Ask the Truth: How did Elkhart County schools get their names?

 

When Wakarusa and Nappanee high schools were consolidated in 1969, the school board tasked both student councils with naming the new school. The students recommended the name NorthWood, capitalizing N for Nappanee and W for Wakarusa.

The Wa-Nee Community School District got its name in a similar way — WA-karusa and Nappa-NEE — according to then-school board president Dr. Robert Abel.

 

 

Northridge High School got its name because it is on a hill that drops off to the side, according to Richard Smith, director of the Middlebury Historical Museum.

“There is a prominence there,” Smith said, “(but) it’s a stretch to imagine that it’s a ridge.”

The “north” in Northridge comes from the high school being north of Elkhart County, according to Rex Krider, an alum of Middlebury High School before it was consolidated with Jefferson High School to become Northridge High School in 1969.

The name was chosen after the Middlebury Community Schools Board asked seventh- to 12th-grade students to help name the new school in 1968. Other names that were suggested included Tri-Township, El Dorado and Avant Garde.

 

The name for Fairfield Jr/Sr High School was chosen because the school is surrounded by agriculture, according to principal Amy Bertram.

Clinton, Benton and Jackson townships consolidated their school districts in 1963 and later combined New Paris and Millersburg high schools, Bertram said. The township trustees then approached elementary school students for a school name.

“There were a lot of combinations with Benton, Jackson and Clinton, and they tried to put it together,” Bertram said. “It wasn’t really working. Then one student submitted Fairfield. The trustees going through the suggestions got to Fairfield and said, ‘That’s us! We’re agricultural. That fits us.’”

 

ELKHART CENTRAL AND MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOLS (ELKHART)

In 1972, Elkhart High School was split in two.

The Elkhart Community Schools Board reached out to the community for new school names, according to Phyllis Tubbs, an assistant athletic director who has taught at Elkhart Memorial High School since classes started.

Students submitted 67 names to the school board, and a community survey by The Elkhart Truth yielded 840 suggestions.

Elkhart Community Schools then decided to name the schools Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial.

Tubbs did not know how the school board arrived at the name “Central” but said it could be because it’s centrally located in Elkhart.

Elkhart Memorial was named as such to commemorate the efforts of Elkhart Community Schools’ students, teachers and school board members, Tubbs said. At that time, it was one of four Indiana schools that had Memorial in their name. Today there are five.

Elkhart Central and Memorial high schools are also named after the city of Elkhart.

Dr. Havilah Beardsley, who planned the city, named it after the Elkhart River on April 30, 1832, according to a 1995 book titled “from Needmore to Prosperity: Hoosier Place Names in Folklore and History.” Ronald L. Baker, a retired English professor who taught at Indiana State University, authored the book.

Baker also references a “local legend” that suggests the city is named after a Native American chief named Elkhart.

“A long, long time ago, when savage Indians lived in this part of Indiana, there was a famous Indian chief who was a hero-like image to his people,” Baker wrote. “He always wanted to be remembered even after he died.”

So he named his main camp, which used to be along what is now known as the Elkhart River, after himself. Chief Elkhart had a daughter called Princess Mishawaka, who would become the namesake for the city of Mishawaka to the west.

 

Oliver Crane, who was tasked with establishing the county seat May 2, 1831, named the city after his hometown in Goshen, New York, Baker wrote in “Needmore to Prosperity.”

The book also suggests that Goshen might have been named after the biblical Goshen because, just like its namesake, the land was rich and fruitful.

 

Jimtown High School was named after the village of Jamestown in Baugo Township, Baker wrote in “Needmore to Prosperity.” The book also traces the origin of Jamestown’s name to its founder, James Davis.

Davis laid out the village along Baugo Creek in 1835, said Elkhart County Historical Museum manager Matthew Schuld, citing 1905’s “A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of Elkhart County, Indiana.”

 

Concord Community High School is named after Concord Township, where it’s located.

The Elkhart County Historical Museum did not have any documentation on the origin of Concord Township’s name, though Schuld said it’s likely named after other Concord towns found in eastern states.

“‘Yankees’ were moving here from the mid-Atlantic states and New England in the 1830s,” Schuld wrote in an email to The Elkhart Truth. “Many communities in Northern Indiana are named after towns farther east that these settlers originated from … Bristol, Goshen, Middlebury, York Township.”

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