Et Cetera: What’s in a Name?

by Patrick D. Kennedy 

Prepared for the Troy Daily News

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)

A funny thing happened on the way through Troy recently. As I am prone to do from time-to-time, I began to contemplate on history, or more precisely, some of the streets in town and their names.

These ponderings set me off on one of my investigative rabbit trails, which after researching and perusing the thoroughfares throughout the city, I discovered there has been a wide and varied street naming process over the years. Most of our civic pathways were named by the developers of new additions, and those people chose trees, physical location, favorite travel destinations or ancestral lands with which to christen their kingdoms. Surprisingly, very few have been named for an individual in honor of his/her accomplishments. So, where did most of the street names come from?

According to former Troy historian Thomas B. Wheeler, when Troy was first surveyed and platted with its 87 original lots, the streets were given very typical American names. The street running east and west and closest to the Great Miami River was Water St, the next street south was Main St., third was Franklin, named for Benjamin Franklin, and fourth was Back St. on the south side of town. Since the river was considered a central mode of transportation in 1807, it was kind of the front door of Troy. Back Street was reckoned as the back door.

Fortunately, Back Street was appropriately renamed Canal St. about 30 years later with the arrival of the Miami-Erie Canal. The street below Canal followed the general path of the canal race (feeder or water source for the canal), so it was called Race St. Sorry auto fans it was not an invitation.

Many of the downtown streets running north and south took on typical Americana names of trees such as Plum, Cherry, Walnut and Mulberry. Likewise, as the years passed several other areas of the city utilized names such as Fernwood, Forrest, Pine, Maple, and Spruce for those asphalt trails. (Ed.note: Mrs. Katherine Archer told me that Forrest Lane was named after Forrest A. Archer, builder)

Other early streets were named, like Franklin St., for national heroes and leaders, such as Clay and Crawford, two presidential candidates who were popular here, or Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Adams, Jackson and, of course, Washington Streets for our nation’s presidents.

Two particular civic pathways which were developed in the early 1880’s were named to honor the nation’s two martyred presidents, Lincoln and Garfield.

On a larger scale, as Troy grew in population and expanded, most names were taken from the property owners, longtime residents or land developers who purchased the acreage which soon became city lots. These roads include Ross, Young, Enyeart, Hobart, Lytle, Dickerson, Peters, DeWeese and Swailes, among others. Many of whom were early families in Miami County or Troy. The Peters and Dickerson families had nurseries in the area.

One of Troy’s earliest developments was that of Culbertson Heights, on the north side of Staunton Rd. and east of Rose Hill Cemetery. When that area was platted the names of Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and even that state north of Ohio, were chosen to be honored. To be sure, even in the early twentieth century someone had good sense to keep Ohio Ave. and Michigan Ave. separated. Pennsylvania also has an avenue, but it was placed in another part of the city.

Civic byways such as Waco St., Brukner Dr., Julian Ct., Dye Mill Rd., Hobart Circle and Herrlinger Way acknowledged important industry and names of families who brought the businesses to Troy. Again, most of these were named because of the proximity to the business or association with the same.

In the 1950’s, one subdivision in the city was named by the winner of a contest sponsored by the developer F.A. Archer. The contest winner chose the name Sherwood for the new addition and the street names followed suit with King Richard Ct., Robin Hood Ln., Loxley Ln., Crossbow Ln., Nottingham Rd., Little John Rd. and Merry Robin Rd.

In more recent years, the managers of developments seem to have looked abroad to places of ancestry or favorite travel spots for inspiration. King’s Chapel, developed in the late 1960’s, has a very Scottish flavor as one notes streets like New Castle Dr., Highland Ct., Inverness Ct., Glenmore Ct. and St. Andrews Dr.

Edgewood and Westbrook, initiated in the 1930’s and 1940’s, respectively, have very English sounding street names: Mayfair Cir., Devon Cir., Kent Ln., Curzon Cir., Surrey Rd., Chelsea Rd., Berkshire Rd. and Dartmouth Rd. are the names chosen for several roads in those two areas.

