Clark County is a county located in the U.S. state of Indiana, located directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. At the 2010 Census, the population was 110,232. The county seat is Jeffersonville. Clarksville is also a major city in the county. Clark County is part of the Louisville/Jefferson County, KY–IN Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Clark County lies on the north bank of the Ohio River. A significant gateway to the state of Indiana, Clark County’s settlement began in 1783. The state of Virginia rewarded General George Rogers Clark and his regiment for their victorious capture of Forts Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes from the British by granting them of land. A small portion of this land, , became known as Clarksville, the first authorized American settlement in the Northwest Territory, founded the next year in 1784.
Clark County was formed 3 February 1801 from Knox County. Counties later formed all or in part from Clark County were: Crawford (1818), Decatur (1822), Fayette (1819), Floyd (1819), Franklin (1811), Harrison (1808), Jackson (1816), Jefferson (1811), Jennings (1817), Randolph (1818), Ripley (1816), Rush (1822), Scott (1820), Switzerland (1814), Union (1821), Washington (1814), and Wayne (1811).
The first county seat and court was established in Springville, Indiana on April 7, 1801. The platting of Jeffersonville occurred a year later and the county seat was fixed to Jeffersonville on June 9, 1802 by order of Governor William Henry Harrison. By December 14, 1810 the county seat changed for the third time to Charlestown and it would remain there until 1873. The county seat changed for one last time on September 23, 1873 and returned to Jeffersonville with then mayor Luther Warder campaigning for the county seat's return.
From its beginning Clark County’s history, culture and growth has been linked to the development of the river. The use of the steamboat in the early nineteenth century to transport goods and services provided Clark County opportunities for commercial and industrial growth. In 1832, James Howard founded the Howard shipyards making Clark County a leader in ship building and bringing with it economic growth.
The railroad brought further economic growth. Two railroad lines, the Monon, which spanned from New Albany to Chicago and the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis railroad, provided Clark County and southern Indiana with access to the northern trading centers of Indianapolis and Chicago.
During the 1920s, Clark County attracted the Colgate-Palmolive Company to the Clarksville Riverfront. Colgate purchased the former Indiana Reformatory building in 1923. The Company rehabilitated and adapted the building for its dedication in 1924. They stayed in business until early 2008.
Throughout the years of the Second World War, Clark County prospered. The United States began construction on the Indiana Arsenal near Charlestown in 1940. Producing smokeless powder for the conflict overseas, the arsenal, at times, employed as many as 20,000. During the war, Howard shipyards was Commissioned by the Navy to produce landing craft. Later Howard shipyards reorganized as Jeffersonville Boat and Machine Company (Jeffboat) — a current major employer (1991).
After World War II ended, Clark County as well as the United States experienced significant residential and commercial growth. The Interstate Highway System act of 1956 aided this growth. Because of the improved access and efficiency brought by the interstate system, especially Interstate 65, new development in the form of subdivisions and shopping centers located near these roads.
Clark County history has been closely associated with the development of the Ohio River. From its beginnings, Clark County relied on the river for economic opportunities. Clark County has diversified its economic base, lessened its dependency on the river, and continues to develop in new directions. However, the county still looks to the river as one link to its significant pioneer heritage.