Sometimes, the things that flow through my mind during a day of mowing lawns can be so random. Through the protection of my Peltor earmuffs bleeds the muted, monotone hum of the motor and blades. The repetitiveness and relative simplicity of the work, coupled with that constant droning, can allow the mind to freely wander at will.
Today, out of nowhere, an old song resurfaced up there that had me humming along:
Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks……
Like I was saying—random, right?
Yet from that arbitrary visit of musical weirdness, my mind began to think of all the countries, regions, and cities that were known by other names throughout human existence.
Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way……
Naturally, the progression of this pondering brought me right back to the towns and villages of our Geauga County, Ohio. You may have noticed in my past articles that some of our townships had monikers completely different from what they are known as today. This trend also carries over to some of the towns to be written about in the near future.
Take, for instance, Claridon. If you would have called it this before 1817, residents would have shrugged their shoulders and given you a head-to-the-side, puzzled glare. Back then, the area was actually known as Canton. Then, after 1817, the town was joined with another township to the west, McDonough, and was called Burlington. Sometime during the winter of 1819-1820, due to post office conflicts with another Ohio town named Burlington, the area was re-established as Claridon, and it shed its ties with ol’ McDonough–which we now call Munson.
In the early 19th Century, Hambden was not Hambden at all. People dubbed the place Bondstown, after whom many believe was its first settler, Dr. Solomon Bond. Its modern name was not conceived until 1819, when yet again the post office faced a dilemma. So by a town vote, Bondstown became Hambden.
A few years later, a land to the east that was under Hambden’s—once Bondstown’s –jurisdiction chose to break free and become a new entity. This area, once Bondstown then Hambden , was now Montville.
Chesterland was included as part of Burton in 1807 (along with several of the southern Geauga townships) yet sources say the area was known also as Wooster at that time. Soon after, in 1816, a petition was accepted and Chesterland came to be…..only, as you probably guessed, it wasn’t quite modern Chesterland just yet. In March of 1827, the southern half of the township became Russell—once Burton and Chesterland, and known also to locals as the West Woods. What about the name ‘Chesterland’? Guess what– it is another post office creation! Chesterland is to this day not an official entity, but rather a name given to most of the township known as Chester, so the post office could better delineate between the four other Chester Townships in Ohio.
What we now know as the bustling village of Middlefield was in its beginnings a small crossroads outpost and part of Burton. The Trumbull territory in that time was divided into districts, and ironically, the name of the district Burton was in, was ‘Middlefield’. The handful of residents wanted to name their town after the district, as then it is the midpoint between Warren and Painesville on the Old State Road (Route 608). But due to some unspecified conflict (my money would be on the fact that it involved mail) the town was known as Batavia. It stayed this way until 1840, when the townsfolk finally got their way and became Middlefield.
Up until around 1820, Huntsburg was known as Batavia too, and before that Burton. Its transformation into an official township in 1821 put an end to the Batavia era, but it was not yet the Huntsburg we know and love. For in that day, an extra ‘H’ appeared at the end of the town title, making it ‘Huntsburgh’. This silent yet defining letter made its mark on the town until, sometime in the late 1800’s , it mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. Why they changed it, I can’t say. People just liked it better that way.
The rest of the county
Then there were the sub-towns that popped up within many townships. Most of these would have been well-known in their day, and yet all that remains for most are historical recollections and a few post offices that still bear their names. These places include Fullertown, Welshfield, East Claridon, South Newbury, South Thompson, Ford, Joint, Bundysburg, Briar Hill, and many more. Huntsburg alone had a handful, and this will be the topic of the next article in that series.
If you like to be thoroughly confused, try and study the ever-morphing names of crossroads in the county. Unlike townships, there were no legal (and usually no postal) ramifications to altering the titles of these tiny waypoints. They were most often called by the name of the family that lived there, and changed as often as a new family moved in. For a traveler, this could make for a confusing journey.
As a disclaimer, I must say that operating lawn maintenance equipment safely requires your full and utmost attention at all times. Please leave the multi-tasking to the professionals.
As a proposition, I am willing to wage a dollar that the Istanbul song will play through your brain at least once this week. And if you have never heard it, the link to a recent version can be found here. It is an infectious tune….you have been warned…..