A newer development east of Sherwood, along Hunter’s Ridge, takes on a very patriotic verve with names like Liberty Place, Bunker Hill Rd., Saratoga Dr., and Yorktown Dr., the last three being names of important Revolutionary War battles. There is also Vicksburg Ct. and Gettysburg Dr. to memorialize the Civil War. Someone obviously wanted to balance things out a little and since Grant and Sherman already had streets in Troy, they named two roads in the area Lee Rd. and Sheridan Ct., after the generals of Civil War fame. The old west is not forgotten with Frontier Dr. and Custer Ct.

Some of the more unique names in Troy, which actually relate to local people, locations, etc. are Diana Dr., Experiment Farm Rd. Olympic Dr. Carriage Crossing and Ferguson Dr.

Diana Drive, which is located on property originally owned by Dr. and Mrs. Don F. Deeter was named for their daughter, Diana (Deeter) Williams. I have not yet found out the circumstances, but it is possible the family requested the name when selling the property next to their farm.

In the early twentieth century, experimentation in farming with different types of soil, various hybrid seeds, as well as inhibitors (pesticides) was becoming quite popular. Ohio encouraged each county to follow the pattern set by the Wooster Experiment Farm and set aside land for this purpose. Following the permission granted in the election of 1910, Miami County set up their experiment farm at the northwest corner of the Troy - Covington Pike (State Route 41 /W, Main St.) and what is now Experiment Farm Rd. Approximately 120 acres, much of what is now inside MaryBill Dr. was the farm. Agricultural history is not the only area recognized with a road name.

Olympic Dr. is a little more obscure and a bit an historic ‘marker,’ similar to Experiment Farm Rd. Bob Schul was an Olympic gold medalist from West Milton. During the 1970’s he opened a large sports complex on the south side of Stanfield Rd. behind the present Meijer building. As a result of winning a gold medal in the 5,000k in Tokyo (1964), the road leading to the complex was named Olympic Dr. The name is still there even if the sports complex is not.

Carriage Crossing is actually another ‘local’ name in that it was named because of the familiar sites in the area. Most in Miami County recognize the German Baptists of the Covington area with the men wearing beards and broad brim hats and the ladies in their cape dresses and prayer covering, but it is Old Order German Baptist Brethren which also still utilize the horse and buggy/carriage as a mode of transportation. While many carriages can still be seen from time-to-time in the Troy area, the busy roads have forced many to take alternate back routes. But, the State Route 41 and Washington Rd. area, at one time, was a carriage crossing point.

Finally, the one true street named in honor of someone’s accomplishments in local stories is Ferguson Dr., named after Bob Ferguson, the Troy High School football standout and All-American at Ohio State University. In the 1960’s, following Ferguson’s career at OSU and his being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the suggestion was made to name a street in his honor. The city was not inclined to do it, citing it was not the practice of the city to name streets with local personalities. It was also noted the suggested stretch of road was on Troy school property. It was after numerous letters to the editor were published in the Troy Daily News that a petition drive finally convinced the school district to rename the road.

So, there is my condensed history tour of Troy streets and avenues. Troy has numerous interesting road names and fascinating stories to accompany them, but very few of the streets are actually named for a Trojan because of his/her accomplishments.

If this was the case, we would have Stouder Street, named after the man who gave Troy its hospital and who gave the seed money to begin the Troy Foundation, from which many people and organizations have benefitted. We might also have Coleman Ct., for the first Troy doctor, who was vitally important during those pioneer years. Allen Ave. would be necessary for Henry W. Allen, one of Troy’s early benefactors; Dixon Dr. after “Pop” Dixon, the Baptist minister who had a heart for the young people of the community and initiated the Troy Recreation Association, “The Rec.” We would not forget Rev. Brandriff and many others who literally put their lives on the line by being ‘conductors’ on the Underground Railroad. Of course, we need to include Lucille Wheat and Lois Davies for their contributions to the community. Tommy Vaughn and Tommy Myers, who are two other all-Americans from Troy, couldn’t be left out, nor could we forget every individual veteran who has fought for the freedoms we enjoy. The list goes on and on.

Although I am sure Solomon was not thinking of names for roads in Israel when the Lord moved him to write Proverbs 22:1, I am thankful for the individuals that we have and have had in Troy who have given of themselves and their time, talents and resources to make this city a great place to live . . . I honor their names.

Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy, 335-4082. Et Cetera is an occasional column of local interest stories and ruminations.

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