Hancock County, Indiana
Indiana was admitted as a state to the United States on December 11, 1816, although much of its territory was still disputed or held by native peoples at that time. These indigenous claims were quickly reduced and removed by various treaties.
The 1818 Treaty with the Delaware Indians brought most of central Indiana into state control, and Madison County was organized on a portion of that area. The lower portion of Madison County was quickly settled, and by the late 1820s the inhabitants were petitioning for a separate county government.
Accordingly, a portion of the county was partitioned on March 1, 1828, to form Hancock County. Greenfield was named as the county seat on April 11th. The county name recognized John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, who had signed his name prominently to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The county has retained its original borders since its 1828 creation.
John Hancock and the Signing of the Declaration
Hancock was president of Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. He is primarily remembered by Americans for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, so much so that “John Hancock” became, in the United States, an informal synonym for signature.According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but the story is apocryphal and originated years later.
Contrary to popular mythology, there was no ceremonial signing of the Declaration on July 4, 1776. After Congress approved the wording of the text on July 4, the fair copy was sent to be printed. As president, Hancock may have signed the document that was sent to the printer John Dunlap, but this is uncertain because that document is lost, perhaps destroyed in the printing process. Dunlap produced the first published version of the Declaration, the widely distributed Dunlap broadside. Hancock, as President of Congress, was the only delegate whose name appeared on the broadside, although the name of Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress but not a delegate, was also on it as “Attested by” implying that Hancock had signed the fair copy. This meant that until a second broadside was issued six months later with all of the signers listed, Hancock was the only delegate whose name was publicly attached to the treasonous document. Hancock sent a copy of the Dunlap broadside to George Washington, instructing him to have it read to the troops “in the way you shall think most proper”.
Hancock’s name was printed, not signed, on the Dunlap broadside; his iconic signature appears on a different document—a sheet of parchment that was carefully handwritten sometime after July 19 and signed on August 2 by Hancock and those delegates present. Known as the engrossed copy, this is the famous document on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.