The European expansion into Indiana began with the French, then the British and finally, American expansion with the establishment of the Northwest Territory. The Ohio River was the main artery to access the Northwest Territory and its successor, Indiana Territory. The first counties lined the Ohio and Wabash Rivers. Of the twelve counties that border the Ohio and two more up the Wabash to Vincennes, most early county seats were on the river or a prime tributary.
As more counties were carved out of the early few – Knox, Clark, and Dearborn – borders were redrawn and county seats shifted as well. Perry County was established in 1814, two years before Indiana gained statehood. It was carved out of Warrick and Gibson Counties. Troy was the initial county seat, but four years later Spencer County took the western portion of Perry so the county seat relocated to Rome, a prominent river port.
The Old Perry County Courthouse in Rome was built in 1818, and is a two-story, square brick building with a hipped roof topped by a central cupola. The building served as the seat of county government until 1859 when the county seat relocated again to Cannelton (current county seat is Tell City). It then housed a school until 1966.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. As of 2004, it became a community center. It is located less than a mile off of SR 66, the Ohio River Scenic Byway.
I recommend taking a leisurely drive down SR 66 from Leavenworth to Troy. At Leavenworth you can view Horseshoe Bend, the highest turn in the Ohio River. On a side trip to Magnet, you can view the second-highest turn in the river. On the Kentucky side, it’s called Little Bend. Another interesting side trip is on SR 166. It can take you to Blue Heron Vineyard or onto the town of Tobinsport where the highway actually ends as a boat ramp into the river! On down the Byway are the historic river towns of Cannelton, Tell City, and Troy. The latter is home to the Christ of the Ohio statue featured in an earlier LifeOffTheHighway post.
There’s history around every corner in many parts of southern Indiana. Take a drive and make some of your own.