Founding Elkhart County

by Frank Fisher

View of first Elkhart County Courthouse in Goshen, c1860. (1975.023.0001)

The federal Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 led to the surveying of the land that is today Elkhart County In 1829, surveyors Thomas Todd and C. W. Christmas arrived to survey the county.

Also in 1829 a group of interested settlers petitioned the State Legislature to create an act forming the counties of Elkhart and St. Joseph simultaneously.

Then Governor James B. Ray signed the act into law on January 29, 1830. The act also provided for three men to serve as a Board of Justices to conduct any county business which came before them. A five member team of commissioners was appointed to locate the county seat on May 24, 1830. Goshen was chosen as the county seat, because of the availability of vacant land in a central location. The first Court House was built in 1833 by Jacob Studebaker.

Elections were duly held to fill the offices of County Clerk, County Recorder, Treasurer, Surveyor, and Associate Judges.

One of the first actions to be taken was to divide the county into two townships. Named Concord and Elkhart. By 1841 the rest of the townships were outlined and remain as we see them today.