The development of strong, organized political parties in Indianapolis occurred during the 1830s. Prior to this, voters aligned themselves with loosely structured factions forged either around individual politicians or geographical regions. The two Indianapolis factions in the 1820s, dubbed the Whitewater faction and the Kentucky faction, reflected the geographical origins of the candidates and their supporters.

The Whitewater faction was originally based in southeastern Indiana. It was known for its anti-slavery stance. Its leaders, including Indiana’s first governor Jonathan Jennings, had experience battling former Indiana Territorial governor and later 9th U.S. president William Henry Harrison and a proslavery faction located in the lower Wabash Valley region centered in Vincennes. 

In the early 1820s, a number of settlers with links to the faction moved to Indianapolis. At the same time, settlers from Kentucky also moved to Indianapolis, becoming part of the pro-slavery Kentucky faction.

Almost immediately the two groups fielded candidates for a variety of local offices. In the hotly contested 1822 county clerk’s race, Morris Morris of the Kentucky faction opposed James M. Ray, the Whitewater candidate. Ray won the election, and the Whitewater faction, supported by early Indianapolis luminaries such as Calvin Fletcher, continued to occupy a preeminent position throughout the 1820s.

Eventually, both factions faded as well-managed political parties took root in Indianapolis in the 1830s.

Revised March 2021

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