Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

The works below are biographies & memoirs in Indiana history. See the right column for more info about this website.


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Tales of Kankakee Land

NY: Scribner’s Sons 1904
Bartlett, Charles H.Go to Book

These stories are from the author’s experiences of growing up in the vast marshlands and wilderness of the Kankakee watershed.

Bartlett, Charles Henry (1853-1937)

Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad:…

Cincinnati: R. Clarke. 1880
Coffin, Levi Go to Book

(title continued) “… being a brief history of the labors of a lifetime in behalf of the slave, with the stories of numerous fugitives, who gained their freedom through his instrumentality, and many other incidents”

Levi Coffin (1798-1877) was a Quaker who, with his wife Catharine, sheltered over a hundred escaping slaves per year while living in Fountain City (then Newport) in Wayne County, IN from 1826 to 1847. Their home was known as ‘Grand Central Station’ on the Underground Railroad because of the scale of their work. He then moved to Cincinnati, OH where he continued to be very active in the Underground Railroad. One of the slaves they helped was immortalized as Eliza, the heroine of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
– From Indiana Historical Society

Also see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

For biographies of people in the American abolition movement, see:
– Swift, Lindsay, William Lloyd Garrison in Century Past Biographies: G & H
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Washington, Booker Taliaferro, Frederick Douglass in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F; and
Haviland, Laura S. , A Woman’s Life-Work in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Coffin, Levi (1798-1877)

Sons of the Wilderness: John and William Conner

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 1937
Thomson, Charles Go to Book

The author wrote in the Preface that, “This book… is more than a record of the Conners as pioneers. It is also a story of the transformation in their lives. From their birth to mature manhood they lived among and with the Indians in the closest contacts. Later they gave up these ties, affiliated with their own race, and became active and forceful in the early development of Indiana. To depict their lives clearly it has been necessary to set out the historical background of the Ohio Valley (particularly Indiana) for a little over a hundred years.” Chapter headings are:

-The Northern Ohio Valley, 1750-1814
-Richard Conner and Margaret Boyer – the Moravian Mission
-Removal to Michigan with the Dispossessed Moravians
-John and William Conner, Traders on the Indiana Frontier
-Interpreters and Scouts
-The War of 1812 in the Ohio Valley
-John Conner, Founder of Connersville and State Builder
-The Conners at the Treaties of St. Mary’s – Departure of the Delawares
-The Transformation of William Conner – the Founding of Noblesville
-John Conner, Early Indianapolis Merchant
-William Conner, Man of Affairs – Closing Years

Conner, John (1775-1826)


Conner, William (1777-1855)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

Debs: His Authorized Life and Letters

NY: Boni and Liveright 1919
Karsner, David Go to Book

Eugene V. Debs was a union leader; one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World. He ran for U.S. President five times as the candidate of the Socialist Party of America.

Debs, Eugene Victor (1855-1926)

That Man Debs and His Life Work

Bloomington: Indiana University 1929
Painter, Floy RuthGo to Book


Debs, Eugene Victor (1855-1926)

Life in Early Indiana

Fort Wayne, IN: Public Library of Fort Wayne. 1910
Eggleston, George C.Go to Book

Eggleston was a nationally known writer for New York newspapers and magazines, as well as a popular novelist. He was also a native Hoosier. In later life he wrote this autobiography.

Eggleston, George Cary (1839-1911)

“Reminiscences of Judge Finch”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 155-165

Bloomington: Indiana University 1911
Finch, Fabius M. Go to Article

This was an address by Judge Fabius Finch in 1885, in which he describes being among the first groups of settlers in the area called “The New Purchase”. It was a large tract opened for settlement in 1819, shortly after it was acquired from local Indian tribes. Finch’s father settled on White River opposite the later site of Noblesville. The address describes many details and hardships of life on the frontier in the 1820s.

Finch, Fabius Maximus (1810-1900)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

Reminiscences of a Journey to Indianapolis in the Year 1836

Life of Ziba Foote

Indianapolis: Bowen Merrill 1893
Ferguson, C. P. (Judge); Morrison, Samuel Go to Book

There are three papers by three authors in this little booklet by the Indiana Historical Society.

