Monday, June 17, 2024
Urban Planning

Of Jaspers & Newtons

Jasper, Newton, Iowa, and adjacent counties of Jasper and Newton, Indiana. Any relationship to Jasper Newton Jack Daniels, of Tennessee Whiskey fame? I wondered. I actually looked it up and found this article, whose author wondered the same question. And we’re not alone in wondering.

Writes Charles Chapin, “the citizens of Illinois, through their elective representatives in the early 1800s, had Revolutionary War and early historic figures in mind as they went about naming counties. Included are Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, Wayne, Marion, Moultrie, Pulaski, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Morgan,. Hancock, and many other names of soldiers, statesmen, and men of wealth […]” but what about these other two names?

Chapin tracked down William Jasper, an enisted soldier under then-Colonel William Moultrie who rescued the United States flag in 1776 at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.  Chapin connects the name Newton, a Sergeant per Mason L. Weems’ 1809 work, “The Life of Gen. Francis Marion,” although Lou Ann Everett and others have raised the question of the validity of this account.

Maybe if Weems hadn’t invented tales about George Washington, he’d have a little more cred. The malleable, social consciousness of a young nation at the time of his writing in the early 19th century probably loved it. Still notable that these two names keep coming up, whether from apocryphal or legitimate history.

Nat Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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