Lafayette became the supply center for these new settlers moving into the area. In 1826, Tippecanoe County was formed with Lafayette as its county seat. The river provided transportation in those early years, with the city wharf just a block from the Courthouse Square. In the 1840s, the Wabash & Erie Canal arrived. By the 1850s the railroads had arrived to serve the developing town. Lafayette was soon a manufacturing, merchandising, and transportation center.
In its earliest days, Lafayette was a shipping center on the Wabash River. In 1838, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the first United States Patent Commissioner, published a booklet titled Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana, with Hints on Its Agricultural Advantages,
to promote settlement of the region. By 1845, Ellsworth had purchased 93,000 acres of farmland in and around Lafayette and moved here from Connecticut to supervise land sales. By 1847, Ellsworth was distributing broadsides looking for farmers to purchase his farmland. He became president of the Tippecanoe County Agricultural Society in April 1851. Ellsworth Street and Ellsworth Historic District are named for the early real estate developer.
In the 1840s, the Wabash and Erie Canal stimulated trade and affirmed Lafayette's regional prominence. Railroads arrived in the town in the 1850s, connecting it with other major markets. The Monon Railroad connected Lafayette with other sections of Indiana.
In August of 1859, Lafayette became the site for the first official air mail flight by the United States Postal Service. Professor John Wise and his balloon, the Jupiter, took off with a mail pouch including 123 letters and 23 circulars. Because of a capricious wind that blew south, the flight ended near Crawfordsville some 5 or 6 hours later. While this was not the intended destination, the flight was officially recognized. In 1959, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 7¢ airmail stamp commemorating the centennial of the event
Lafayette continued to grow and in 1869, Purdue University was founded. The school has played an important part in the development of the Lafayette-West Lafayette area. Today, Lafayette has developed as a diversified community with manufacturing, merchandising, education and transportation all contributing their share.
We are proud that Purdue University is known as home of the astronauts, but even as we look to the future, we continue to honor our past by preserving our architecture and historical heritage. Because of this attitude, Lafayette has won several national awards including "All American Main Street".