Reminiscences is just 9 pages long, and describes Ferguson’s trip to the State Capital in 1836 as a small boy traveling with his father, who was serving in the legislature there. It is of interest mainly for its short characterizations of prominent Indiana politicians of the time.

Ziba Foote’s story is a short one, in two senses. Author Samuel Morrison needed only seven pages to tell about this young man who completed Yale College in 1805 and headed to Indiana to take an appointment as assistant surveyor. This story describes his ordeal when he arrived, and his accidental death not long afterward.

“Sketch of Samuel Morrison” (the author of Ziba Foote) is of interest as a brief biography of a very early settler in Indiana, as Morrison was born there in 1798.

The New Purchase, or Seven and a Half Years in the Far West

Princeton: Princeton University 1916
Woodburn, James Albert, ed.
Go to Book

“Baynard Hall, the writer of the volume, was the first and only principal of the Indiana Seminary which from 1824 to 1829 preceded Indiana College. The volume describes his trip to, and work in and around Bloomington from the spring of 1823 to the fall of 1830. The title of the book, The New Purchase, is misleading, since he only made two brief journeys into that part of the State. The towns named and referred to, Bloomington, Gosport, Palestine, Salem, Fairplay, Spencer and Vincennes, are not in the New Purchase. The history and geography of the story are so carefully veiled with fictitious names that one can only be sure of his location after careful comparisons. As a picture of pioneer life in Indiana it is unequalled, and must necessarily always remain so. Altogether the book is one of the most valuable sources on Indiana history, the more valuable because of the character of the writer and his remarkable opportunity for observation. Every library and school in Indiana should have a copy of this rare old book.”

Excerpts from an anonymous review in Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 354-355.

Hall, Baynard Rush (1793-1863)

Life and Public Services of Hon. Benjamin Harrison, President of the U.S.

Edgewood 1892
Wallace, Gen. Lew and Halstead, Murat Go to Book

(title continued) ” … with a concise biographical sketch of Hon. Whitelaw Reid, ex-Minister to France”


Harrison, Benjamin, U.S. President (1833-1901)

Historical Narrative of the Civil and Military Services of Major-General William H. Harrison …

Cincinnati: M. Dawson 1824
Dawson, MosesGo to Book

(title continued) “… and a vindication of his character and conduct as a statesman, a citizen and a soldier. With a detail of his negotiations and wars with the Indians, until the final overthrow of the celebrated chief Tecumseh, and his brother The Prophet”

The author was the editor of the Cincinnati Advertiser. As the title suggests, he wrote this book in response to rumors spread by Harrison’s political enemies. Harrison had by this time served as a U.S. Congressman and Governor of Indiana Territory, had led troops in wartime, and had negotiated a number of treaties and land acquisitions with Indian tribes. The author admits in the introduction that Harrison had provided him documents and assistance for this authorized biography.

Harrison, William Henry, U.S. President (1773-1841)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 1922
Esarey, Logan, ed. Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

Historian Lew Wallace wrote that, “William Henry Harrison was clothed with power more nearly imperial than any ever exercised by one man in the Republic. He was authorized to adopt and publish such laws, civil and criminal, as were best adapted to the condition of the Territory; he could arbitrarily create townships and counties, and appoint civil officers, and militia officers under the grade of general. Most extraordinary of all, however, to him belonged the confirmation of an important class of land grants. In this regard his authority was absolute.”

In the Introduction, the Director of the Indiana Historical Commission wrote that, “In the Messages and Papers of Indiana Governors is to be found much of the material that is fundamentally essential to a proper understanding of Indiana history. In fact, the real background for the early history of the Old Northwest Territory is found in the messages, proclamations and letters penned by William Henry Harrison during the years 1800 to 1816.”

Vol 1. covers 1800-1811; Vol. 2 covers 1812-1816.

