Real Hoosiers are likely familiar with majority of the towns in Indiana, even the small ones. But do you know how some of these awesome Indiana towns got their start? From interesting founding details to town name choices, here are the origin stories of 11 amazing Indiana towns.
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1. French Lick
Settled in 1811, French Lick was a small French community originally called Salt Spring, after the town's spring and salt lick. The name was changed to French Lick, after the French settlers and salt lick, in 1857, when the town was officially established.
2. Santa Claus
This holiday-themed town was established in 1854 as Sante Fe. Since there was already a Santa Fe registered with the US Postal Service, the town was told to change its name. The entire town voted and decided to call themselves Santa Claus, Indiana. As the only town in the country with the name Santa Claus, this town actually receives letters to Santa every year from children across the world.
3. New Harmony
This unique town got its start in 1814 when the Harmony Society, led by George Rapp, set up a German Lutheran community called Harmony. After the Harmonists left this area, Robert Owen bought the land, and in 1825 set up a utopian community called "New Harmony." Though the utopian premise failed, the town still stands as a historic and intriguing part of the Hoosier state.
4. Gnaw Bone
Gnaw Bone is a small, unincorporated community near Nashville in Brown County that is known for its flea markets and famous name. How Gnaw Bone received its original name is a bit of a mystery. Some claim it is derivative of the original French settlement's name, Narbonne. Others tell of a man who was searching for someone in this area who was told the person they sought was "at the Hawkins place a gnawin' on a bone." Others yet claim it came from the performer Robert Gee who didn't understand how the people in this town survived the great depression with little more than a bone to gnaw on. Whatever this truth is, it's an interesting mystery for an interesting town.
Historic Richmond got its start in the early 1800s. First settled by Quakers, Richmond became an official town in 1818, with only 24 settlers (compared to its 36,000 today!). Since its humble start, Richmond has had quite an impressive track record, as the place where the Phantascope (an early motion picture projector) was invented and as the smallest community to have a professional orchestra and opera. Pretty awesome!
Story, Indiana is technically an unincorporated community in Brown County. This area was named after George Story, the man who bought the land. Though Story is quite small now, in its time it was the largest settlement in the area. The Story Inn gets its name from this community.
In 1812, Evansville got its start as a town called McGary's Landing. In an effort to convince more people to move onto the land, the town was renamed Evansville in 1814, after Colonel Robert Morgan Evans. In 1817, the town became official, and soon after the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad was built.
Have you ever heard of Popcorn, Indiana? Popcorn is a small unincorporated community located in Lawrence County. The unique name came from Popcorn Creek, and it is said a visitor found the corn in this area to be the size of popcorn compared to his own corn. The name stuck and Popcorn even had a post office in 1891, thought it only remained open for 14 years.
9. Michigan City
Michigan City, Indiana has a rather confusing name, especially when you realize this town is in Indiana, and not in Michigan. However, Michigan City was named after Lake Michigan and became an official town in 1836. The land was first bought by Issac Elston, for whom Elston Middle School is named.
Russiaville, Indiana has a different origin story than you might think. It wasn't named after Russia in any way. The name stems from Jean Baptiste de Richardville, a half French Miami chief. His last name was often mispronounced, turning the town into Russiaville by the time it was incorporated in 1860.
Swayzee was named after founder James Swayzee. During WWII, a solider sent a letter addressed only to Swayzee, and it was miraculously delivered to Swayzee, Indiana. This earned the town the nickname of "The Only Swayzee in the World."
Did you know all of the stories behind these awesome Indiana towns? How many have you visited?