A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

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Entry from February 15, 2010
Origin of “Hoosier” (Indiana nickname)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Hoosier
Hoosier (pronounced /ˈhuːʒər/) is the official demonym for a resident of the U.S. State of Indiana. Although residents of most U.S. states typically adopt a derivative of the state name, e.g., Indianan or Indianian, natives of Indiana never use these demonyms. The State of Indiana adopted the nickname “Hoosier State” more than 150 years ago. “Hoosiers” is also the mascot for the Indiana University athletic teams and the title of an award-winning 1986 movie Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman, based on the story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team and its road to winning the state championship. The word Hoosier is sometimes used in the names of Indiana-based businesses. In the Indiana High School Athletic Association, seven active athletic conferences and one disbanded conference have the word Hoosier in their names, the conferences names are Hoosier Athletic, Hoosier Crossroads, Hoosier Heartland, Hoosier Heritage, Hoosier Hills, Mid-Hoosier, and Northeast Hoosier with Northwest Hoosier being the disbanded conference.

In other parts of the country, the word has been adapted for other uses (see Other uses). In St. Louis, Missouri, the word is used in a derogatory fashion in similar context to “hick” or “white trash”. “Hoosier” also refers to the cotton-stowers, both black and white, who moved cotton bales from docks to the holds of ships, forcing the bales in tightly by means of jackscrews. A low-status job, it nevertheless is referred to in various sea shanty lyrics. For example, Shanties from the Seven Seas includes lyrics that reference hoosiers.

The exact etymology of the word is unknown, but it has been in use since at least 1830. According to Bill Bryson, there are many suggestions for the derivation of the word “Hoosier,” but none is universally accepted. Historian Jacob Piatt Dunn, Indiana historian and longtime secretary of the Indiana Historical Society, noted that “hoosier” was frequently used in many parts of the South in the 19th century for woodsmen or rough hill people. He traced the word back to “hoozer,” in the Cumberland dialect of England. This derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “hoo” meaning high or hill. In the Cumberland dialect, the word “hoozer” meant anything unusually large, presumably like a hill. It is not hard to see how this word was attached to a hill dweller or highlander. Immigrants from Cumberland, England, settled in the southern mountains (Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland River, Cumberland Gap, etc.). Their descendents brought the name with them when they settled in the hills of southern Indiana.

Research published in 2007 by Hanover College professor Jonathan Clark Smith offers different conclusions. Smith found that the 1826 letter by James Curtis cited by Dunn and others as the first known use of the term was actually written in 1846, and a 1827 diary entry by Sandford Cox (published in a newspaper in 1859) was likely an editorial comment and not from the original diary. Smith theorizes that the word originated in the Ohio River Commerce Culture as a term for Indiana farmer flat-boatmen, and did not become an insult until 1836.

The term came into general usage in the 1830s. John Finley of Richmond, Indiana wrote a poem, The Hoosier’s Nest, which was published in 1833 and was used as the “Carrier’s Address” of the Indianapolis Journal, January 1, 1833. It was generally accepted as a term for Indiana residents by the 1840s, and as it came into common usage, the debates about the term’s origin began.

In 1900, author Meredith Nicholson wrote The Hoosiers, an early attempt to study the origins of the word as applied to Indiana residents. Jacob Piatt Dunn published The Word Hoosier in 1907, a serious study into the origin of the term “Hoosier” as a term used to describe the citizens of Indiana. Nicholson and Dunn both chronicled some of the popular, satirical origins of the word (see below). Nicholson, however, had also defended against an explanation that the word “Hoosier” was applied to Indiana because it referred to uncouth country folk. Dunn, by contrast, concluded that Indiana settlers adopted the word as a humorous nickname, and that the negative connotation had already faded when John Finley wrote his poem.

Wikipedia: Louisville and Portland Canal
The Louisville and Portland Canal was a 2-mile (3.2 km) canal bypassing the Falls of the Ohio in the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky. It opened in 1830, and was operated by the Louisville and Portland Canal Company until 1874, and became the McAlpine Locks and Dam in 1962 after heavy modernization.

