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May 21, 2020

Two counties are named after Native American tribes. Many of Indiana's 92 counties have names that pay tribute to Revolutionary War heroes. And other county names salute famous Americans, including some who never set foot in the Hoosier state.

A few counties even are named after an aspect of their natural landscape. Lake County, with a northern border on the shores of Lake Michigan, is an obvious example.

For this show exploring the derivation of the names of Indiana's counties, Nelson will be joined by a WICR-FM colleague who has a passion for American history, including the origins of county names.

Charles Braun, the attorney who hosts Legally Speaking, the call-in legal advice show that airs at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, will be Nelson's guest. He's an admirer of French military hero Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) - and there's a direct connection involving our show's topic. Noting that Lafayette played a crucial role as an ally of the American colonists during the Revolutionary War, Charles points out that two counties have names that salute him. 

Those two are Fayette County in eastern Indiana and LaGrange County, in the far-northeastern part of the state, which takes its name from Lafayette's French ancestral estate. 

Miami Chief Little TurtleAlso honoring Lafayette, of course, is the Hoosier city of that name, located in Tippecanoe County. The Tippecanoe River, for which the county is named, derives its name from a word in the language of the Miami people meaning "place of the buffalo fish." The Miami, in turn, are memorialized by Miami County just north of Kokomo.

LaGrange County isn't the only one with a name connected to foreign soil. Switzerland County on the Ohio River is named in honor of the country that was the homeland of many of its early settlers.

Knox County, which includes Vincennes, Indiana's oldest city, is among those named after a notable American with no Hoosier connections. According to Indiana Place Names (IU Press) by Ronald Baker and Marvin Carmony, the county's namesake is Henry Knox, an artillery officer during the Revolutionary War who became the country's first Secretary of War. In that capacity, he oversaw both the Army and the Navy. Knox is immortalized in dozens of place names around the country, including the famous Fort Knox in neighboring Kentucky.

Delaware County, which includes Muncie, is derived from the name given by white settlers to the Lenape, the Native American tribe that lived along the East Coast before being pushed in the 1790s to the wilderness that became Indiana. The Lenape were called the Delaware by white settlers who encountered them in the East. Hoosier History Live explored the Lenape heritage in Indiana during a show in 2014. 

Described by some experts as "the most moved group in American history," the Lenape were pushed out of Indiana during the early 1820s in what's been called a "forced migration."

Our guest Charles Braun is immersed in Indiana history in ways other than his knowledge of county names' origins. At the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis, Charles is the official reenactor of the only president elected from the Hoosier state. Charles has been hosting "Legally Speaking" for 37 years, making it the country's longest-running legal advice show with call-in from listeners.