Davis Floyd

Last updated
Davis Floyd
Clark County Recorder [1]
In office
Harrison County Sheriff [1]
In office
Indiana Territorial House of Representatives
In office
Indiana Territorial Auditor
In office
Indiana Territorial Treasurer
In office
Indiana House of Representatives
In office
November 4, 1816 November 3, 1817 [2]
Floyd County Circuit Court Judge
In office
Personal details
DiedDecember 13, 1834(1834-12-13) (aged 57–58)
Leon County, Florida
Political party Democratic-Republican Party

Davis Floyd (1776 – December 13, 1834) was an Indiana Jeffersonian Republican politician who was convicted of aiding American Vice President Aaron Burr in the Burr conspiracy. Floyd was not convicted of treason however and returned to public life after several years working to redeem his reputation. He lost his wealth in the Panic of 1819 and died in obscurity in Florida 1834.



Early life

Davis Floyd was born in 1776 to Robert and Lillian Floyd in Virginia. In 1779, the family moved to Jefferson County, Kentucky. Floyd had three siblings, Elizabeth, Charles, and Mary Lee.

As a boy in Kentucky, Floyd came to befriend William Clark, younger brother of George Rogers Clark. The Floyd family became political allies of Clark. Floyd would briefly be 2nd Lieutenant of the Jefferson County militia. Floyd married his first wife Susanna Johnston Lewis in Jefferson County in 1794. [3] Floyd had three children by Susannah, Gabriel Jones, Charles, and Elizabeth. Susanna died about 1807.

Political career

In 1801 Floyd moved to Clarksville, Indiana. In the same year Floyd became Deputy Sheriff of Clark County and the Clark County Recorder. [3] Floyd, along with his father, was appointed to the Clarksville Board of Trustees. Floyd would ferry boats through the Falls of the Ohio rapids until 1808. [3] Floyd was elected as a Clark County delegate to the territory's slavery convention in 1802, the convention would set in motion events that would attempt to legalize slavery and indentured servitude in the Indiana Territory. [4] Floyd would become the Sheriff of Clark County in 1803 and served until 1806.

Floyd was elected to the Indiana Territorial Legislature in an 1805 special election; the legislature had been reduced to five members when the Michigan Territory was detached. [5] Floyd was generally at odds with the rest of the legislature, he was the only anti-slavery representative during his term. [6] By the end of his term he had become too involved in the Aaron Burr Conspiracy to run for re-election and was succeeded by James Beggs as Clark County's representative. [7]

Involvement with Aaron Burr

In 1805, while a territorial legislator, Floyd became involved in the plot of Aaron Burr. Floyd and Burr had both become members of the board of directors of the Indiana Canal Company. [8] The company, believed to have had something to do with the conspiracy, was to build a canal around the Falls of the Ohio on the Indiana side of the river. The company failed and the investors lost their money, which was believed to have been used to help finance Burr's plot. It was never proven that the money was stolen. The company had an initial investment of $120,000 and handled over one million dollars during its duration. [9]

Floyd had also committed to Aaron Burr that he would raise a regiment of soldiers to support his cause of illegally invading Mexico. It is unknown if Floyd was aware of how the regiment was planned to be used. [10] [11] The regiment of 30 men and boats assembled on Silver Creek in Clark County and left from the Falls of the Ohio to sail downriver to Natchez, Louisiana. They expected to join army troops there but were betrayed by General James Wilkinson. They were unable to meet up with the rest of assembling regiments because President Thomas Jefferson, already aware of the plot, decided the men were guilty of treason and ordered them all arrested. Floyd fled Louisiana and returned to Indiana where he was captured. [12] [13]

In 1807, with Floyd in custody and the plot exposed, Davis along with Burr and his other conspirators, were charged with treason. [14] The treason could not be proved against Burr and the treason charges were dropped against Floyd. He was however charged a $20 fine and imprisoned for 3 hours. Some believe that Floyd was unaware of Burr's larger plot but much of the public at the time considered him a "conscientious traitor". [12]

Just days after his sentencing in the conspiracy with Burr, the Indiana Territorial Legislature elected him as Treasurer of the lower house. [3] It was unknown to them at the time that Burr had been acquitted. After learning of those events, and President Thomas Jefferson's unhappiness with the outcome, the legislature decided to take action. On July 6, 1808, legislature passed resolutions condemning Burr's plot and stating that "Indiana had no sympathy for Burr." Gov. Thomas Posey revoked Floyd's military commission in the militia, probably at the request of President Jefferson. [15]

After the conspiracy

On October 10, 1807, the anti-slavery elements of the territory assembled for a convention in Springville, the same site as the convention that started the territory's anti-slavery movement. Floyd served as secretary of the convention which issued a resolution to oppose the new laws passed by the pro-slavery legislature. [16] Floyd left Clark County that year and moved into Harrison County. [17]

After the death of his first wife, Davis remarried to Elizabeth Robards Davis March 20, 1809. She was the widow of Thomas Terry Davis, the judge of Davis's treason trial. He would have one son, Robert, and a step daughter, Elizabeth, by his second wife.

