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Jeffersonville, Indiana, is a third-class city in southern Indiana, across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. It is currently the county seat of Clark County, Indiana. It is where the first Papa John's and Rally's was located. The second largest clock in the world, the Colgate Clock, is also located here.
In 1786 Fort Finney was situated where the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge is today, to protect the area from Indians, and a settlement grew around the fort. The fort was renamed in 1791 to Fort Steuben, to honor Baron von Steuben. In 1793 the fort was abandoned. In 1802 local residents used a grid pattern designed by Thomas Jefferson for the formation of a city, and Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison decided to name the new city after Jefferson. Jeffersonville would be the only city ever designed by Jefferson. On September 13, 1803, a post office was established in the city. In 1808 Indiana's second federal land sale office was established in Jeffersonville, after the first was established in Vincennes in 1807, initiating the growth of the white population in Indiana that was further spurred by the end of the War of 1812.
Shortly after formation, Jeffersonville was named to be the county seat of Clark County in 1802, replacing Springville. In 1812 Charlestown was named the county seat, but the county seat returned to Jeffersonville in 1878, where it remains.
In 1813 Jeffersonville was briefly the seat of power in the Indiana Territory, as then-governor Thomas Posey hated then-capital Corydon, and wanted to be close to his personal physician in Louisville.
In 1819 the first shipbuilding took place in Jeffersonville, and steamboats would become key to Jeffersonville's economy. Jonas Howard made his first steamboat in 1834 in Jeffersonville. In 1848 the Howard Shipyards were established.
The third largest American Civil War hospital, Jefferson General Hospital was located in Jeffersonville from 1864-1866, as it was close to the river and Louisville. During the war it housed 16,120 patients in its 5,200 beds and was under the command of Dr. Middleton Goldsmith. The property is now owned by a local Masonic lodge, who built a temple on the ground. A cemetery was built for fallen soldiers down the hill, but the wooden grave markers by 1927 had rotted away, causing the Jeffersonville city council to build a ballfield over the cemetery, and not bothering to move the graves, located on Crestview Avenue. Also built during the Civil War was a U.S. Quartermaster Depot, which was used until the 1950s. Now the Depot is used as a shopping center.
By 1870, 17% of Jeffersonville residents were foreign-born. Most of these were from Germany
During the 1920s, Jeffersonville was a popular gathering place for the Ku Klux Klan, as Louisville and New Albany had strong anti-KKK laws and Jeffersonville didn't.
Gambling in the 1930s and 1940s was instrumental in Jeffersonville's recovery from the Great Depression and the Flood of 1937. Casinos, betting parlors, night clubs, and even a dog track was present, giving the town the nickname "Little Las Vegas". After a New Albany businessman was gunned down, public sentiment turned against gambling. On January 2, 1948, Indiana State Police raided every casino in the city before the operators could warn each other, and the judge who had devoted the past nine years in eliminating gambling from Jeffersonville, James L. Bottorff, made sure that the equipment was confiscated and the money at the casinos given to charity. It is memories of this that kept Jeffersonville residents from voting to approve riverboat gambling in the 1990s. In 2006 riverboat gambling was approved, but for the return of gambling to occur the Indiana State legislature would either have to approve an additional riverboat, or one of the existing riverboats would have to relocate to Jeffersonville; presumably, it would be one of the three currently serving the Cincinnati market.
After the Flood of 1937 and the Great Depression, the Howard Shipyards were devastated. In 1942 the United States Navy purchased what remained, and established the Jeffersonville Boat & Machine Company, later simply known as Jeffboat, which still support the local economy. The history of shipbuilding in Jeffersonville is the focus of the Howard Steamboat Museum. There was an annual festival held on the second weekend in September called Steamboat Days, but lack of interest killed it.