Although initially a private company, construction of the canal required heavy investment from the federal government, which gradually came to own the canal through an unusual buyout plan. The canal represented the first major improvement to be successfully completed on a major river of the United States.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Also hoosher.
a. A nickname for a native or inhabitant of the state of Indiana.
1834 Knickerbocker III. 441 They smiled at my inquiry, and said it was among the ‘hoosiers’ of Indiana.
1835 J. H. INGRAHAM South-West I. ix. 105 The primitive navies..manned..by ‘real Kentucks’‘Buck eyes’‘Hooshers’ and ‘Snorters’.
1860 EMERSON Cond. Life ii. 58 These Hoosiers and Suckers are really better than the snivelling opposition.
b. An inexperienced, awkward, or unsophisticated person.
1846 J. GREGG Diary & Lett. 22 Aug. (1941) I. 212 Old King is one of the most perfect samples of a Hoosier Texan I have met with. Fat, chubby, ignorant, and loquacious as Sancho Panza..we could believe nothing he said.
1857 E. L. GODKIN in R. Ogden Life E. L. Godkin I. 157 The mere ‘cracker’ or ‘hoosier’, as the poor [southern] whites are termed.
c. attrib. Of or belonging to Indiana. Hoosier cake (see quot. 1859).
1839 J. PLUMBE Sk. Iowa 46 (Th.), The Hoosier State has reason to rejoice in the amount and value of its waters.
1845 Knickerbocker XXV. 374 Three hundred miles of Hoosier mud.
1859 BARTLETT Dict. Amer., Hoosier cake, a Western name for a sort of coarse ginger~bread, which, say the Kentuckians, is the best bait to catch a hoosier with, the biped being fond of it.

11 February 1831
A letter from G. S. Murdock of Cincinnati to General John Tipton at Logansport offered to deliver sundry supplies by steamboat “the first rise of water (aboard) our boat the Indiana Hoosier.” The Weygand monograph cites this on pg. 11, from “the Indiana State Library.”

Chronicling America
9 April 1831, Richmond (IN) Palladium, pg. 3, col. 3:
April 6, 1831.

29 September 1831, Baltimore (MD) Republican and Commercial Advertiser, pg. 2, col. 2:
10. Gen. John Adair—In his return to the ensuing Congress, Kentucky exhibits her lively recollection of and gratitude for his eminent public services.
[Hooshier March, by A. M.

3 January 1832
The carrier’s address to the Indiana Democrat--a year before Finley’s “Hoosier’s Nest,” has, on page 3, col. 3, “Ask for our ‘hoosiers’ good plantations.”

2 May 1832, The Jefferson Democrat and Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Advocate (Steubenville, OH), pg. 4, col. 1:
From the Cincinnati Mirror.
Letters from Indiana.
No. 1.—Clifty Falls.

... and Clifty, a romantic cascade at Madison, Indiana. Every body has heard of the two former; the last is still ensuing, and doubtless will be, until some Hoosher poet obtains a draught from Heliconia’s fount; ...

19 May 1832, Cass County Times (Logansport, IN), pg. 2, col. 4:
These Editors may succeed in getting some of their readers to take the bait; but their brethern (sic) in the West will find, if they have not already, that it is not genuine ”Hoosier bait.” We have seen in tried, and we have found but one noble man who was any way disposed to ”nibble.”

2 June 1832, Cass County Times (Logansport, IN), pg. 2, col.5:
“MY OWN, MY HOOSHIER LAND.”—We have before number, a concise sketch of the house of Representatives, and to-day we give a similar notice of the Senate, from the pen of a correspondent of the Portland Advertiser, which, like every thing from his pen, is full of interest. (...) (That would be “Major Jack Downing” by the humorist Seba Smith in the Portland, Me. Advertiser.--ed.)

16 June 1832 Cass County Times (Logansport, IN):
All are from a speech by John Scott, Esq., given 4 June 1832. Pg. 2, col. 4: This remark, I presume was thrown out by your honor, rather as a kind of “Hoosier bait” .... Pg. 2, col. 5: In charity to yourself judge, indulge me in the opinion, that, in as much as you “assure” the people you wish to be elected, this cant of yours about the “poor man” is also “Hoosier bait,” a sort of Ex-governor-like maneuver. Pg. 3, col. 1: “Hoosier state.”

