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How Did Evansville And Other Indiana Cities Get Their Names?

Evansville
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A lot of times, we take for granted places we live, their history, and even their names.  I thought I would take a little stroll through the internet and try to figure out exactly where Evansville and other place in the Hoosier State got their names.

Evansville – Biscuits and Gravy Anyone?

The city of Evansville has gone through somewhat of an identity crisis over the years.  About 200 years ago, the town was named La Belle Riviere by French settlers which means “The Beautiful River.”  Later, in 1812, the name was changed when Hugh McGary bought the land and named it McGary’s Landing.  Finally, in 1814, McGary changed it once again in honor one one of his cohorts and Colonel in the War of 1812.  The man with the breakfasty name was Col. Bob Evans, and McGary changed the town’s name in hopes that it would draw more people to the area.  (Wikipedia) In case you were wondering, Col. Bob Evans has nothing to do with the restaurant or sausage guy.



Santa Claus – Legend Or Truth?

Now the home of Holiday World, and the only post office in the country to bear the jolly name, Santa Claus, Indiana in Spencer County has a few stories about how the name was created.  It is known that when the town applied for a post office, the name they chose was Santa Fe.  They were then told to pick a new name.  From here, what is the truth and what is legend is still in question, but in 1992, the late radio personality, Paul Harvey told a tale on his “Rest of the Story” program that many still cling to.  It is said, that on Christmas Eve, the settlers of the town finished a church service, and huddled around to name the still nameless city.  As they were discussing, they heard the children cry out to the the man with sleigh bells ringing at the door, “Santa Claus!”  That was all they, needed to finish the naming of their community which is now the home of Christmas all year long!

Mt. Vernon/Posey County – Ties to George Washington

West of Evansville sits Posey County and the city of Mt. Vernon.  When Indiana was just a teritory, its governor was Thomas Posey, whom the county was named after.  His claim to fame, so to speak, was growing up as the neighbor of George Washington.  So while he was gossiping with the first president about the downed cherry trees in the neighborhood and borrowing a cup of flour to put in his wig (none of these events are confirmed) he was also rumored to be the illegitimate son of Washington (the rumors were later dismissed).  Back to Posey County, as the town known as McFadden’s Bluff was then changed to a name very familiar to Posey.  That name was Mt. Vernon, named after the home and plantation of George Washington himself.

Newburgh – Better than Old-Burgh

Newburgh is the oldest city in Warrick County, and sits just East of Evansville.  The community was started by John Sprinkle in 1806.  Back then, it was named Sprinklesburgh.  In 1837, the town was re-named to Newburgh.  Since “burgh” comes from Europe as basically the name for a town, then Newburgh was a “new town,” but as I had just told you, it was not a new town.  I can find no reason for the change, so I can only assume that settlers were ashamed of the sissy-sounding Sprinklesburgh.

Jasper - From the Good Book

The Enlow family moved to what is now Jasper after living in Kentucky next to the Lincoln Family.  Mrs. Enlow is even thought to helped deliver the 16th president at his birth.  The town was known as Enlow Hill until the family donated 80 acres of their land and it was re-named, Jasper.  The name is said to come from a passage in the New Testament in Revelations… “and the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones . . . the first foundation was of Jasper.”

New Harmony – A Utopian Community?

The town of New Harmony’s name starts with a rift in the Lutharan Church in Germany.  Because of religious persecution, the pietists broke away and headed to the states where they settled in Harmony, Pennsylvania, a town named after their newly formed Harmony Society.  Following the lead of George Rapp, they left Pennsylvania for Southwestern Indiana, and created Harmony, with the hope of creating a place that banned money and other commodities, in the pursuit of a Utopian society.  Steadman Whitwell’s was the architect who produced a Design for a Community of 2000 Person founded upon a principle Commended by Plato, Lord Bacon and Sir Thomas More.While the Harmonists, who re-named the town New Harmony, had great big ideas, none of them could agree on the rules of this society, and ended up moving back to Pennsylvania leaving historic New Harmony as part of the Tri-State’s history.

I hope you learned something here, and maybe it will encourage you to research the town in which you live.  If you discover something cool, please comment and let us know.

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