When hostilities broke out with the Indians in 1811 Floyd was reinstated in the militia to the rank of lieutenant. After the 1809 Treaty of Fort Wayne, Floyd served with William Henry Harrison during Tecumseh's War and was present at the Battle of Tippecanoe. [18] Floyd was part of a company of dragoons under the command of Major Parkes. [19] Floyd was also instrumental in conducting negotiations to prevent the Delaware Tribe from joining the Shawnee's war. [20] [21]

After the war Floyd returned to public service serving as auditor of Indiana Territory in 1813. He was responsible for relocating the capital to Corydon from Vincennes. He sought out contractors to build the new capitol building and finally selected Dennis Pennington, a leading man in the Territorial Legislature. In 1814 he would return to the job of Indiana Territorial Treasurer until 1816. In 1815 he moved to Corydon, Indiana, along with the capital.

The state seal of Indiana Indiana-StateSeal.svg
The state seal of Indiana

In 1816 Floyd was elected as a delegate to the Indiana Constitution Convention [12] [22] The same year he was also elected as Harrison County's representative to the first state legislature. On November 22, 1816, during his term as a legislator, Floyd proposed the official acceptance of the design the state seal. The seal was approved by the legislature. Floyd described the seal as A forest and a woodman felling a tree, a buffalo leaving the forest and fleeing through the plain to a distant forest, and sun in the west with the word Indiana [23] The seal itself had been in use already and was probably designed by William Henry Harrison.

The same year he remarried to Elizabeth Robards after the death of his first wife. That year Floyd's company was awarded contracts to build the state executive buildings in Corydon. He built a new home for himself in Corydon in 1817, the home was later occupied by Governor and later Senator William Hendricks. [24]

On October 13, 1817 he was appointed by Jonathan Jennings as the first Judge of Floyd County, Indiana. [25] He served as judge until 1823. It is believed by some that Floyd County was named for him, but omitted from the record because of his involvement with Aaron Burr. [26] According to the Indiana State Library the county was named for John Floyd, an early settler in Floyd County. [27] John Floyd was Davis Floyds' Uncle. [28] However the original statute creating the county does not cite a source for the name.

Floyd participated in creating a masonic Grand Lodge in Coryon in 1817. He, along with most every notable man in the state, was a member of the Masonic fraternity. [29]

Home of Davis Floyd built in 1817 and lost in the Panic of 1819 Corydon Governor's residence.jpg
Home of Davis Floyd built in 1817 and lost in the Panic of 1819

Floyd built a home in Corydon, Indiana in 1817 and opened a general store in 1818, but in the Panic of 1819 Floyd lost most of his fortune, his store, and his home. [3] His home was later bought by Governor William Hendricks and is now a part of the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site. He unsuccessfully tried to re-enter politics in 1822 but was defeated in the congressional election by the popular Jonathan Jennings. Floyd's life in Indiana is described as "shrewd and crafty" by the Indiana Historical Society. [30]

Life in Florida

With his political career seemingly at an end and his fortune gone, Floyd eventually accepted an appointment from Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to be a United States Commissioner and settle land disputes in newly acquired Florida Territory. [31] He held his first session to settle disputes on August 4, 1823. [32]

Floyd first settled in Alachua County in 1823 but had moved to Leon County by 1830. He served as mayor of St. Augustine, Florida in 1826 and as treasurer of the Florida Territorial Council from 1826 to 1828. In 1831 Floyd would serve as president of the Education Society which sought to promote public education in Florida. [33] The society was instrumental in establishing the Florida public school system.

He died in Florida on December 13, 1834. It was believed that his remains were returned to Corydon for burial although his burial location has never been located.