25 June 1833, Portland Advertiser and Gazette of Maine (Portland, ME), “Excursion To Bangor—The East,” pg. 2, col. 4:
Some thirty years ago I was inquiring in Cincinnati for the West, and they said it was among “the Hoosiers” of Indiana, of “the Suckers” of Illinois—cant names given the residents of these States.

28 November 1833, The Daily Chronicle (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 1, col. 5:
The Cincinnati Republican says:—“The appellation of Hooshier has been used in many of the western states for several years, to designate in a good-natured way, an inhabitant of our sister state of Indiana. Ex-Governor Ray has lately started a newspaper in Indiana, which he names “The Hooshier.” Many of our ingenious native philologists have attempted, though very unsatisfactorily, to explain the origin of this somewhat singular term. Mordecai M. Noah, in a late number of his Evening Star, undertakes to account for it upon the faith of a rather apocryphal story of a recruiting officer, not of very brilliant literary attainments, who was engaged during the last war, in enlisting a company of Hussars, whom by mistake he unfortunately denominated Hooshiers. Another etymologist tells us, that when the state of Indiana was being surveyed, the surveyors, on finding the residence of a squatter, would exclaim ‘who’s here’—that this exclamation, abbreviated Hooshier, was, in process of time, applied as a distinctive appellation to the original settlers of that state, and, finally, to tis inhabitants generally. Neither of these hypothesis are deserving of any attention. The word Hooshier is indebted for its existence, to that once numerous and unique, but now extinct, class of mortals called the Ohio Boatmen. In its original acceptation, it was equivalent to “Rip-staver,” “Scrouger,” “Screamer,” “Bulger,” “Ring-tail-roarer,” and a hundred others, equally impressive, but which, have never attained to such a respectable standing as itself.—By some caprice which can never be explained, the appellation Hooshier, became confined solely to such boatmen as had their homes upon the Indiana shore, and from them it was gradually applied to all the Indianians, who now acknowledge it as good-naturedly as a New Englander does the appellation of Yankee. Whatever may have been the original acceptation of “Hooshier,” this we know, that the people to whom it is now applied, are among the bravest, most intelligent, most enterprising, most magnanimous, and most democratic of the Great West; and should we ever feel disposed to quit the state in which we are now sojourning, our own noble Ohio, it will be to enroll ourselves as adopted citizens in the land of the Hooshiers.

Google Books
22 February 1834, New-York (NY) American, “Review of the Week,” pg. 2, col. 1:
There was a long-haired “hooshier” from Indiana, a couple of smart-looking “suckers” from the southern part of Illinois, a keen-eyed leather-belted “badger” from the mines of Ouisconsin, and a sturdy yeomanlike fellow, whose white capote, Indian mockasons, and red sash proclaimed, while he boasted a three years residence, the genuine wolverine, or naturalized Michiganian. Could one refuse a drink with such a company? The spokesman was evidently a “red-horse” from Kentucky, and nothing was wanting but a “buckeye” from Ohio, to render the assemblage as complete as it was select.

Google Books
14 June 1834, New-York (NY) Mirror, “A Peep at Washington,” pg. 398, col. 3:
They smiled at my inquiry, and said it was among the ‘stoosiers’ of Indiana, or ‘the suckers’ of Illinois.

19 August 1834, New York (NY) American, pg. 2, col. 2:
NAMES. A writer in the Illinois Pioneer says: that, the following nick-names have been adopted to distinguish the citizens of the following states: --

In Kentucky they’re call’d Corn-Crackers,
Ohio, ....................Buckeyes,
Indiana .................Hoosiers,
Illinois ..................Suckers,
Missouri, ...............Pukes,
Michigan, T. ..........Woolverines.
The Yankees are called Eels.

Google Books
Trip to the West and Texas
By Amos Andrew Parker
Concord, NH: Printed and Published by White & Fisher
Pp. 86-87:
Those of Michigan are called wolverines; of Indiana, hooshers; of Illinois, suckers; of Ohio, buckeyes; of Kentucky, corn-crackers; of Missouri, pukes; &c.