For biographies and memoirs of early 19th century governors in the Great Lakes states, see:
– Edwards, Ninian Wirt, History of Illinois, from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards in Illinois History Politics & Government
St Clair, Arthur and Smith, William H., ed., St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Alvord, Clarence W. ed., Governor Edward Coles in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Reynolds, John, My Own Times, Embracing also the History of my Life in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Hemans, Lawton Thomas, Life and Times of Stevens Thomson Mason in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
McLauglin, Andrew C., Lewis Cass in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Harrison, William Henry, U.S. President (1773-1841)

Reminiscences of an Indianian

Indianapolis: Hollenbeck 1905
Lemcke, J. Augustus Go to Book

(title continued) ” … From the Sassafras Log behind the Barn in Posey County to Broader Fields”


From the Sassafras Log behind the Barn in Posey County to Broader Fields
Sketches –
– Wildcat Steamboating on the Wabash and its Tributaries
– Flatboating down the Mississippi
– War Times on a Mississippi River Steamboat
– Adventurous Times on the Tennessee River
– Mutiny on an Ohio River Steamboat
– Fording the Ohio on a Log
– A War Reminiscence
– The Fremon Campaign of Fifty-six in a Democratic Neighborhood
– Sheriff and a Riot

Some Sights Exceptionally Attractive and Interesting, as Observed in European Travels –
– A Glimpse of Italy’s Northern Lakes
– The Riviera from the Cornische Road
– The Great International Aquarium at Naples, Italy
– The Hill of the Alhambra
– Fairyland

Lemcke, Julius Augustus (1832-1911)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

Lincoln in Indiana

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University. 1917
Murr, J. Edward Go to Book

This book length study appeared as articles in successive issues of Indiana Magazine of History. Abraham Lincoln moved with his parents from Kentucky to Spencer County, IN in 1816, at the age of seven, and he remained there until 1830 when he moved with his father and step-mother to Illinois.

See our full page of resources on Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

Lincoln, Abraham, U.S. President (1809-1865)

Little Turtle (Me-She-Kin-No-Quah): The Great Chief of the Miami Indian Nation

Greenville, OH: Young 1917
Young, Calvin M.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Being a sketch of his life together with that of Wm. Wells and some noted descendants”


Little Turtle (Michikinikwa) (1747-1812)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

The Pioneers of Morgan County; Memoirs of Noah J. Major

Indianapolis: Hecker 1915
Esarey, Logan (PhD) ed.Go to Book

Major lived in the neighborhood of Martinsville in Morgan county from the age of nine in 1832 until 1911. Esarey, the Secretary of the Indiana Historical Survey at Indiana University, wrote in the Introduction that as far as he knew, this book was the finest tribute in existence to Hoosier pioneers.

Major, Noah J. (1823-1911?)

“Judge Isaac Naylor, 1790–1873: An Autobiography”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 134-140

Bloomington: Indiana University 1908
Naylor, IsaacGo to Article

This autobiographical sketch was written in 1852 for Harpers’s Magazine, but was never published there. Judge Naylor, who lived at Crawfordsville from 1833 until his death in 1873, was a circuit judge in a region comprising the counties of Tippecanoe, White, Montgomery, Benton, Jasper and Fountain. He was also a student of history and a veteran of the Indian wars and the War of 1812.

Naylor, Isaac (1790–1873)

Ernie Pyle in England

NY: McBride 1941
Pyle, ErnieGo to Book

As a roving correspondent for a newspaper chain, Ernie Pyle earned wide acclaim for his accounts of ordinary people in rural America, and later of ordinary American soldiers during World War II. His syndicated column ran in more than 300 newspapers nationwide.
– Wikipedia entry for “Ernie Pyle”.

Pyle, Ernest Taylor (1900-1945)

Reminiscences of James Whitcomb Riley

NY: Revell 1916
Laughlin, Clara E.Go to Book

James Whitcomb Riley was a best-selling writer and poet. During his lifetime he was known as the “Hoosier Poet” for his dialect poetry, and was also well known as a children’s poet.

Riley, James Whitcomb (1849-1916)

Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History

Pioneer Recollections of Early Indiana

Privately printed 1901?
Sansberry, James W.Go to Book

Sansberry came to Indiana as a small child with his uncle, and grew up in Muncie. He taught school there and then established a law practice in Anderson.

