Beginning in 1955, The Washington Herald published articles written by Russell Colbert, our editor’s great-uncle. During this bicentennial year we will re-publish excerpts from the series for your enjoyment. These excerpts are unchanged from their original printing. As such, they may contain terms that are considered less acceptable today, but were considered appropriate at that time. We hope these articles prove useful to you in appreciating the history of this area we call home.

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Published July 19, 1955 as “Origins of Some Daviess County Names”


Four of the ten townships in Daviess county are, of course, named in honor of presidents of the United States as is the county seat. The original settlement at Washington was called Liverpool. This name seems to have been too British for the pioneers after the War of 1812. Apparently the change from “Liverpool” to “Washington” came largely as a result of anti-British sentiment in the period of the War of 1812 and in the following years. The pioneer settlers here regarded the British and Canadians as responsible for many of their difficulties with the Indians; this attitude continued for many years and was not helped any by the unfriendly attitude of the British government toward the government of the United States during our Civil War.

It was rather natural that the name Washington should be given to the township and city in Daviess county; George Washington had been dead less than 18 years when Washington township was laid out and named. Madison township honors our fourth president—it had originally been called “Wallace township.” Van Buren and Harrison townships were organized in the period of political rivalry between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison as Democrat and Whig leaders respectively.

The other townships in Daviess county were named in honor of early settlers, not necessarily the first settler in each instance. The name Bogard as applied to the township honors a man of that name who was killed by the Indians in 1812. Steele township was named for an early settler as was Elmore township. Barr township probably derives its name from an early settler and land owner, Hugh Barr. Joshua Reeve gave his name to Reeve township. It seems that he migrated to southeastern Daviess county, probably from South Carolina, about 1807.

An unusual feat accomplished by Joshua Reeve was the blazing of a trail from what is now Reeve township to Vincennes. The trail was “blazed” by chipping bark from the trees. Veale township and Veale’s Creek derive their name from James C. Veale, an early settler, who served as a Ranger under General Harrison’s command in the War of 1812.

The name Smothers creek honors William Smothers whose father had been killed by the Indians in Kentucky. Thereafter it seems that he became somewhat of a wanderer spending most of his time hunting wild game and Indians. He is know to have spent some time in Daviess county and is believed to have killed four or five Indians while here.

The name Aikman as applied to the creek commemorates John Aikman, one of our pioneers and also one of the first county commissioners of Daviess county.

Prairie creek was given that name because of the character of much of the land through which it flows. The term “Owl” was applied to the prairie in northern Daviess county because of the large number of owls observed there in pioneer times.

Such is the origin of some of the local names.