The River, Road & Rails

As you read the following lesson plan and complete the study questions and activities, we hope you will be excited to learn more about the people, places, and events that led to the settlement and growth of our community.


As young citizens of Terre Haute and Vigo County, it will one day be up to you to take on the future of our fine city. We believe the more you know about this community, the more you can take pride in where you live.

Settling the Crossroads of America

In the fall of 1816 came the announcement offering lots for sale in Terre Haute. The town had been laid out or platted into 268 lots. This was also a special time, because it was the year Indiana officially became a state. During the next few years many of our ancestors came to live here. Many of them arrived by flatboat along the Wabash River. Flatboats were also used to move produce and goods along the current of the Wabash, into the Ohio River, and continued south into the Mississippi River - all the way to New Orleans. The trip would take four to six weeks.

One man who moved to this area was Mr. Chauncey Rose. He would become one of the most important and influential citizens our city would ever know. He devoted his entire fortune to the growth, prosperity and development of Terre Haute. In 1825 he opened a store in Terre Haute with money he had saved while working at a lumber mill in Parke County. Chauncey Rose was one of the most popular and successful merchants of the region. He purchased 320 acres of prairie land and built several important businesses and organizations, such as The Terre Haute House, Rose Orphan’s Home, and Rose Polytechnic Institute (now known as Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology)


Chauncey Rose is also mostly responsible for bringing the railroads through Terre Haute. Construction of our first railroad company, the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad began in 1849. As more rail companies were built and lines expanded throughout the region, flatboats and other river travel were no longer needed. Trains made commerce possible on a bigger scale and could travel much faster than boats.  American people demanded the quickest possible travel.

Questions for Lesson - 2

  1. Who headed the effort to bring the railroad to Terre Haute? This man also established an engineering college and an orphanage here. What else in Terre Haute was named after him?

  2. By the 1870’s Terre Haute had 7 different railroad lines which crossed through the city. Two of the main train stations were Union Station and the Big Four Depot. Research on your own and find out where each of these stations was located.

  3. What other waterways were used to reach New Orleans from Terre Haute? Use the map of the Wabash River (link to map)

Lesson - 2


Chauncey Rose

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History Center of Vigo County

929 Wabash Avenue     Terre Haute, IN 47807     812-235-9717