For about as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with maps and names. Why? I haven’t the foggiest. Maybe that’s why I became a gunner-navigator in the Navy. Nope, I fell in love with the idea of flying and the only path open to me was a G7N.
Anyway, I’ve talked about my sneaking into the reference room in the old library on Main Street. Many was the time the lady in charge found me under a table with a big plat book opened before me. I think I finally wore her down. She let me sit at one of the tables to better keep an eye on me.
I grew up on Leafland Street. Originally it was North Macon Street. South Macon Street was clear across town where it is today. Sometime between 1874 and 1884 it was changed to East Edmond Street; by 1901, it was Leafland Street. Why? The change to Edmond (named for one of the King-Packard clan, as was Marietta) was logical. West Edmond Street already existed and almost lined up with North Macon Street (that little jog on North Water Street). But why the change to Leafland Street and why did Edmond Street (east and west) totally disappear?
Leafland was lined by huge Dutch elm trees but so were most of the streets, not just in my neighborhood, but all over town. North and South Jefferson streets befell a similar fate. North Jefferson Street became East Marietta Street and South Jefferson Street part of Decatur Street. Two other streets, Malone and Priest, gave their life in that same formation.
The first five streets (Main, Wood, Water, Prairie and Church) all made sense. Later, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson were logical choices but why no Madison or Adams? North, Mill, Short and Merchant (Banker’s), OK. But Edward and William who?
With the coming of the railroads, Decatur expanded, quickly and primarily to the north and east. Plot owners subdivided, and as mentioned, gave streets family names (Pugh, Waggoner, Warren and Herkimer) or maybe to honor bigwigs, Chisholm and Stone. Little thought was given to street alignment. Go east on Main Street, cross the tracks and you’re on Clara Street, or go north on Illinois Street, cross the tracks and you’re on Clayton Street.
This went on until circa 1920 when an effort was made to clear all the confusion about alignment and repetitive names. As Decatur continued to grow, the names often reflected the name for a subdivision. For some reason the east and south streets were named first through seventh. Finally, someone realized for continuity of numbering it was better to make them 16th through 22nd.
I often wondered what it would be like to have a street named for you. My family has been here for 162 years, primarily in the Mound and Boiling Springs area. We weren’t large land owners like the Powers, but we lived on the land and worked it. At our peak it approached some 700 acres. The main holding was what was known as the Mound Farm, bound by Mound, MacArthur, Ash and U.S. 51.
Just up the street from me on William Street there is (was) a little street named Carter Court. It runs north for one-half block. There was an apartment building here until circa 1990. It sits forlornly at the far west end of the Masonic Temple parking lot. As near as I can tell, it was named for W. Jasper Carter who lived on William Street and built the only house on Carter Court.
Hmm, there’s an alley running behind my house. If I turned my garage into a home and rotated it 180 degrees maybe I could put up a street sign calling it Trimmer’s Alley. Kinda has a ring to it, huh?