See also

Related Research Articles

Corydon, Indiana Town in Indiana, United States

Corydon is a town in Harrison Township, Harrison County, Indiana. Located north of the Ohio River in the extreme southern part of the U.S. state of Indiana, it is the seat of government for Harrison County. Corydon was founded in 1808 and served as the capital of the Indiana Territory from 1813 to 1816. It was the site of Indiana's first constitutional convention, which was held June 10–29, 1816. Forty-three convened to consider statehood for Indiana and drafted its first state constitution. Under Article XI, Section 11, of the Indiana 1816 constitution, Corydon was designated as the capital of the state until 1825, when the seat of state government was moved to Indianapolis. During the American Civil War, Corydon was the site of the Battle of Corydon, the only official pitched battle waged in Indiana during the war. More recently, the town's numerous historic sites have helped it become a tourist destination. A portion of its downtown area is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Corydon Historic District. As of the 2010 census, Corydon had a population of 3,122.

Indiana Territory

The Indiana Territory was created by a congressional act that President John Adams signed into law on May 7, 1800, to form an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 4, 1800, to December 11, 1816, when the remaining southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Indiana. The territory originally contained approximately 259,824 square miles (672,940 km2) of land, but its size was decreased when it was subdivided to create the Michigan Territory (1805) and the Illinois Territory (1809). The Indiana Territory was the first new territory created from lands of the Northwest Territory, which had been organized under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The territorial capital was the settlement around the old French fort of Vincennes on the Wabash River, until transferred to Corydon near the Ohio River in 1813.

John Smith was one of the first two U.S. Senators from the state of Ohio. He reluctantly resigned from the Senate under charges of alleged complicity in the Burr conspiracy.

Jonathan Jennings American politician (1784–1834)

Jonathan Jennings was the first governor of Indiana and a nine-term congressman from Indiana. Born in either Hunterdon County, New Jersey, or Rockbridge County, Virginia, he studied law before immigrating to the Indiana Territory in 1806. Jennings initially intended to practice law, but took jobs as an assistant at the federal land office at Vincennes and assistant to the clerk of the territorial legislature to support himself and pursued interests in land speculation and politics. Jennings became involved in a dispute with the territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, that soon led him to enter politics and set the tone for his early political career. In 1808 Jennings moved to the eastern part of the Indiana Territory and settled near Charlestown, in Clark County. He was elected as the Indiana Territory's delegate to the U.S. Congress by dividing the pro-Harrison supporters and running as an anti-Harrison candidate. By 1812 he was the leader of the anti-slavery and pro-statehood faction of the territorial government. Jennings and his political allies took control of the territorial assembly and dominated governmental affairs after the resignation of Governor Harrison in 1812. As a congressional delegate Jennings aided passage of the Enabling Act in 1816, which authorized the organization of Indiana's state government and state constitution. He was elected president of the Indiana constitutional convention, held in Corydon in June 1816, where he helped draft the state's first constitution. Jennings supported the effort to ban slavery in the state and favored a strong legislative branch of government.

William Hendricks

William Hendricks was a Democratic-Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1816 to 1822, the third Governor of Indiana from 1822 to 1825, and an Anti-Jacksonian member of the U.S. Senate from 1825 to 1837. He led much of his family into politics and founded one of the largest political families in Indiana. He was the uncle of Thomas Andrews Hendricks, who was also Governor of Indiana and Vice President of the United States. Hendricks County was named in his honor. His term as governor was spent repairing the state's finances to later enable large scale internal improvements. The establishment of the basic framework of the state's public school system and the transfer of the capital from Corydon to Indianapolis also occurred during his term.

Burr conspiracy Alleged conspiracy to create an independent country in North America led by Aaron Burr (1805-1807)

The Burr conspiracy was a plot alleged to have been planned by Aaron Burr in the years during and after his term as Vice President of the United States under US President Thomas Jefferson. According to the accusations against Burr, he attempted to use his international connections and support from a cabal of US planters, politicians, and army officers to establish an independent country in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. Burr's version was that he intended to farm 40,000 acres (160 km2) in the Texas Territory which had been leased to him by the Spanish Crown.

Robert Hanna American politician

Robert Hanna Jr. is best known as one of the forty-three delegates to the 1816 Indiana Constitutional Convention and Indiana's third U.S. Senator after it achieved statehood in 1816. A native of Laurens District, South Carolina, he settled in the Indiana Territory shortly after it was established in 1800 and began his long career as a public servant in Brookville, Indiana. Hanna served as the first Franklin County sheriff (1809–20), as a brigadier general in the state militia, and as the U.S. Land Office registrar in Brookville and Indianapolis (1820–30). Hanna was appointed to fill the vacant seat in the U.S. Senate following the death of James Noble in 1831. Hanna served in the U.S. Senate from August 19, 1831, to January 3, 1832. After his return to Indianapolis, Hanna represented Marion County in the Indiana House of Representatives and in the Indiana Senate.

