridge Commerce Center is an industrial zone located on the outskirts of Jeffersonville near Charlestown, Indiana. Sitting on land previously comprising part of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, it now hosts a variety of industries. These include manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, food & beverage, life sciences, logistics, and more.
Until 2018, Jeffersonville was the home of Jeffboat, the largest inland shipbuilder in the US. At its peak, the barge manufacturer employed over 13,000 employees. The company closed due to an overproduction of barges, marking the end of 200 years of shipbuilding in Jeffersonville.
Jeffersonville public schools belong to the Greater Clark County school system.
Nearby points of interest
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