There's More Than Meets the Eye on
Stories from the Road:
As we drive the interstates, we encounter communities that we know only as names we pass by. But each town has its stories, such as, how the towns received their current names. Here are naming stories for four communities we encounter while driving along Interstate 71 between Columbus and Cincinnati.
Bloomingburg is a small town southwest of Columbus that was originally called, New Lexington. However, there was already a New Lexington in Ohio so a change was advisable. At least two stories are floating around that account for how New Lexington became Bloomingburg. We don’t know which is true. The G-rated version credits a Methodist preacher, a circuit rider, who noted the beautiful gardens maintained by the ladies of the church. In the spring, flowers were blooming all over town. It was a “blooming burg.”
The other account recalls a certain Dr. Gillespie who wanted the town renamed in honor of his home town of Bloomingburg, New York. To get others to support his proposal, Dr. Gillespie offered to “treat” all the male inhabitants of the town. The nature of that treat is not defined, but it would be reasonable to assume that it involved liquid refreshment. That is, he offered to buy a drink for every man in town who agreed to the name change. Apparently, the men took him up on his offer. The good Doctor got his way, and Bloomingburg it’s been ever since.
Continuing south on Interstate 71, we pass signs for Washington C.H., Xenia, and Chillicothe. Each of these also has a naming story.
First, Washington C.H. Those not familiar with the code might wonder what the “C. H.” refers to. The town was originally named Washington, but others in Ohio had thought of that name too so there were several Washingtons competing for attention. This particular Washington’s opportunity to differentiate itself appeared in 1810, when the first court of common pleas was convened here and a log courthouse was built to house the proceedings. The citizens were apparently so proud of their log courthouse that they added it to their town’s name.
On the western side of I-71 is Xenia. The word, Xenia, is from derived from Greek. The story is that back in 1803 a meeting was held to determine a name for this new community. A stranger in their mist spoke up and commented upon the warm hospitality he had received. He suggested the name, Xenia, meaning hospitality or friendship. That name was added to the list which was to be voted upon, and it prevailed. Who was this stranger? He was later identified as a clergyman, a circuit rider who traveled from community to community and therefore was in a position to rate a town’s level of friendliness.
If you drive through Washington Court House and continue east, you will come to Chillicothe, Ohio’s first capital city. The name, Chillicothe, is from the Shawnee Indian language and was used to name the village where the Shawnee chief lived. Unlike today’s capital cities, where our presidents and governors move when elected, the Shawnee capital moved to where the chief already lived. That capital became known as Chillicothe—so different villages served as Chillicothe at different times, depending where the chief lived.
The founders of Chillicothe, Ohio, wanted their chief to live here. Maybe that’s why they chose the name. In any case, their dream was soon realized. In 1800 Chillicothe became capital of the Northwest Territory: a region that included today’s Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Then when Ohio was granted statehood, Chillicothe was named capital, a job it held on and off until 1816 when state government moved to Columbus. After that Chillicothe settled into a quieter role as county seat of Ross County.
For more about these communities, see the CD for I-71 South: Columbus to Cincinnati.
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