Jay County is located mid-way down the eastern border of Indiana with Ohio. Jay County was first inhabited by the Indians of the Miami Tribe. Two Indian reservations were once located in this country. The land was purchased from the Miami Indians and was then opened for settlement. The county was named by the Indiana Legislature in 1837 to honor the first chief of justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay. We are the only Jay County in the United States. The town of Portland was chosen as the county seat.
The first settler was Peter Studebaker. He came in 1821. A large wave of settlers followed in pursuit of good farm land. The first permanent white settlers were John and Mary Brooks, who lived for a while near the Godfroy Reserve and then settled near Brooks Creek in Knox Township. Other families, such as that of John and Nancy Hawkins soon followed. The Hawkins family housed fugitive slaves and served as a station on the Underground Railroad.
The early economy of the county was based on agriculture. However, the discovery of oil and natural gas in the early 1880's changed the economic focus. Factories of all types were established and a period of great prosperity began which would last for the next 30 years. Jay County's economy is today a blend of agriculture and industry.
The beautiful 1919 Jay County Courthouse is located in the center of Portland. A visit to the Jay County Historical Society and the Museum of the Soldier, both located in Portland, and the Glass Museum, located in Dunkirk, will give you a good understanding of the history of our county.
Jay County Map Front (PDF - click to enlarge)
Jay County Map Back (PDF - click to enlarge)