Sansberry, James W. (1824-1901)

“Pioneer Life In Boone County”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 332-346

Bloomington: Indiana University 1922
Stevenson, Jane GregoryGo to Article

The author migrated from New York in 1834 with her family when she was a small child. In 1835 they moved from Marion county to a farm in Boone county, near present-day Zionsville. This article contains many details about the life of a typical farm family in that part of rural Indiana in the 1830s and 1840s.

Stevenson, Jane Gregory (1831-?)

“Gene Stratton-Porter”

The Indiana Historian September 1996

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical BureauGo to Article

Gene Stratton Porter was a hugely successful novelist in the early 20th century and was also a dedicated and significant environmentalist. This 16-page paper employs many extended quotes from Ms. Porter describing her life and environmental work. Also a bibliography.

Stratton-Porter, Gene (1863-1924)

The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman

NY: Doubleday 1908
Strauss, Juliet V.Go to Book

Juliet Strauss was widely known as a writer and columnist. Her “Country Contributor” column was regularly published in the Indianapolis News, and her column in the Ladies Home Journal, “The Ideals of a Plain Country Woman”, was read by approximately one million people a month. This book is a collection of columns from the latter publication.

Strauss, Juliet V. (1863-1918)

“Life and Journal of John Sutherland”

Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol IV, 1917-18, 362-70

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Sutherland, JohnGo to Article

Sutherland was a 20-year old, living on his parents’ farm in La Porte county, IN when he began keeping a journal in 1840. The entries copied here illustrate rural Indiana life at the time. They also record his attendance at a great Whig gathering on the battlefield of Tippecanoe in support of Indiana’s William Henry Harrison in that year’s presidential election.

Booth Tarkington

NY: Doubleday 1918
Holliday, Robert Cortes Go to Book

Booth Tarkington was a popular novelist and playwright who was born into a wealthy Indianapolis family. He was best known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams.

Tarkington, Newton Booth (1869-1946)

The John Tipton Papers Volume I, 1809-1827

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau 1942
Tipton, John Go to Book

The John Tipton Papers derive their significance from the part Tipton took, between 1807 and 1839, in the transformation of Indiana from a territory of Indian lands with a fringe of white occupation along the southern boundaries into a productive agricultural state struggling for internal improvements from the Great Lakes to the Ohio. He began his public career as a local official in a southern county, the seat of justice of which became the second territorial and the first state capital. He helped locate the permanent capital in the center of the state. He became a leading citizen in northern Indiana, was twice United States Senator, and was the owner of large tracts of land and mills and city property. He was a staunch supporter of internal improvements. He died at Logansport the year after he had removed the Potawatomi Indians from the state. His papers give an inside view of the growth, in a turbulent, dangerous frontier, of democratic political organization and of substantial proprietorships.
-from the Preface

Tipton, John Shields (1786-1839)

“Sieur de Vincennes, the Founder of Indiana’s Oldest Town”

Indiana Historical Society Publications Vol. 3, No. 2. pp 39-62

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 1905
Mallet, EdmondGo to Article

Sieur de Vincennes was the commandant of a French fort on the Wabash river in the vicinity of the present city of Vincennes in the 1730s. In 1736 he, a Jesuit missionary, and a number of other French officers were all burned at the stake in a village of Chickasaw Indians located in the present state of Mississippi. Not much more was known about de Vincennes when the author began researching his life.

Bissot, Jean Baptiste, Sieur de Vincennes (1668-1719)

Lew Wallace: an Autobiography (2 volumes)

NY: Harper 1906
Wallace, LewGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

“No more frank and informal record of personal experience has ever been written. In a way, no higher compliment can be paid to his story than to say that it is one of those grown-up books which a boy would read with understanding and enjoyment.”
“General Wallace’s war experiences were full of romance, adventure and inspiration. He has not failed to let his kindly, mellow sense of humor play over his narrative.”
– The Book Review Digest

Lewis “Lew” Wallace (1827-1905) was an American lawyer, Union general in the American Civil War, governor of the New Mexico Territory, politician, diplomat, and author from Indiana. Among his novels and biographies, Wallace is best known for his historical adventure story, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880), a bestselling novel that has been called “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.”
– Wikipedia

See also: Wallace, Lewis, Ben-Hur in Fiction – Novels from Authors W, X, Y & Z

Wallace, Lewis (1827-1905)


Collective Biographies

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940

Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress
Go to Collection

This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, grueling factory work, and the immigrant experience.
– From the Collection’s Website.

