Welcome to Lawrence County and the settlements of the Wabash Valley, or Oubache, a name the French applied to the stream that separated Illinois from Indiana. The Wabash River was an early route the French used to reach the Mississippi from Canada. The French secured this route with the military post in Vincennes, Indiana. Early settlements radiated all around the fort opposite Vincennes in the fertile prairies of Lawrence County as early as 1762.
In 1763, by the Treaty of Paris, the whole territory came under British control. On February 18, 1779, George Roger Clark and his ragged band of soldiers passed through Lawrence County (crossed the river at St. Francisville) and conquered the Vincennes fort on February 25, 1779. After the War of 1812, other settlers from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana rapidly moved in to continue the development of this new Northwest Territory.
A ferry was established where the Lincoln Memorial Bridge now crosses the Wabash. In March 1830, the Lincoln family crossed via ox-teamed wagons. The 21-year-old Abe was with his father Thomas and step-mother Sarah Bush Lincoln and her two daughters and sons-in-law. Later, as a practicing attorney, Lincoln visited Lawrence County and our courthouse.
The town and the county were named for the naval hero, Captain James Lawrence whose last words, “Don’t give up ship!” most often echoed in the hearts of those determined settlers who faced the hardships of wilderness life.
The settlers of French, Scottish, and Irish descent, built quietly and with determination for the future. The emphasis which they placed on educational opportunities attracted more people with similar tastes. One of the first acts of the country commissioners, after establishing the seat of justice, was to form militia companies. It was the beginning of a long and proud military record for the county. At the beginning of the Civil War, Lawrence County offered the very first company of volunteers to President Lincoln. There is no need for militia companies now, but the problems of modern life being faced and solved with the same courage and determination with which those early pioneers faced their difficulties.