A Sense of Community: Taverns of Vanderburgh County

Vanderburgh County, located on the Ohio River at the southern tip of Indiana, is both one of the smallest counties in Indiana by land area and one of the largest by population. At the heart of every community in Vanderburgh County, including Evansville, was a local tavern. Taverns hold a special place in American history. They served as the gathering spot for communities, where politics was discussed and debated, and the latest news of the community was exchanged. Sometimes they also served as the post office, stagecoach stop, general store, gas station, and hotel.

The taverns and communities on this tour reflect Southern Indiana’s German heritage, which

was developed

via two waves of German immigration. The first immigrants (~1816-1848) left Germany to escape monarchist policies and economic difficulties. The second wave (1848 to 1861) had supported the failed revolutions of 1848 and attempts to secure democratic reform and guarantees of human rights. People from both waves brought their culture to Southern Indiana.

Before the Prohibition of alcohol in 1920,

taverns were predominately male spaces. The male camaraderie shared over a few rounds was an essential part of many working men’s social lives.

Some taverns even barred women from entering or drinking inside them to preserve this male-only space. This practice waned after Prohibition was lifted when women, empowered by the right to vote and the experience of drinking in speakeasies, began frequenting taverns publicly as customers.

The taverns featured on this tour served as the anchors for various communities of Vanderburgh County. While most of these communities have faded away or have been absorbed into the city, often their memory has survived through the taverns that remain. In most cases you can stop in to sample a bit of local flavor and, if you wish, refresh yourself with a cold brew and a fine meal.

As you explore this tour, think about the community where you grew up or currently live. Do people in your community want to remember the ways things used to be

If not, why not

If so, how do they remember?

Dogtown Tavern

In the southwest corner of Vanderburgh County lies Union Township, a unique area of low lying river bottoms, sloughs and ridges. It is bordered on three sides by the Ohio River, which makes an 18-mile horseshoe around it.  Historically, Union…

Hilltop Inn

The Hilltop Inn, originally known as George J. Marx’s Grocery and Saloon, lies atop a hill in Perry Township in an area formerly known  as Perryville. The community was established in the mid-19th Century by Colonel John Rheinlander, a veteran of the…

St Joe Inn

St. Joseph Community 1820s -1840s In the early 1820s, that area that became home to t he St. Joe Inn was known as the Henson Settlement after early white settler-colonizers David and Jesse Henson.The Inn dates back to 1836 and is located in the…

Nisbet Inn

Transportation and trade routes often had a major impact on these small communities. They connected them to the wider world. When routes shifted, small communities just as easily were isolated. When the Evansville, Mt. Carmel, & Northern Railway…

Darmstadt Inn

The Darmstadt Inn has been a staple in Scott Township in northern Vanderburgh County since the early 20th century.   Darmstadt Community The community around the inn, Darmstadt, was founded in 1822, shortly after the founding of Scott Township in…

The Hornet's Nest

The Hornet’s Nest is located in Scott Township in an old community once called Earle, named after John Earle, an Englishman who had come to the area around 1828. Brant and Fuller’s 1889 History of Vanderburgh County said that the Earle community was…


There was a time when Evansville’s west side was known as Independence and every corner on Franklin Street was home to a saloon. Originally part of the town of Lamasco platted in 1837, the neighborhood west of Pigeon Creek grew up independently after…
This tour was created in partnership with the Vanderburgh County Historical Society and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.