7 November 1835, Gloucester (MA) Telegraph, pg. 2, col. 5:
The Editor of the Louisville Journal, speaking of Mr. Van Buren, asks: “Is it not well understood that he aims to be thought a ‘Buckeye’ in Ohio, a ‘Wolverine’ in Michigan, a “Hooshier” in Indiana, a ‘Corncracker’ in Kentucky, a “Sucker’ in Illinois, and a ‘Puke’ in Missouri? We think he is well entitled to be called a puke in every State.

Google Books
April 1836, The Family Magazine (Cincinnati, OH) , pg. 265, col. 1:
A native of Ohio is called a “Buckeye;” of Michigan, “ Wolverine;” of Indiana, “Hoosier;” of Kentucky, “Com-cracker;” and of Missouri, “Pewk.”

30 July 1836, Chicago (IL) American, pg. 2, col. 5:
The ladies of Wisconsin have determined and decreed, that now and ever hereafter they will be known as “Hawk Eyes.” Look out for your “Chickens” neighbor “Wolverines.” The “Suckers,” “Hoozers” and “Buckeyes” must also be on the alert.

23 August 1836, American Traveller (Boston, MA), pg. 2, col. 3:
The ‘Gothamites,’ ‘Pukes,’ “Bay State boys,’ ‘Granite boys,’ ‘Green Mountain boys,’ ‘Chickens,’ ‘Buckeyes,’ ‘Wolverines,’ ‘Suckhers,’ ‘Hooziers,’ ‘&c. &c. &c.’ will hereafter be compelled to yield the palm to the ladies of Wisconsin, who now and henceforth are determined to be known as the Hawk Eyes.

Google Books
Recollections of Europe
Volumes 1

By James Fenimore Cooper
London: Richard Bentley
Pg. 289:
Your Wolverines, and Suckers, and Buckeyes, and Hooziers would look amazed to hear an executive styled the White Fish of Michigan, or the Sturgeon of Wisconsin; and yet there is nothing more absurd in it, in the abstract, than the titles that were formerly given in Europe, some of which have descended to our times.

3 June 1838, New Orleans (LA) Picayune, pg. 2, col. 4:
The Great West.—A Yankee traveller lately wrote home, thus: ”My dear Mother—The West is the place for promotion and to get acquainted with the world. Yesterday I arrived here, and, two hours afterwards, was made judge of a horse race, and to-day I saw a live Hoosier.” 1839, Davy Crockett Almanac
("A Hoosier” is shown, along with “a Puke” (from Missouri) and “a Sucker” (from Illinois)—ed.)

Google Books
The Clockmaker; or The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville
By Thomas Chandler Haliburton
London: Richard Bentley
Pg. 289:
These last have all nicknames. There’s the hoosiers of Indiana, the suckers of Illinoy, the pukes of Missuri, the buckeys of Ohio, the red horses of Kentucky, the mud- heads of Tenessee, the wolverines of Michigan, the eels of New England, and the corn-crackers of Virginia.

Google Books
8 September 1838, New-York (NY) Mirror (New York, NY), pg. 86, col. 2:
These last have all nicknames. There’s the Hoosiers of Indiana, the Suckers of Illinoy, the Pukes of Missouri, the Buckeyes of Ohio, the Red Horses of Kentucky, the Mud-heads of Tennessee, the Wolverines of Michigan, the Eels of New-England and the Corn-crackers of Virginia.

1 September 1841, New Orleans (LA) Picayune, pg. 2, col. 4:
An item on the Hoosier is reprinted from the New Hampshire Gazette. ”Hoosiers.—Particularly the people of Indiana, and generally the emigrants from the southern States who settle in any of the free States of the north-west. The Hoosiers are as peculiar in their habits and customs as the Yankees....”

Google Books
The Attaché:
Or Sam Slick in England

By Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Paris: Baudry’s European Library
Pg. 130:
Why, as I am a livin’ sinner that’s the Hoosier of Indiana, or the Sucker of Illinois, or the Puke of Missouri, or the Bucky of Ohio, or the Red Horse of Kentucky, or the Mudhead of Tennesee, or the Wolverine of Michigan, or the Eel of New England, or the Corn Cracker of Virginia?

