Clark County lies in southern Indiana at the place on the Ohio River where a series of rapids interrupts the flow of the Ohio and its commerce. This natural barrier led to the development of settlements on both sides of the river: Louisville, Kentucky, on the south bank and Clarksville, Indiana, on the north. Over the course of more than two centuries, Clark County has grown from a handful of small settlements and scattered farms at the Falls of the Ohio into a metropolitan region of more than 100,000 residents, closely tied to its neighbor to the south. Its economy has evolved from one dominated by the production, processing, and exchange of agricultural goods and the manufacture of transportation equipment, lime and cement, and wood products for local and regional customers into one increasingly characterized by production of a diverse array of goods and services for national and international markets. Its transportation system has expanded from a few rude streets and roads tied to the Ohio River into a modern river, rail, road, and air network that provides access to the world marketplace.
As Carl E. Kramer shows in this wonderful history of the place, significant continuities still help define Clark County's identity. Since the early nineteenth century middle-class business owners and farmers have served as the community's primary civic and political decision makers. Jeffersonian democracy, with its emphasis on localism and governmental frugality, remains a central political value. Interlocking kinship, friendship, and associational networks, fostered by decades of demographic stability, remain a potent social and political force.
The Ohio River, despite dramatic changes in navigational technology, is still a powerful economic and cultural influence, and the paths of many pioneer roads still shape the direction of local development. Despite social, economic, political, and cultural divisions, these forces and a host of shared experiences created a close...
Carl E. Kramer is Vice President of Kramer Associates and an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University Southeast.