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A Century of Monroe County Maps

Blog post by Dave Nord


In 1815 Arthur Henrie, a surveyor employed by the U.S. government, drew a set of maps of a part of Indiana Territory lying between the watersheds of the west and east forks of the White River. Those maps, based on systematic, on-the-ground surveys, were the first professional maps of the land that became Monroe County in 1818. Henrie’s hand-drawn maps have survived, been digitized, and are now accessible online. And they are the earliest maps listed, described, illustrated, and linked to in a new publication of the Monroe County History Center: Mapping Monroe County, Indiana: An Annotated Bibliography, 1815–1941, by David Paul Nord. That’s me.

To give you the idea of what this bibliography is like, here is the entry for the 1815 maps drawn by Arthur Henrie. In the PDF version of the bibliography, the source listed at the end of the entry is a clickable link to the Monroe County Surveyor’s online collection:

In the century after 1815, hundreds of maps of Monroe County, Bloomington, the IU campus, and some of the smaller towns and villages of the county were created and published. Many of those maps are preserved in libraries and government archives, and many have been digitized and posted online. The goal of this bibliography is to give readers access to those maps with just a click of a URL link. Mapping Monroe lists, annotates, and illustrates 147 maps (or map sets). It is available as a printed booklet at the MCHC bookstore and will soon be available in print and as a downloadable PDF ebook (with clickable links) from several libraries, including the Monroe County Public Library, IU Wells Library, the Indiana State Library, and the Indiana Historical Society. Here is a link to a digital download posted at IUScholarWorks. You can have a look:

Mapping Monroe is divided into five parts: Part I describes the Public Land Survey System that was used to create the earliest maps of our area and is still used today by governments and online Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. Part II lists a sampling of Indiana maps, which illustrate how Monroe County’s roads, railroads, towns, and villages evolved in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Part III explores county-level maps. Part IV lists Bloomington maps, as well as several maps of smaller towns and villages in the county. Part V shows Indiana University campus maps, including maps of the current campus and of IU’s first campus at Seminary Square.

Each entry in Mapping Monroe County includes a description, an illustration, and a historical tidbit or two. For example, here is the entry for one of the 27 Indiana maps in Part II:

Part III lists 50 county-level maps and is the heart of the bibliography. It includes general maps, property maps, road maps, geological maps, topographic maps, soil maps, postal maps, railroad maps, and limestone industry maps. Here is an example from 1856, the earliest published county map that has survived:

The 39 maps in Part IV of Mapping Monroe are mostly Bloomington maps, along with several maps of Ellettsville and smaller villages. The Bloomington maps include plat and property maps, street maps, fire insurance maps, topographic maps, railroad maps, industrial property maps, and even a cartoon map drawn by an IU student. Here is an example of an excellent plat map of Bloomington in the 1920s:

Finally, Part V includes 23 IU campus maps, which nicely illustrate the growth of the current campus from 20 acres in 1884 to about 2,000 acres today, and from a handful of buildings to hundreds. Here are two examples. The first is the original plat map of Seminary Square from 1820; the second is a lovely campus map drawn by an IU student in 1930:

And that’s a glance at Mapping Monroe County, Indiana, 1815–1941. If you’re like me and love maps, you can download the PDF version of the bibliography and then do some exploring online. You can link to 34 different online map collections, ranging from the library of the Monroe County History Center to the Library of Congress, and from the Monroe County Surveyor’s Office to the U.S. National Archives. They all have wonderful, often beautiful, historic maps of our county.