History of Paoli

Paoli was first settled in the early 1800's when a group of Quakers, looking for a slave-free territory came north.
What they found here in Orange County was a beautiful wooded area with plenty of water and plenty of game.

The forests provided one of the county's main geological features including a large part of the Hoosier National Forest, which is shared with eight other counties. The Patoka and Lost Rivers flow through the county and the artisan mineral springs were once popular in the area.

Paoli was established in 1816
and chosen as the seat of Justice
for Orange County primarily because of its central location in the county.

Paoli was named for Pasquale Paoli Ash, the 12 year old son of North Carolina's former Governor Samuel Ash. The boy died before the Quakers came from North Carolina to Orange County.

The town of Paoli purchased part of the land for the county seat from Jonathan Lindley (see Lindley House) for $800 and part from Thomas Hopper for $500. Mrs. Rebecca Hopper, who probably opposed selling the land, is said to have submitted gracefully to the signing of the deed after she was paid $5.

The early pioneers believed they needed some form of government to ensure that all men were treated equally. They wanted a democratic system with no special privileges afforded anyone. With this principle in mind, the pioneers met as early as 1811 in private homes to devise ways to further advance liberties and future welfare and the welfare of the nation.

Courts for Orange County were held at the home of William Lindley, Jr. until a courthouse could be built. A small log building was erected near the northwest corner of the public square as a temporary courthouse in 1816 at the cost of $25. (Orange County History Book)

More History and Genealogy

The Initial Point or Pivot Point in the Hoosier National Forest, seven miles south of Paoli, is the point from which all boundaries in Indiana are measured. Established in 1805, the point marks an important part of the county's forest land.

Located in the southern part of Indiana, Orange County is bounded by Lawrence County to the north, Martin and Dubois Counties to the west, Crawford County to the south, and Washington County to the east. Orange County covers just over 400 square miles.

The Lindley House

The Thomas Elwood Lindley House was built on land granted in 1812 to Jonathan Lindley when he left North Carolina to settle in Orange County. Jonathan was the grandfather of Thomas Elwood Lindley, an influential Quaker. He served in the State Legislature at the Capitol in Corydon. The property remained in the Lindley Family until it was deeded to the Orange County Historical Society in 1974 by the great-great-grandson, H. Carl Thompson and Dorothy Farlow Thompson.

The house is restored to reflect the period 1850-1869 when it was used as a farm home. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Homes in 1985.

Orange County Historical Museum

The building that now houses the Orange County Historical Museum was a residence in the early days of the town. It belonged to Dr. Sherrod and was always known as the Sherrod House. It has since housed a grade school and was for years The Orange County Courthouse Annex.


In the early 1800's when the Quakers came from North Carolina to settle in Orange County, Indiana, they came to escape slavery. They brought with them a number of freed slaves. These free men were deeded 200 acres of land in the heart of a dense forest. Word of mouth soon spread the news, and this land became part of the "underground railroad" for runaway slaves.

For many years, the black folk in this area farmed, traded, and sold their labor to others while living in this settlement. A church was built and a cemetery was provided for their loved ones.

All that remains today is the cemetery. Some of the stones were broken or vandalized over the years. Several years ago, a troop of Boy Scouts came in and restored the cemetery, replacing the lost or broken stones with wooden crosses designating a grave. The name of "Little Africa" came about because of the black settlement, but "Paddy's Garden" was the name those early residents called it.

Paoli Chamber of Commerce, Inc., P.O. Box 22, 200 West Court Street, Suite 1, Paoli, IN 47454 ~ Phone: 812-723-4769 ~