Google Books
April 1845, Cincinnati Miscellany (Cincinnati, OH), pg. 240, col. 1:
Ohio, Buckeyes.
Indiana, Hoosiers.
Illinois, Suckers.
Missouri, Pewks.
Mississippi, Tadpoles
Arkansas, Gophers.
Michigan, Wolverines.
Florida, Fly up the Creeks.
Wisconsin, Badgers.
Iowa, Hawkeyes.
N. W. Territory, Prairie Dogs.
Oregon, Hard Cases.

Chronicling America
23 August 1845, Ripley (MS) Advertiser, pg. 1, cols. 4-5:
NATIONAL NICKNAMES.—It will be seen by the following from an exchange paper that the people of every state have nicknames, and some very curious and ludicrous ones:

The inhabitants of Maine, are called Foxes; New Hampshire, Granite Boys; Massachusetts, Bay Staters; Vermont, Green Mountain Boys; Rhode Island, Gun Flints; Connecticut, Wooden Nutmegs; New York, Knickerbockers; New Jersey, Clamcatchers; Pennsylvania, Leatherheads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Craw-Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizzards; Kentucky, Corn crackers; Tennessee, Cottonmanics; Ohio, Buckeyes; Indiana, Hoosiers; Illinois, Suckers; Missouri, Pewks; Mississippi, Tadpoles; Arkansas, Gophers; Michigan, Wolverines; Florida, Fly-up-the-Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; N. W. Territory, Prairie Dogs; Oregon, Hard Cases.

26 November 1846, Manufacturers’ and Farmers’ Journal and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser (Providence, RI), “Extract of a Letter from a Trader to Mexico,” pg. 1, col. 2:
Indiana is called the “hoosier State,” and the cognomen is as closely connected with the citizens of this State, as the term “Yankee” is with the inhabitants of New England. And the name “Yankee” has no fewer historical accounts of its origin than the appellation “Hoosier.” The true origin of the latter word is, however, known. It is a corruption of a term belonging to that category which contains “half hogs, half alligator,” “steamboat,” “snapping turtle,” and :smasher”—terms which the renowned Davy Crockett delighted in. Throughout all the early Western settlements, were men who rejoiced in their physical strength and prowess, and on numerous occasions, at log-rollings and house raisings, they demonstrated this to entire satisfaction. They were styled by their worthy fellow citizens “hushers,” from their “primary capacity” to still their opponents. It was a common term for a bully throughout the West.

1 July 1852, Fort Wayne (IN) Times, “Celebration,” pg. 1, col. 1:
Ten thousand people are computed to have been present, and something less—but not much—than ten thousand cords of ginger cake, alias “Hoosier bait,” to have been consumed. Mud Circuit is “death” on Hoosier-bait.

22 March 1856, Lake Superior (MI) Miner, pg. 1, col. 6:
Origin of the Word Hoosier.
An Indiana paper gives the following as the origin of the synonym by which the citizens of that State are now known: “Familiar as the word is, we never heard its origin till lately, good authority that we place implicit confidence in it. Some twenty-five years ago, when the land around the falls of the Ohio river at Louisville, was being constructed, a large number of settlers of Indiana in the vicinity and indeed many from the interior of the State, went to work on it for the purpose of acquiring a little ready money to pay taxes, buy groceries and other articles they could not procure for trade. For the sake of economy, they took but two meals per day—breakfast and supper, and for dinner bought a chunk of ginger bread. On this account they were the subject of many a joke and jeer by the Kentuckians and others engaged upon the work.  As a party of fishermen were returning home from a fishing excursion, one of them, on passing a place where gingerbread was sold, thought he would have a little sport, and accordingly bought a piece, and placing it upon his hook, said he was going to catch an Indianian. Going to the canal where they were at work he threw the hook thus baited among four laborers. An Indianian seeing the ridicule intended, took it up and commenced nibbling, and the fisherman commenced drawing in the prize slowly until he drew him within two or three feet, when a tremendous blow between the eyes laid the angler sprawling on the ground. The fisherman’s friends were about to join in the fight, when the Indianian’s pugnacious air and attitude warned them that it was not advisable. “By ----,” said another delighted Indianian refering to his friend, who had accomplished the feat, “he’s a husher!” He was a husher, for after this all the Indianians were called “hushers,” a name which gradually changed to the present word “Hoosier”. From the above circumstance arises the terms “Hoosier bait,” and “Hoosier bread.”

