Starting with George Rogers Clark and his poorly equipped soldiers who gave the infant United States a claim to the vast Northwest Territory from the British, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created territory out of which Indiana emerged as a state. To this area came the Scribner brothers, Joel, Nathaniel and Abner in 1812-1813 from New York. The land below the Falls of the Ohio was chosen because of it potential for transportation, ship building, and other businesses.
Early in 1813, the first tree was felled to clear the land for what was to become New Albany. The first Scribner cabin was at East Sixth and Main streets; later in 1814, the present Scribner House (now owned by The Daughters of the American Revolution) was built by Joel 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 their home state, New York. In 1817 New Albany was incorporated as a town while still a part of Clark County. But thanks to the efforts of Nathaniel Scribner, Floyd County was recognized as a county in its own right in the spring of 1819. Cut out of Clark and Harrison counties it was named "Floyd" supposedly after Davis Floyd, a territorial politician and a friend of Aaron Burr. Davis Floyd became the first judge in the county. The County itself is the second smallest county in land size in the State.
Prior to the building of the locks on the Louisville side of the river, New Albany was one of the largest cities in the middle west due to the influence of the river. In 1839, New Albany became incorporated as a city.
During this period of time, a man by the name of Epaphras Jones decided to found a town by the name of Providence at the foot of Vincennes Street. He hoped to establish a ferry at this locality to Louisville. 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.
Because of New Albany's location on the river, riverboat building was an early important business as was glass manufacturing. The most lavishly furnished riverboats, the Eclipse and the Robert E. Lee were built here, and the first plate glass windows in the United States were made and installed in New Albany in the Hieb Building at 318 Pearl Street by Jon B. Ford's New Albany Glass Works. The Libby-Owen-Ford Glass Works at Pittsburgh is the outgrowth of the original New Albany Glass Works.
By 1853, New Albany High School was established at West First and Spring streets. This 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. New Albany High School was also the first in the United States to own and operate it's own TV station where many notables have been interviewed by students.
In 1824, a courthouse was built but was replaced by a larger one in 1865. (The early nineteen sixties found the old courthouse raised and replaced by the first City-County government building in Indiana.)
In 1847, railroads were being built. The line from New Albany to Salem (later to be known as the Monon) was another first for New Albany. In 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.
During the 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. President Abraham Lincoln established one of the first seven National Cemeteries in the United States in New Albany in 1862.
After shipbuilding and glass faded from the scene, New Albany became hardwood and plywood center of the nation. Today the main industries are the manufacturing of fireproof file cabinets; refrigerated dough products; international producers of electrical components; manufacturers of shirts, 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. According to the 1990 census, there are 36,322 people living within the city limits.
New Albany has an abundance of national know notables who have either been in this area or who have been residents. John Audobon, naturalist, made many sketches of birds and wildlife of Silver Hills. George W. Morrison, famous landscape and portrait painter called New Albany his home. William Vaughn Moody, famous poet and playwright graduated from New Albany High School in 1885. Warren Kerrigan, matinee idol of the 1920's came from New Albany while William Wallace Atterbury, head of the U.S. Army Railroad Corp in Europe in World War I and later president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was the son of a minister of the Second Presbyterian Church (later Camp Atterbury at Columbus was named for him). Michael Kerr became speaker of the U.S. House of Representative shortly after the Civil War. Two of the most outstanding millionaires of the nineteenth century were Washington C. DePauw, broker, banker and William S. Culbertson, known as a great industrialist. Chares Allen Prosser became know as the "father" of vocational education and Sherman Minton was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. All were from New Albany, Indiana.
Compiled from a series of previously printed historical documents, February 1995 Provided by the Floyd County Historical Society & Steve Pearce.