Joseph Hamilton Daveiss

Major Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, a Virginia-born lawyer, received a mortal wound while commanding the Dragoons of the Kentucky Militia at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Five years earlier, Daviess had tried to warn President Thomas Jefferson about Aaron Burr's plans to provoke rebellion in Spanish-held territories southwest of his Kentucky district. Several places in the United States are named for Daveiss, but though he spelled his name "Daveiss", these places all have the spelling "Daviess".

Indiana Statehouse State capitol building of the U.S. state of Indiana

The Indiana Statehouse is the state capitol building of the U.S. state of Indiana. It houses the Indiana General Assembly, the office of the Governor of Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court, and other state officials. The Statehouse is located in the capital city of Indianapolis at 200 West Washington Street. Built in 1888, it is the fifth building to house the state government.

Stephen Selwyn Harding was an American politician, lawyer, anti-slavery leader and ardent abolitionist in Indiana who served as governor of the Utah Territory (1862–1863) and as chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court (1863–1865). Because Harding proved to be unpopular with the territory's Mormon leaders and citizens, he remained at Salt Lake City for less than a year before President Abraham Lincoln appointed him to the judgeship at Denver. In 1865 Harding returned to Indiana, where he practiced law until his retirement in 1881. Earlier in his political career, Harding helped organize the Liberty Party in Indiana and was the party's candidate for lieutenant governor of Indiana in 1843 and 1846, but lost both races. Harding subsequently became a member of the Free Soil Party in 1848 and was an early member of the Republican Party in Indiana in the 1850s.

Corydon Historic District United States historic place

The Corydon Historic District is a national historic district located in Corydon, Indiana, United States. The town of Corydon is also known as Indiana's First State Capital and as Historic Corydon. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, but the listing was amended in 1988 to expand the district's geographical boundaries and include additional sites. The district includes numerous historical structures, most notably the Old Capitol, the Old Treasury Building, Governor Hendricks' Headquarters, the Constitution Elm Memorial, the Posey House, the Kintner-McGrain House, and The Kintner House Inn, as well as other residential and commercial sites.

History of Indiana

The history of human activity in Indiana, a U.S. state in the Midwest, began with migratory tribes of Native Americans who inhabited Indiana as early as 8000 BC. Tribes succeeded one another in dominance for several thousand years and reached their peak of development during the period of Mississippian culture. The region entered recorded history in the 1670s when the first Europeans came to Indiana and claimed the territory for the Kingdom of France. After France ruled for a century, it was defeated by Great Britain in the French and Indian War and ceded its territory east of the Mississippi River. Britain held the land for more than twenty years, until after its defeat in the American Revolutionary War, then ceded the entire trans-Allegheny region, including what is now Indiana, to the newly formed United States.

History of slavery in Indiana

Slavery in Indiana occurred between the time of French rule during the late seventeenth century and 1826, with a few traces of slavery afterward. When the United States first forcibly removed the Native Americans from the region, slavery was accepted as a necessity to keep peace with the Indians and the French. When the Indiana Territory was established in 1800, William Henry Harrison, a former slaveholder, was appointed governor and slavery continued to be tolerated through a series of laws enacted by the appointed legislature.

Constitution of Indiana State Constitution

The Constitution of Indiana is the highest body of state law in the U.S. state of Indiana. It establishes the structure and function of the state and is based on the principles of federalism and Jacksonian democracy. Indiana's constitution is subordinate only to the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Prior to the enactment of Indiana's first state constitution and achievement of statehood in 1816, the Indiana Territory was governed by territorial law. The state's first constitution was created in 1816, after the U.S. Congress had agreed to grant statehood to the former Indiana Territory. The present-day document, which went into effect on November 1, 1851, is the state's second constitution. It supersedes Indiana's 1816 constitution and has had numerous amendments since its initial adoption.

Jacob Piatt Dunn

Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. was an American historian, journalist, and author. A political writer and reformer, Dunn worked on ballot reform issues based on the Australian ballot system, authored a new Indianapolis city charter, and served as adviser to Indiana governor Thomas R. Marshall and U.S. Senator Samuel M. Ralston.