Chronicling America
4 July 1860, The Spirit of Democracy (Woodsfield, OH), “National Nicknames,” pg. 1, col. 7:
The inhabitants of Maine are called Foxes; New Hampshire, Granite Boys; Massachusetts, Bay Staters; Vermont, Green Mountain Boys; Rhode Island, Gun Flints; Connecticut, Wooden Nutmegs; New York, Knickerbockers; New Jersey, Clam Catchers; Pennsylvania, Leather Heads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Claw Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Tar Boilers; South Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizards; Kentucky, Corn Crackers; Ohio, Buckeyes; Michigan, Wolverines; Indiana, Hoosiers; illinois, Suckers; Missouri, Pukes: Mississippi, Tad-Poles; Florida, Fly up the Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; Oregon, Hard Cases.

Google Books
Annual Statistician—1876
Compiled by John P. Mains
San Francisco, CA: L. P. McCarty, Publisher
Pg. 90:
INDIANA—The Hoosier State. Hoosiers.

6 June 1892, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 6, col. 4:
How the Term “Hoosier” Is Said to Have Originated.
J. H. Thornburg in the Indianapolis Journal: During the opening of the Louisville and Portland Canal by the General Government there were Kentuckians, Indianians and many from the “Green Isle” who worked on the canal. Drinking and fighting, especially Saturdays, were common. Men used no weapons then and the man who would even attempt to draw a weapon was branded as a coward. There were three brothers from Indiana named Short, who were giants in strength. The hero of our story named Aaron, six feet tall, weight 200 pounds, with no surplus flesh, a perfect Sullivan, an athlete, and, as there were no Queenberry rules by which they were governed in fighting he was protected below the pit of the stomach with a heavy leather girdle which he wore under his clothes. One Saturday afternoon there seemed to be a general engagement all along the line. The hero of our story was attracted by a large ring formed around some combatants. among whom were some of his friends. When he attempted to force his way into the ring the men were so densely packed that he could not enter. By the assistance of some friends on the outside of the ring he was raised to the shoulders of the crowd and crawled over and jumped down among the combatants. He had not much more than straightened himself up before he met an antagonist worthy of his steel. Suffice it to say that before he put on his coat he had whipped five men and jumped up and cracked his feet together three times and swore that he was “husher.” This same Short, while on a visit to Morgan County to see his relatives, sent word to Jake Payton that he would be in Mooresville on a certain day, but Mr. Payton did not come. Jumping and hopping were very common in that day. Mr. Short could jump on a level at thirty-sex feet at three jumps and turn around and jump back to the place of beginning. These are substantially the facts about the origin of “Hoosier,” or “Husher.” The Cincinnati papers discussed this question very fully before the war, and while they did not fully agree as to the hero, they all agreed as to the place.

Chronicling America
5 February 1893, Indianapolis (IN) Journal, pt. 2, pg. 10, col. 3:
They Were the Brothers Short, And One of the Fighting Family Is Still Alive.
To the Editor of the Indianapolis Journal:
I noticed, a day or two ago, several explanations of the origin of the name “Hoosier,” as applied to Indianians. The explanation of Rev. Wood is nearest correct. The young men referred to were named Moses, William, George, Jacob and Aaron Short. All brothers were raised in Washington county, and Jacob Short, the youngest, is now living, at the age of eighty-four years. They were all working on the Louisville and Portland canal in 1826 or 1827. All were powerful men, and after the day’s work was over running, wrestling, and drinking were the usual pastimes. During some disagreement between the Indiana boys and the Irish workmen the latter said that they would clean out the Indianians. It has always been known that a Short would never refuse to fight, so at it they went, pell mell. Three burly Irishmen tackled Aaron Short, the elder, at the same time. They were all whipped, and Aaron had his three antagonists down as soon as his brothers had theirs overcome. Aaron then jumped up, cracked his heels together three times before touching the ground, and, crowing like a rooster, bantered all the crowd, but his defiance was not accepted, so he declared he was a “Husher,” i. e., made them hush all their bragging and boasting of their manhood, etc.; and “Husher,” passing from mouth to mouth for a time, some one or several, who would try to write it, and make it look and sound to suit them, easily got down from “Husher” to “Hoosier.” Poland has nothing to do with it. Jacob Short game me the above substantial version of the matter several years ago. Rev. Wood has traveled all over this part of the country, and doubtless heard something of the true origin of the word, but inadvertently attached a more romantic and refined origin. Mr. Jacob Short lives in my township, and loves to talk of those old days and times, and can be ingterviewed upon the subject at any time by the curious. The Shorts were all powerful men, as can be supposed by seeing ur sample of the brothers. The others are dead.
PEKIN, Ind., Feb. 3.