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Folklore, pioneer life, Life histories, Oral interviews, Pioneers, Anecdotes, Reminiscences

Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana

Indianapolis: Hammond. 1883
Woollen, William WesleyGo to Book

This 560-page volume contains about 60 biographical sketches of governors and other distinguished men who had passed away as of the date of publication; no living men were included. There are also chapters on “Free Masonry in Indiana”, “Madison from 1844 to 1852” and “Indiana Press in the Olden Time”.

Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana (2 vols) …

Cincinnati: Western Biographical 1880
Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) “…with portrait-illustrations on steel, engraved expressly for this Work”

This type of biographical encyclopedia was produced mainly to sell to the men who were profiled. Nearly all the biographical sketches therefore were for fairly prosperous men alive at the time of publication. These two volumes contain several hundred sketches and over 200 portraits.

Some suggested books for genealogy research in Indiana: Genealogy & Local History – Indiana

Encyclopedia of Biography of Indiana

Chicago. Century 1895
Reed, George Irving Go to Book

This is Volume 2. Volume 1 was not found. This 360-page volume contains biographies for approximately 150 prominent 19th century Hoosiers, with portraits of some.

Some suggested books for genealogy research in Indiana: Genealogy & Local History – Indiana

Governors of Indiana

Indianapolis: Oval & Koster. 1916
Oval, Charles JosephGo to Book

This centennial book contains one-page biographies of all Indiana governors through the date of publication, with full-page portraits of each.

See also: Indiana History Politics & Government

Indiana Governors

Men of Indiana in Nineteen Hundred and One

Indianapolis: Benesch 1901
Benesch, Adolph B. Go to Book

About 250-300 men are included; indexed by city and by name. Each has a large photo portrait. No biographical information is found beyond professional title.

Some Torch Bearers in Indiana

Indianapolis: Hollenbeck. 1917
Dye, CharityGo to Book

Each of the ten chapters has profiles of several individuals who were ‘Torch Bearers’, or early leaders. Some of the chapter subject areas are: Industry; Education and Religion; Patriotism and Statesmanship; Law, History and Journalism; Science and Invention; Civil and Social Progress; Art and Music.

A few of the individuals profiled are: Mother Therese Guerin, William A. Wirt, Abraham Lincoln, John Milton Hay, Dr. Logan Esarey, Richard Owen, Jonathan Jennings, Sarah T. Bolton, and Edward Eggleston.

For works about leading American women of the 19th century, see:
– Adams, Elmer Cleveland and Foster, Warren Dunham, Heroines of modern progress in Century Past Collective Biography A – F
Parkman, Mary Rosetta, Heroines of service in Century Past Collective Biography G – P;
Worthington & Co. , Our Famous Women in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z

Logan Esarey, Richard Owen, Edward Eggleston, John Milton Hay, Mother Therese Guerin, William A. Wirt

“The Old Indian Traders of Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 2, Issue 1 PP 1-13, March 1906

Bloomfield: Indiana University
Lasselle, Charles B.Go to Article

This brief history was written about 1860. The author provides an account of some of the early French-Canadian traders who operated around Vincennes beginning in 1702, and includes a list of traders licensed by Governor Harrison in 1801-2. There are also a few details about other trading posts in the northwest.

“Pioneer Stories of the Calumet”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 166-176; Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 347-358

Bloomington: Indiana University 1922
Lester, J. WilliamGo to Part 1|Go to Part 2

J.W. Lester from Gary, IN was a local historian who recorded the reminiscences of elderly people in Lake County who had lived there in pioneer times. This two-part article is a collection of seven of those accounts.

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