Dennis Pennington

Dennis Pennington was a farmer and a stonemason who became known for his many years in public office as an early legislator in the Indiana Territory and in Indiana's General Assembly as a representative of Harrison County, Indiana. Pennington, a member of the Whig Party, became the first speaker of the Indiana territorial legislature's lower house in 1810, served as the territory's census enumerator in 1815, and represented Harrison County as one of its five delegates to the constitutional convention of 1816. Pennington was the first speaker of the Indiana Senate, and served in the state legislature for eighteen years, which included five years in the Indiana House of Representatives and thirteen years in the Indiana Senate. His major political contributions relate to his strong opposition to slavery. Pennington ran unsuccessfully for Indiana's Lieutenant Governor in 1825. In addition to his service in the state legislature, Penning was a Harrison County sheriff and a justice of the peace, a trustee of Indiana University, and a member of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. He also supervised construction of the limestone courthouse that served as Indiana's first state capitol building in Corydon, Indiana. The historic Old Capitol, the seat of state government from 1816 to 1825, is one of his most enduring legacies. Fondly remembered as "Old Uncle Dennis" or "Father Pennington," he was known for his common sense and strong character and became one of Harrison County's most influential citizens.

Christopher Harrison

Christopher Harrison (1780–1868) was the first Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, serving with Governor Jonathan Jennings. Harrison was briefly acting governor while Jennings' was conducting negotiation with the native tribes in northern Indiana, and later resigned from office over a dispute with Jennings. Harrison became a Quaker in his later life and freed all the slaves he inherited from his family. He lived a long life for his era, and died at age 88. There is no known relationship between Harrison and an early territorial governor of Indiana, William Henry Harrison.

Indiana Canal Company

The Indiana Canal Company was a corporation first established in 1805 for the purpose of building a canal around the Falls of the Ohio on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. After several attempts, and possible sabotage by a supporter of the Louisville and Portland Canal, the project was ended.

Underground Railroad in Indiana

The Underground Railroad in Indiana was part of a larger, unofficial, and loosely-connected network of groups and individuals who aided and facilitated the escape of runaway slaves from the southern United States. The network in Indiana gradually evolved in the 1830s and 1840s, reached its peak during the 1850s, and continued until slavery was abolished throughout the United States at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It is not known how many fugitive slaves escaped through Indiana on their journey to Michigan and Canada. An unknown number of Indiana's abolitionists, anti-slavery advocates, and people of color, as well as Quakers and other religious groups illegally operated stations along the network. Some of the network's operatives have been identified, including Levi Coffin, the best-known of Indiana's Underground Railroad leaders. In addition to shelter, network agents provided food, guidance, and, in some cases, transportation to aid the runaways.


  1. 1 2 Dunn Jr, J.P. Indiana, A Redemption from Slavery (Houghton, Mifflin and company 1888) page 327
  2. Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana, By William Wesley Woollen Pg 179
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Kleber, John E. The Encyclopedia of Louisville (University Press of Kentucky) page 300 ISBN   0-8131-2100-0
  4. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 304
  5. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 327
  6. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 337
  7. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 355
  8. Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, By Federal Writers' Project, Pg 229
  9. Indiana and Indianans: A History of Aboriginal and Territorial Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, General William Harrison Kemper, Pg 382-385
  10. Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, By Federal Writers' Project, Pg 230, Paragraph 4
  11. McCaleb, Walter Flavius. Aaron Burr Conspiracy: A History from Original and Hitherto Unused Sources. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1903. p. 88
  12. 1 2 3 Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, By Federal Writers' Project, Pg 230
  13. McCaleb, Walter Flavius. Aaron Burr Conspiracy: A History from Original and Hitherto Unused Sources. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1903. p. 256
  14. McCaleb, Walter Flavius. Aaron Burr Conspiracy: A History from Original and Hitherto Unused Sources. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1903. p. 333
  15. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 364
  16. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 358
  17. A History of Indiana, By Logan Esarey, Pg 206
  18. The Battle of Tippecanoe: Read Before the Filson Club, November 1, 1897, P 123 By Alfred Pirtle
  19. The battle of Tippecanoe, By Alfred Pirtle, Reuben Thomas Durrett, Pg 37
  20. Indiana Historical Collections By Charles Kettleborough, Indiana, Pg 39
  21. Indiana By Jacob Piatt Dunn, Pg 363
  22. IN.gov Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  23. Indiana and Indianians, 1919, Pg 378
  24. Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, By Federal Writers' Project, Pg 183
  25. Historical New Albany - History
  26. New Albany Tourism Site Archived July 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  27. Indiana State Library Archived March 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  28. The Encyclopedia of Louisville By John E. Kleber (University Press of Kentucky 2000) pages 300-302 ISBN   0-8131-2100-0
  29. Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana, By William Wesley Woollen Pg 490-491
  30. The Indiana Centennial, 1916, By Indiana Historical Commission, Pg 161
  31. Supreme Court of Florida and Its Predecessor Courts, 1821–1917 By Walter W. Manley, E. Canter, Pg 124
  32. Hispanic American Essays, By James Alexander, Pg 179
  33. The American Journal of Education, By Henry Barnard, pg 381