Although my own geneological pursuits are still in its infancy, I've often pondered the same question.Here is my "guess" list for why many early-19th century roads lead to Indiana:
- Semantics?If one reviews the territorial boundary changes that occurred duting this period, "Indiana" represented a HUGE chunk of land.What began as the Northwest territories (a land mass nearly as large as the early colonies themselves) quickly became Indiana Territory.Arguably, this eventually changed to other territorial names and soon followed with Indiana statehood and then Illinois statehood -- but news didn't travel fast in "them" days.So (perhaps) the easiest way to identify one's migratory destination or to identify one's place of birth was to simply call it "Indiana."We see this type of geographical confusion with VA, KY, NC, TN, (et al) over this time period as well.
- Conflict and hostility?The colonial period of the late 1700s and the continuing efforts of a fledgling America for "full" independance during the early 1800s must have made many eastern seaboard areas very confusing, chaotic -- and perhaps relatively dangerous -- places to live.The vast and supple lands of the Indiana territories and it pre-Statehood land reserves might have beckoned many a new immigrant, the "extremely" religious, the pacifist, the institutionally intolerant, and the otherwise adventurous from the constant strife and tribulations of the East coast.After all, the angry world was what many had tried to escape from to begin with.It would seem that migration to the Indiana region might have appeared more palatable than travelling far West or far South -- where the dastardly Spanish and the scoundrel French would have to be dealt with.At least they could understand the infernal British.
- Simple demographics?Many may have decided to hit the trails (yet again) simply for "space."I can only imagine that the population density in common areas of immigration and settlement along the eastern seaboard must have experienced profound growth over this time period.
- Land ownership opportunities?I know that, over this time period, a lot of land in the Indiana Territories was made available for purchase at a mere $2 per acre.Many of my Graham ancestors purchased property in Illinois (i.e., Indiana) in the very early 1800s.I was subtly discouraged by the fact that my immigrant ancestors certainly seemed to have more spending money than I do.(Obviously, someone forget me somewhere along the line in a Will or two?)
- Farming opportunities?I think that a reasonable portion of Indiana's territory represented "good" farming land.I might've read something somewhere that offered this suggestion with consideration to the tree density, the type of soil, the nature of terrain, and the availability of water.Too bad the Weather Channel hadn't been borne yet, because someone forgot to tell them about bitter Canadian air patterns, lake-effect snow, and twisters.
- Indians?I can only imagine that -- before one packed up the rickety wagon (or stubborn mule), gathered up the wife & small brood of 10 kids, and then set forth on what would undoubtedly be an already-arduous journey -- "some" consideration had to be given to the nature and quantity of indiginious folk that "could" be encountered.Given a choice of (1) stumbling across the Iroquois, Hurons, or (even) Pawnees in an area where some measure of tolerance had already been achieved with French and British forces, or, (2) sauntering in the way of an aggressive hunting party of Cheyenne, Comanche, or Apaches with a penchant for scalps and a seering hatred of the invaders and land-grabbers from the East (can't understand that one) and with nary a "civilized" soldier within 100 miles ...I may lean towards (1).
Anyway, these are my unqualified and novice guesses.The only thing I can offer with absolute certainty is that my ancestors did not settle in Indiana in anticipation of the Pacers.