County Profile: Jackson County

Posted on Jan 21 2021 in County

John Mellencamp mural
John Mellencamp, who famously sang about his small town roots back in the 1980s, adorns this downtown mural in his hometown of Seymour. Photo courtesy of
Marshall Memories Photography.

Jackson County was not named after the President Andrew Jackson — contrary to popular perception. Rather, it was named in honor of Gen. Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812. Obviously, the same person — but different circumstances.

Jackson County was formed in 1816, even before Indiana became a state, and long before Jackson became the seventh president in 1829.

That some rowdy behavior and individuals should emerge from a county named for the fiery populist Jackson, who pushed individual liberty while bending convention and rules, is apropos. 

Jackson County was the site of the first recorded train robbery of a moving train in the United States. On Oct. 6, 1866, the Reno Gang robbed an Ohio and Mississippi Railway train, making off with over $10,000.

Popular musician John Mellencamp, whose 1984 hit song about his fights with authority (“but authority always wins”), was born and grew up in Seymour. Mellencamp, who was first given the stage name of “Cougar” when he started cutting records in the 1970s, dropped the Madison Avenue name as his catchy songs about small-town roots with populist “heartland” lyrics made Mellencamp a radio staple in the 1980s and 1990s.   

Mellencamp also became an accomplished painter and helped start and has supported Jackson County’s Southern Indiana Center for the Arts.

Mellencamp’s Jackson County past come alive with an audio driving tour, created by the Jackson County Visitor Center. “The Roots of An American Rocker” offers a glimpse of Mellencamp that most people have never seen. The CD features stops at many of John’s old stomping grounds and a detailed map of Seymour.

The county is also home to the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, a refuge to provide resting and feeding areas for waterfowl during their annual migrations. The refuge is on 7,724 acres. In addition to wildlife viewing, the refuge provides opportunities for fishing, hiking, photography and enjoying nature.

The 18,000-acre Jackson-Washington State Forest and Starve-Hollow State Recreation Area offer some of the best camping and outdoor recreational opportunities in southern Indiana. 

County facts

Founded: 1816

Named for: Gen. Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, who later became the seventh president of the United States.

Population: 44,111  (2018 estimate)

County seat: Brownstown