The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 5.


There's Many Ideas On How Citizens of Indiana Came To Be Known As "Hoosiers"

Why are Indianans called Hoosiers and why were we chosen from all other American people to be the recipients of this appellation which was given us in ridicule a century ago, but today commands, by its own reputation, admiration, respect and even reverence?

That name, once hurled at us across the muddy waters of the Ohio made the blood boil in our veins, but now received a smile of pride, and we walk a little straighter, step a little faster and our pulse seems to heed no limit when we hear: "He's a Hoosier."

In most instances, a nickname embodies some characteristic, generally typical and pronounced of a certain person or persons which often is not very warmly received by ones so named. This is true with the name, "Hoosier," a word many have known, but whose origin is still unknown to the present day.

From all records and explanations of the origin of the word, "Hoosier," we have reason to believe one or two things concerning this name which have seemed to remain with it through all its dissections.

there have been pages and pages written on the theory that in the early day of Indiana the pioneer and his family were made safe for the night by pulling the renowned hatch-string inside the cabin door. An occasional stranger through the dense wilderness stopped for food and shelter.

The adherents of this theory claim that the settler always called out "Who's yere?" From this expression it has been said by many that the word "Hoosier" originated.

In Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms the word "Hoosier" is defined by "husher", a person who downs or hushes his antagonists. We also find the word meant "Bully," a hero of pioneer times, a fighter, and a raw-looking fellow.

Jacob Platt Dunn made one of the most successful finds as to the origin of the word, "Hoosier." He was one of the first who found in the English dialect dictionary: "Hoosier, huzzer," Cum. 4 -- said of anything unusually large." In his searches he found that "Cum. 4" has reference to a glossary of the words and phrases pertaining to the dialect of the Cumberland.

Many of the people from Cumberland county, England, later settled in Western Virginia and eastern Tennessee and Kentucky.

They named the backwoods people in this section of the south "hoosers" for the old "hoosers" of England. Many of these people emigrated to Indiana.

John Finley, who had hailed from Virginia with a faithful horse, a trusty rifle and a worthless $50, is said to have written his famous poem, "The Hoosier's Nest," on the Sac Trail, established by Thomas Snow, in Union township, in west Porter county. From the time of the publication of the poem the name Hoosier has been left to Indiana people alone.

On one occasion an Indiana boatman of foreign birth was displaying his pugilistic accomplishments upon the levee at New Orleans. Unexpectedly it is said he stretched our two southern boatmen in the brawl. In his joy over the success of his fight he sprang in the air shouting in a strange accent: "I'm a hoosier, I'm a hoosier."

A pominent New Orleans, La., paper humorously reported the case and afterwards transferred the corruption of the word, "husher," to all Indiana boatmen. Later it was applied to all citizens of Indiana.

Another theory just as popular as the "husher" derivation is the theory that the nickname is derived from "hussar." One Col. Lehmanonsley, who had served under Napoleon, and later settled in Indiana, and became widely known as a lecturer on Napoleonic wars, declared: That the tradition preserved in his family is that once while in Kentucky he became engaged in a dispute with several natives and tried to settle the matter by loudly proclaiming that he was a "hussar." They understood him to say that he was a "hoosier," and thereafter applied the name to everybody from Indiana.

when James Whitcomb Riley was approached on the subject he questioned the truth of all other stories and expressed his own opinion thus: 'The Indiana pioneers were vicious fighters.' They not only clawed and scratched but frequently bit off noses and ears. A settler coming into a beer room on the morning after a fight and seeing an ear on the floor would carefully ask, "who's year."

Apparently, Mr. Riley did not have a great deal of confidence in his own theory for he adds: "I feel safe in expressing the opinion that this theory is quite plausible. It is well sustained by historical experience as any of the others."

the Honorable Jere smith, when asked his opinion more than a generation ago, replied: "I first heard the word at a corn-husking. It was used in the sense of "Rip-roaring," "half-horse," and "half-alligator." It was used then and for some years afterward as if spelled husher, the "u" having the sounds as in bush. In the next three years the sound glided into "Hoosher," and shortly afterward it appear in print as "Hoosier."

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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