Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson has done it again.
His second coffee table book, “What’s in a Name,” in as many years sheds new light on the history of Madison County’s community and people. It follows “If the River Could Talk,” which viewed local history through the stories of life along the White River in Madison County, reaching back beyond the 19th century.
Jackson wrote both books in collaboration with The Herald Bulletin, which secured local sponsors to support publication and distribution. Also, chapters from the book are being published monthly in The Herald Bulletin.
The premise of “What’s in a Name” is to explain, appropriately enough, how local places got their names. Along the way, the reader learns the stories of the people who settled Madison County and how and when government institutions and businesses were established.
If you have a relative or friend who’s interested in history and feels a strong connection to a community — or communities — in Madison County, “What’s in a Name,” would make a great Christmas or holiday gift. You’ll want your own copy, too, to enjoy and keep on your coffee table or bookshelf.
The book is available now at The Herald Bulletin. Stop by during business hours — 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday — or call customer service at 765-640-4848 to get your copies. Cost is $29.95, not including shipping. Also, look for an order form published frequently in The Herald Bulletin.
I expect “What’s in a Name” to be just as popular as the award-winning “If the River Could Talk,” which sold out. So don’t wait too long to order the new book.
Complementing Jackson’s research and prose, his photographs in “What’s in a Name” show historical structures and places where important landmarks still exist — or used to be. It’s thought-provoking to see images showing traces of an old trail or canal etched into the countryside.
The book’s designer, Kaylee Stewart, expertly blends the photos and stories, along with maps showing noteworthy communities of each township, making “What’s in a Name” not only interesting but visually appealing.
Here’s an excerpt from the book, taken from a chapter on Anderson Township, to whet your appetite:
“Another settlement that no longer exists was called Boxtown. In the 1890s, this neighborhood was located between Cincinnati Avenue and White River immediately southeast of the city.
“It was called Boxtown because nearly all the residents’ houses were built of dry goods boxes procured from Anderson stores. Some of the more dignified or important ones were made of piano cases and were wall-papered on the inside. Outside they were surrounded with grass plots and shrubs of various kinds in an effort to improve the otherwise unattractive appearance.
“The area was populated by ‘roughs’ most of whom were itinerants, tramps and bums who regularly caused trouble and were the subject of many local police investigations.
“The area contained steep hills that led down to the river. Area residents called one hill Half Mountain. It was very popular on a snowy winter’s day. To get to the hill from Cincinnati Avenue, children used a little-known path called Rocky Lane that ended at Miller Avenue. From there, it was smooth sledding – as long as you stopped short of the river situated not far from the bottom of the hill.”