Floyd might be Indiana’s second smallest county by area, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in geographical features and history.
From the banks of the Ohio River, the county’s terrain quickly rises to the rugged Southern Indiana upland. The eroded hills along the edge of this plateau — the famed “Floyds Knobs” — stand in bold relief to the Ohio’s flood plain and feature some of the state’s hilliest country.
But, as with most of the counties on the state’s southern fringe, it’s the Ohio River that shaped Floyd’s development as much as its contours.
Into the 1860s, Floyd County experienced a huge boom in population, doubling many times over which came for the industry the river enabled. The county attracted immigrants of Irish, German, French and African American origins. By 1850, about one in six county residents had been born in other countries. From the 1850s through the Civil War, Floyd County’s seat, New Albany, had the largest population in Indiana until being surpassed by Indianapolis. Not only that, Floyd County had a well-to-do population: an 1850s survey showed that more than half of the Hoosiers making over $100,000 per year lived there.
With county’s prominence at that time came the New Albany National Cemetery — one of the original seven established in 1862 by the U.S. Congress. More than 5,000 people were buried there from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.
Floyd County celebrates its bicentennial this year. The county was created from parts of Clark County to its east and Harrison County to its west in 1819. For whom the county was named remains unclear. According to the Indiana State Library, it’s named after James John Floyd, a leading pioneer from the Louisville area. Others maintain it’s named after his nephew Davis Floyd, who also was a local political figure.
Along with being on the Ohio River, Floyd County benefited from the Buffalo Trace passing through. The Buffalo Trace was a cluster of firmly-packed paths, created over time by giant gangs (please see The Great Outdoors column on page 28) of migrating American bison. It ran from Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River at the Falls, and then ran northwest to Vincennes and into Illinois. The Trace, because it offered relatively smooth passage over rugged terrain, became an important corridor for westward settlement.
James John Floyd (or Davis Floyd)
Floyd County celebrates its bicentennial this year with several events and programs, including:
Floyd County Bicentennial Parade
May 18, noon, Greenville. It will be the first parade in Greenville since the 1980s.
Dedication of John Baptiste Ford Indiana Historical Bureau marker, First Harrison Bank
May 19, Greenville. Ford was a local entrepreneur and philanthropist in the mid-1800s credited with building a fleet of steamboats and the first commercial plate glass operation in the United States.