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About Benjamin Parke
Benjamin Parke (September 2, 1777 – July 12, 1835) was a 19th-century American soldier and politician in the Indiana Territory and later state of Indiana.
Parke was born in New Jersey on Sep. 2, 1777 where he grew up and received only a limited education. He later moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 1797, where he read law in the office of James Brown. In 1799 he was admitted to the bar. The same year Parke moved to Vincennes in the Indiana Territory where he engaged in the private practice of law until 1804. Parke was appointed by Governor William Henry Harrison to serve as Attorney General of the Indiana Territory from 1804 to 1808.
In 1805, Parke was elected to the lower house of first territorial legislature. Parke was a member of the majority party and was in support of the pro-slavery and indenturing laws being debated at the time. After only a brief time in the legislature he was selected as the territory's first representative in Congress. While serving in Congress, responding to requests from his constituents, Parke asked that body to amend the Northwest Ordinance to pass legislation permitting slavery in Indiana. This effort was unsuccessful. Parke served in Congress from December 12, 1805, until March 1, 1808 when he resigned to accept a position on the staff of Gov. Harrison. From 1808–1817 Parke was appointed by Harrison to serve as a judge of the Indiana Territory.
Parke was involved in the founding of the Vincennes public library and Vincennes University during his early years in Vincennes. And near the end of his life he was the first president of the Indiana State Historical Society.
During Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812 Parke served in the military as part of the army commanded by General & Governor Harrison. Captain Benjamin Parke commanded a troop of Indiana Light Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. He was promoted to major, and took command of all mounted forces after Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess was killed. After the war, Parke returned to his public position as Judge.
During the move towards statehood Parke served as a delegate from Knox County, Indiana at the state constitutional convention in 1816. He was one of signatories when the constitution was agreed upon that July. After statehood, Parke was nominated by President James Monroe on March 5, 1817 to become the first U.S. District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Indiana, a new seat created by 3 Stat. 390. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 5, 1817, and received his commission the following day, serving thereafter until his death, in 1835, in Salem, Indiana. He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Salem, Indiana. Not at Crown Hill in Indianapolis as previously reported.
Parke County, Indiana is named in his honor.