County profile: Ohio County

Posted on Apr 26 2024 in County

Covering 80 square miles with less than 6,000 residents, Ohio County is Indiana’s smallest and least populous county. Rising Sun, Indiana — the sole incorporated municipality within Ohio County — is home to Ree’s Harps, one of the state’s only two harp manufacturers.

J.W. "Row" Whitlock
Photo courtesy of Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience

Setting sail in Southeastern Indiana

The Ohio County Historical Society Museum’s star attraction is the Hoosier Boy, a famous powerboat from the early 1900s. J.W. “Row” Whitlock — an inventor, furniture builder, and boating enthusiast from Rising Sun — owned and raced the 40-foot boat with a 62-mph top speed. In1924, he set an unbroken distance record for a round trip between Cincinnati and Louisville. He covered 267 miles of the Ohio River in 267 minutes and 49 seconds, despite branches in the Ohio River breaking a hole in the Hoosier Boy’s wooden hull. The museum also houses the Hoosier Girl, a replica made in 2003 of the Hoosier Boy’ssister boat that sank in the 1940s.

Legacy of liberation

In 1836, Samuel Barkshire and his family moved to Rising Sun from Boone County, Kentucky, after becoming freed slaves. Risking capture and resale back into slavery, the Barkshires became Underground Railroad activists, helping enslaved people of color along the Ohio River — the border of free and enslaved territories — find their way to freedom. Samuel even worked with the wife of his former slaveholder, Nancy Hawkins, who moved to Rising Sun after her husband’s death. She and the Barkshires hid slaves seeking freedom in their homes. The Indiana Historical Bureau and the Ohio County Historical Society designated the Barkshire’s home on North Poplar Street a historical marker in 2018.

Photo by Valerie Rice, courtesy of Red Wolf Sanctuary

Rescuing wildlife wonders

Since 1979, Red Wolf Sanctuary in Rising Sun has preserved native North American animals through its educational tours and outreach programs about the wonders of nature and wildlife. The non-profit organization permanently homes various animals, from hawks to opossums, unfit for release into the wild because of life-altering injuries or human interaction. The sanctuary also rehabilitates and releases hundreds of sick or orphaned wildlife animals annually. Visitors can book either a two-hour walking tour or an RTV-driven tour through the sanctuary’s habitats to view its residential wolves, foxes, bobcats,
and more. 

County Facts

Founded: 1844

Named For: the Ohio River

Population: 5,940

County seat: Rising Sun

Indiana county number: 58   

Nicole Thomas is a freelance writer from Indianapolis.