Friday Nights, Laundromats, and Nineteenth-Century Egotistical Businessmen

Friday night, I was at home alone, scrubbing my toilet, and I was thinking about the book I had just picked up at the library. (Yes, cleaning is a perfectly legitimate way for a single person to spend a summer evening. Friday nights are overrated anyway. What, like Tuesdays must be discriminated against or something?)

They Called It Nappanee. It’s a pretty detailed history of the founding of our town. I hadn’t had time yet to peek into its pages. Today, however, after I packed for Florida (see, sometimes it’s a MONDAY. Mondays are good days. It’s not always a Friday. “Friday” is so high school!)… I went to the laundromat, so I had some time to check it out.

Interesting Fact #1: Nappanee isn’t even a local Indian word. Apparently, local white guys (warring businessmen, really) were fighting over who gets to name the town. One guy, Locke, wanted to name the area “Locke Station,” but everybody was like, “UHHHH! Then people will just think it’s a train stop, not a real town!” Then this other guy, Dan, wanted to name it Danville. (? These guys were just a little full of themselves. Don’t ya think?) And then several suggested the name “Napanee.” Two settlers from Ontario were like, “So, our old town in Ontario was named Napanee, aye? So we think we could use that name again, aye?” (Not the most creative sort.) But. They did decide to add an extra “p” just to make sure everyone knew it was a different town. So “NapPanee” was born. Apparently, “Napanee” is a Mississagua Indian word that means something like “land of much grain.” So, the name fits.

Interesting Fact #2. The whole book is a history of Nappanee being settled by Euroamericans, from 1875 to 1975. I had done some earlier reading that described how the American government pushed the Miami Indians out around the 1840s. So the question is: WHAT HAPPENED HERE IN THE THIRTY YEARS IN BETWEEN? I am so intrigued by this in between time. The book They Called It Nappanee talks mainly about the business ventures and the railroad politicking of the late 1800s, but there is very little about the earlier 40s and 50s. The only information of the early 40s is a tiny little blurb about an Amish congregation being here as early as the 1840s. So. I must still keep digging to find out about the earliest white settler families in Nappanee, and their possible contact with the indigenous Miami Indians. I’d like to visit the local historical society soon.

Interesting Fact #3: Um. That’s all I remember.

Saturday I took some time experience some local culture. I went to Walmart.
Oh, and I also visited a hundred year old building of a furniture company that currently houses several businesses. Upstairs you can see old furniture designs (they are epic) and like two dozen old Hoosier cabinets (my mom would swoon), and downstairs there’s an ice cream shop, a bookstore, a bulk foods store, and a party store.


There’s also a weaver, from Harrisonburg, see, who’s cousins with my step-cousin’s husband and whose mother is related to my step-aunt’s first husband. (There were some deaths and resultant remarriages in that family.) (I’m serious. We played the Mennonite game and DOMINATED. For those of you who don’t know, the “Mennonite game” is the unofficial term for the cultural tendency to develop connections to new acquaintances through genealogies. It usually begins with the exchange of last names, but if a connection cannot be made easily, one of the parties normally offers a place-name, city or state, of origin. This broadens the possibilities, and the other party then lists off the people they know in that area. Connections are then made, normally by the first party, who is undoubtedly related to at least one of those people.) I LOVE playing the game! Just when the weaver decided she didn’t “know” me, she told me she was from Virginia, and the whole thing opened up all over again.

Interesting Fact #4: I leave for a teachers’ conference in Florida tomorrow! Bring on the sun!


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