During the latter half of the seventeenth century, by the discoveries and explorations of Marquette, Hennepin, Joliet and LaSalle, all the country drained by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and their tributaries were added to the vast claims of the French empire in the new world. For nearly a century the statecraft and military power of France were tested and tried to the utmost in strengthening and maintaining the authority of the empire in the territory between New Orleans and Montreal. During LaSalle's explorations about the lower end of Lake Michigan and in his journeyings from there to the Mississippi, he penetrated northwestern Indiana, going as far east as the site of South Bend. Another result of his activities was the organization of the various Indian tribes outside of the Iroquois confederacy and the concentration of them all about a central seat in Illinois, so that in 1685 it is probable that Indiana was no longer the home of a single Indian tribe.

To secure all the country between the Mississippi and the Alleghanies against English aggression, the French projected and founded many posts that would command the rivers and the outlets of trade. Several forts were established at the lower end of the Mississippi, and a vigorous policy of commercial development and expansion begun. Other posts were established higher up the river, Kaskaskia, above the mouth of the Ohio, becoming a strategic point of much importance. The French captain, Cadillac, by anticipating the English in the settlement of Detroit, secured a post of wonderful advantage in dealing with the Indian inhabitants west of Lake Erie and south of Lake Michigan. The Indian tribes that had been drawn into LaSalle's Illinois confederacy were now drifting east to the Wabash, the Maumee and about Detroit. To control these tribes and prevent their being approached by the English, the French authorities in Canada, who claimed jurisdiction on the upper courses of the Wabash, (The lower Ohio and Wabash and Mississippi were governed as part of the Louisiana province of New France. Boisbriant, who had been appointed governor of Illinois, founded Fort Chartres (sixteen miles above Kaskaskia) for the protection of the upper colony, in 1720.) planned the relocation of the tribes and the founding of posts among them. The principal settlement of the Miamis was then at the head of the Maumee, at a place called Kekionga (the site of Fort Wayne). The Ouiatanons lived lower down on the Wabash, and about 1720 post Ouiatanon was established among them (near the site of Lafayette), this being the first military post on the Wabash. From this point controlling the Miamis and Ouiatanons, was stationed Sieur de Vincennes. The authorities of Louisiana, very much exercised by the reported encroachments of English traders within the Ohio valley, about 1726, won over Vincennes from his service with Canada, and a year or so later that intrepid pioneer of France founded on the lower course of the Wabash the post which soon became known as Vincennes. In a few years some French families from Canada settled around the post, and thus was established the first European village in Indiana. Until the close of the French occupation in 1763, Vincennes was included in the District of Illinois, which, in turn, was part of the Province of Louisiana. The dividing point between the jurisdiction of Canada and that of Louisiana was Terre Haute, "the Highlands of the Wabash."

By such means the authority of France was extended throughout all this country, including the present state of Indiana. Vincennes became a village of French soldiers and traders and their families. Where Lafayette now stands was another French post, and another at the site of Fort Wayne. The inevitable conflict between France and England, closing with the victory of Wolfe on the plains of Abraham and with the treaty of Paris in 1763 by which England became the dominant and principal territorial power in the new world, has only a remote interest in this discussion. The French and English met at the site of Pittsburg in 1754, where Fort DuQuesne was built by the former, and this meeting brought on the war which began with the disastrous defeat of Braddock by the French and their Indian allies.

After Wolfe's victory the English took possession of Detroit and the posts on the upper Wabash, but Vincennes continued part of French Louisiana until the treaty in 1763. The numerous Indian tribes northwest of the Ohio, though at first treated with much respect by the English, were later wrought upon by the brusque behavior of the English and the secret persuasion of the French who still remained in the country. A powerful confederacy of the western tribes was formed under the brilliant leadership of Pontiac, and during the spring of 1763 a general outbreak against the English posts occurred, which has since been known in history as Pontiac's war. Few of the inland posts escaped capture, the small English garrisons at Ouiatanons and Miamis (Fort Wayne) surrendering with the rest. It was not until the following year that such energetic measures were taken by the English forces as to break the Indians' strength and force the Delawares, Shawanees, Miamis and other bands to sue for peace. Henceforth until the American revolution, the Indian inhabitants north of the Ohio gave little trouble to the English, who maintained an easy and almost nominal jurisdiction over the posts and settlements along the Wabash and down the Mississippi.

In 1774 all the country northwest of the Ohio was put into the boundaries of the Province of Quebec, and several years later the lieutenant governor of Detroit assumed title of "superintendent of St. Vincennes," and took personal command there in 1777. Throughout all the years since the first exploration of her territory Indiana was but a part of a province of a province. "For ninety years her provincial seat of government vacillated between Quebec, New Orleans and Montreal, with intermediate authority at Fort Chartres and Detroit, and the ultimate power at Paris. Then her capital was whisked away to London, without the slightest regard to the wishes of her scattered inhabitants, by the treaty at Paris. Sixteen years later it came over the Atlantic to Richmond, on the James, by conquest; and after a tarry of five years at that point it shifted to New York city, then the national seat of government, by cession. In 1788 it reached Marietta, Ohio, on its progress to its final location. In 1800 it came within the limits of the state." (Dunn's Indiana)

During the Revolutionary war, the danger most dreaded by the colonists was that which came from across the western frontier, produced by the Indians and their English leaders. At this time a considerable population had crossed the mountains from the Atlantic colonies into the country along the Ohio, and the county of Kentucky had already been organized as a part of Virginia by George Rogers Clark. This young Virginian, when it became apparent that a frontier force must be maintained to subdue the Indians and check their invasions under English leadership into the colonies, was selected by the government of Virginia to organize and command such a force on the frontier. Owing to lack of money and supplies, the small number of settlers from whom his force was to be recruited, and the vast extent of country to be covered by his force, the success of Clark's campaign has long been a glorious addition to American annals, and his fame fitly symbolized with the designation "The Hannibal of the West." Setting out with a small force of men, recruited largely in Kentucky, and relying. on the support or at least the neutral attitude of the French settlers, he surprised the post at Kaskaskia, July 4, 1778, and in the course of the same month Vincennes became an American post, and the American flag was floated for the first time in Indiana, and the French residents welcomed the American invaders as friends of their nation. Vincennes was later captured by the British and again re-taken by Clark, but the details of his campaign are not here pertinent. Suffice it to say that he held the vast region of his conquest against all expeditions of the English until the close of the war, and when the treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 the conquered region became a part of the new American republic. By the Ordinance of 1787 all this country northwest of the Ohio was organized as the Northwest Territory, and provided with a temporary government directed by officials appointed by Congress.

By Clark's conquest, by the Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the Territory, and by ordinances, dated in 1785 and 1788, providing for the survey and disposal of the public lands of the Territory, the region now embraced in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and parts of others became a part of the United States and opened to the settlement of the pioneer homemakers who formed the first wave of western expansion. However, the Indian inhabitants were a factor that proved an obstacle to the settlement of this region for many years, and it was only when they gradually yielded, by war and treaty, their rights to the land that the white men were permitted to come in and possess the fertile regions north of the Ohio.