The Herald Bulletin

September 28, 2013

Humor, classics come into play in the names of area towns

By Melody Hull Madison County , Cemetery Commission
The Herald Bulletin

---- — Most Andersonians know that the town was originally called Andersontown after Chief Anderson, the English name for Delaware tribe leader Kikthawenund.

You may also remember that Chesterfield might have been named for a frontiersman and Indian trader named McChester, but more probably for Chesterfield, N.H., where town founder Allen Makepeace was born.

Lapel was so named because founder Samuel Busby thought the shape of the new village on the first survey map looked like the lapel of a man’s 19th century coat.

But what about other populated places in Madison County like Orestes, Alexandia, and Summitville — where did they get their names?

Several town names are simply descriptive. Edgewood is a relatively new enterprise having been platted in August 4, 1907, by General Motors Corporation. It was begun as a residential area for GM workers. At the time there was large, thick woods that separated the town from the city of Anderson.

The woods were on the east edge of the new site, so surveyors, having a practical mindset, called it like they saw it: Edgewood. Now, of course, Anderson and Edgewood appear as one continuous unit.

Linwood in Lafeyette Township is named for that species of tree that flourished there 150 years ago when the village was begun. However, Linwood did not start out with that name. Linwood started as Funks Station, a stopping point for railroad trains by the Funk family, some of the first settlers to the area. In 1878, the station added a post office and, for a short while, shortened its name to just Funks. Perhaps the family wanted a name for their fledgling village that was prettier sounding; thus Funks was changed to Linwood in the same year.

Greek and Roman Classics

New Columbus in Adams Township actually went by two names simultaneously throughout most of 19th century and into the 20th. Abraham Adams, 1770-1848, who had brought his family to southern Madison County in 1823, donated part of his property and laid out a village in 1834. He named it New Columbus probably for Columbus, Ohio, a location many settlers passed through and rested in as they migrated west.

In 1837, a post office was established in New Columbus, but the postal station was named Ovid so that it would not be confused with the new city of Columbus, Ind., in Bartholomew County. The name Ovid is for the classical Roman poet who lived 2,000 years ago and who was studied extensively in previous ages. The little town supported the two names even through 1901 when maps from that year show both labels.

Orestes in Pipe Creek Township has an even more obscure classical literary reference. Like Anderson, the site of Orestes actually began as a Delaware village. After the removal of the Native Americans, the location became part of the many acres of farm ground purchased by settler Nathan Lowry. Before 1876, he established a station at the former Delaware village site for the Lake Erie & Western Railroad. At first, he named it Lowry Station, and it appears as such on the 1876 plat map.

Sometime after that, though, he changed the name to Orestes, honoring the character in Aeschylus’s play “Oresteia” in early Greek literature. In mythology, Orestes was the son of King Agamemnon who commanded the Achaeans during the Trojan War. Evidently, there were a number of early settlers in Madison County who had read the ancient classics.

And speaking of education, Alexandria also has an ancient Greek reference. In 1836, land owners John Stephenson and William Conner authorized Col. Nineveh Berry to survey a town site on Pipe Creek in what was to become Monroe Township. Col. Berry was not just the county surveyor. He was a leader in early county government and a local businessman.

Col. Berry completed his survey on June 3, 1836, and the following day he sold a large number of lots in the new town for $10 to $53 — an above-average price for that time period. He then erected a log cabin on the corner of what is now Harrison and Berry streets, stocked it with general merchandise, and so opened one of the first stores in the area.

As to the name of Alexandria for the new business venture, there are quite a few theories, but the two most popular are related. The first holds that the town was named after the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, established in the 4th century B.C., on the Nile River delta.

The second states that like the Egyptian city, the early 19th century Madison County pioneer village was named after Greek emperor and conqueror Alexander the Great. In either case, early Madison County entrepreneurs seemed to have remembered their studies in ancient history.

Humor, Cheese, and Confusion

The town in Van Buren Township that we now call Summitville has gone by various labels. There was just a post office at this location in 1847. It was not until twenty years later that land owner Aaron Williams donated property for a town site and had the site surveyed. For a short time, the official hamlet was called Wrinkle because it was so small. Later it was referred to as Skipperville in reference to cheese. As the local story goes, two travelers stopped at the village for the night and purchased from a storekeeper cheese and crackers to eat.

The crackers were stale, and the cheese had maggots in it. Cheese in this condition was called “skipper cheese” back then, so the travelers, spreading the story, referred to the town in derision as Skipperville, and the name stuck for a time. Luckily, railroad surveyors came to the rescue. They named the poor little village Summitville because it was either the highest point of land between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis or the highest point in Madison County.

From this topographical connection, “Summitville” would be a type of descriptive name. However, there was still some confusion even with that because some historical documents named the town “Summit Hill” or others called it “Summitsville.”