Morris County (the book)

I’ve had a lot of inquiries lately as to why I haven’t been getting anything in the paper.  I’ll not have my readers thinking I’ve been sitting idle these past months.  I have been heavily engaged writing a book for Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series entitled Morris County.  As of this last Monday the text was completed and sent to the publisher along with about 200 photos pertaining to our County.  At this point I don’t know for sure when the book will be available to the public, but I hope it will be ready for Christmas this year. I’ll keep you posted.

Over the past months I have reached out to local historians to gather information and photographs and to have the work reviewed.  It has been very enjoyable to work with these fine folks of Morris County.  It was my desire that the finished product should represent the entire county and so, every town no matter how small (or obliterated) has been included in Morris County.  If my knowledge of the county has doubled during the research done, then my questions have trebled; which should provide me with a good deal of subjects to write about.

One of the many questions that came up during this research concerns the authority of the railroad.  As the reader is probably familiar a lot of towns are said to have received their name from ‘the railroad’ or an agent, conductor, investor or manager on the railroad.  After finding a few instances where this report was simply not true, I questioned ‘what authority does a railroad company have to name a town?’ and ‘why have we come to believe that the railroad was responsible for the name of a town?’

I talked with a number of long time railroaders and enthusiasts and asked their opinion on the matter.  Rodney Bates, who is somewhat of a railroad historian, said that the railroads made a practice of naming each siding.  Bates also said he has noted they were often one syllable names.  For example the siding where Delavan now stands was called Rex by the Topeka, Salina and Western.   Rex, which is Latin for King, may have been a play on the name Kingman who owned land there.  Ultimately, Henry Kingman had the final say in what his town would be named.

Mr. Bates could not think of any instance where a railroad could name or ‘rename’ a town.  What is likely is that a town could have grown at an established siding and then adopted the name of the siding.  This seems plausible with Latimer as it began as a stop on the Chicago, Kansas & Western railroad.  Monroe Davis Herington purchased 8 acres where Latimer later popped up, and provided it for the railroad to make a station there.  This was part of his incentive to get the Rock Island to come to Herington.  At present I have found no primary source for how Latimer received its name, neither have I come across the name Latimer on any documents.  It may be that Latimer truly derived its name from ‘the railroad.’

Next week we’ll learn about the beginning of Burdick, which by the way is the only town in the county I have not yet covered.