Search Close
Plan Your Visit
Outside View of the Indiana Historical Society Building
Plan your visit
Tuesday through Saturday10 a.m. - 5 p.m
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Save $2 per ticket (adults & seniors) when you purchase online.
Purchase Tickets
Indiana Experience Admission $15 Adults$14 Seniors (60 and over)$5 Youth (ages 5 through 17)$2 Access Pass HoldersFree Children under 5Free IHS MembersFree Educators and Military Free parking with admission in IHS lot off New York Street.

Indiana’s First Poet?

January 26, 2023

My favorite part of working in reference are the numerous fascinating materials I come across when fulfilling research requests. Recently, someone requested information on the Romantic era poet Rebecca Hammond Lard. A literature enthusiast myself, I was intrigued by her journey to Indiana.

Rebecca was born in Massachusetts on March 7, 1772, until she moved with her family to Vermont around 1779 where she taught school from the young age of 14 until her marriage in 1801 to Samuel Lard. Her husband moved to Indiana without her sometime before 1819, and with encouragement from her son, Samuel Jr., Rebecca moved her children to Indiana. Despite the struggles with her husband and supporting her children while in the harsher land of Indiana, Rebecca wrote a gorgeous poem about the magnificent view of a river in what would become her final home. Her poem, “The Banks of the Ohio,” describes the beauty she saw along the river where many Hoosiers stood. Writing in standard couplets and a two-line rhyme scheme, Mrs. Lard’s poem extends for twelve full pages of a pamphlet.

Page 1 of the poem “Banks of the Ohio” by Mrs. Lard, 1823, IHS Collection

This poem is unofficially considered the first published poem written by a resident of Indiana, as acknowledged by The Indiana Book of Records, Firsts, and Fascinating Facts. While there is some disagreement about which poet is officially considered the first of Indiana, it is accepted that this was the first poem published by a woman living in Indiana.

Listing for the ‘first poet’ in Indiana from The Indiana Book of Records…, 1985, IHS Collection

Certainly, many references to her poem are doubtful of her name and origin — simply named Mrs. Lard — both the author and her friend who published it were doubtful of the quality of her work, as seen in the introduction description:

Advertisement for the poem “Banks of the Ohio” by Mrs. Lard, 1823, IHS Collection

Were it not for the poem being published under the unremarkable name of Mrs. Lard, it might have received more attention and have been confidently named the first poem of Indiana. This lack of confidence caused it to fade beyond brief mentions in books, and eventually, her name was surpassed by poets like Sarah T. Bolton and James Whitcomb Riley. It is important to note that “On the Banks of the Ohio” was not her only work. A few years prior, Rebecca wrote a book of poems dedicated to her brother titled Miscellaneous Poems on Moral and Religious Subjects.

The life history of Rebecca Hammond Lard is surprisingly well-documented for a woman of her time, and she lived quite a hard, traveled life spending time teaching future generations. A few years after Rebecca and her four children arrived in Indiana, her husband announced his intention to divorce her and remarry. At age 56 she found herself supporting her children alone in Indiana. She remained indefinitely, living 36 years of her life there until her death at 83, leaving behind the oldest poem of Indiana.

Brandon Rouzaud is an Assistant Librarian at the Indiana Historical Society while working on his Master’s in Library and Information Science. He is a U.S. Navy veteran who aspires to write works of literature to inspire others and create change.

Share this post:
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share with Email
Facebook Comment
Thanks for Reading! If you enjoyed reading our blog, try our InDepth Stories
map of area around IHS location
Drop us a line
Let's talk
Full Staff Directory
Our Hours
ExhibitsOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayWilliam H. Smith Memorial LibraryOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayHistory MarketOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayStardust Terrace Café HoursOpen 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Never miss a story!
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202(317) 232-1882
© 2018 Indiana Historical Society Privacy Policy
The Indiana Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.