The Honor Claimed for Henry Miller.
To the Editor of the Indianapolis Journal:
In last Sunday’s issue of the Journal appeared the correct version of the origin of the term Hoosier, over the name of Lewis Jordan. That Mr. Jordan’s knowledge stopped short of the name of the hero was a little surprising, and, to me, somewhat disappointing. For years I have waited for some southern Indiana man to relate the story in full, having some delicacy about doing so myself, but since Mr. Jordan does not know, or has forgotten the name of the gallant pioneer, I have decided that it is a false delicacy that would withhold from history the name of so seemingly important a personage.

Henry Miller, my father, was born at Washington, Pa., in 1803. He, with his parents, settled at Harrison county, Indiana, in 1813. As a product or early Eastern civilization, his attainments were somewhat in advance of the youth of his adopted section of the country. His courage was the natural outgrowth of the circumstances governing the early settlers of the new world. During the construction of the Portland canal my father was employed as carpenter and joiner, building bridges and locks. He was then quite a young man, slight of build, delicate of feature, and wore his blonde curling hair long, as was the fashion of that time. His general physique was of the type that arouses the bad blood of the bully in any crowd, and in that day it was a small crowd, indeed, that did not boast a worthy or two who could “whup any man in the State.” It would be difficult, I fancy, to name a gang more generally all-around tough than that which hung out around the Ohio falls about the time of which I write. The gang disapproved of my father from the first, who added to the offense of delicate appearance, a reserve which the tough element could not penetrate. They opened hostility with petty persecutions. They aped his manner and affected to imitate his superior language. This calling out no demonstration, they grew bolder, and one day when my father was explaining something to the superintendent a very indiscreet individual, standing perilously near, shouted, “You are a liar.” Quicker than light the bully dropped like lead, and a brother and a friend sprang to his aid, but the carpenter boy’s agility kept his assailants from getting too close, while his own blows fell with trip-hammer force. The fight was lost to the bullies in less time than it can be written. The gang swarmed out of the great ditch, and father, who knew Lemonowsky and had great respect for him, shouted: “I am a Hussar! Come on! I can whip you all—three at a time!” But the temper of his enemies had undergone a sudden and profound change, and with the effusiveness characteristic of such natures they would have “treated” the “Hoosier,” as they pronounced it, into delirium tremens if he had consented to accept their generosity. Even his assailants cherished no resentment, but held in the highest respect the many Indianians employed in the mechanical department, and they were all termed “Hoosiers” in honor of the boy who had so successfully defended his veracity.

This is the story as I got it from my father, and also my uncle, Benjamin Aydeiott, ar.,, of Corydon, many years ago That it is the origin of the term “Hoosier” I do not for one moment doubt. Father died in 1871, but there are men living who can testify to his integrity and courage. Among these I may name Judge W. Q. Gresham and Hon. J. Q. A. Sieg.

Google Books
The word Hoosier
By Jacob Piatt Dunn
Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Co.
Pg. 22:
Testimony as to a similar condition in (Pg. 23—ed.) the middle part of the Whitewater valley is furnished in the following statement, given me by the Rev. T. A. Goodwin:

In the summer of 1830 I went with my father, Samuel Goodwin, from our home at Brookville to Cincinnati. We traveled in an old-fashioned one-horse Dearborn wagon. I was a a boy of twelve years and it was a great occasion for me. At Cincinnati I had a fip for a treat, and at that time there was nothing I relished so much as one of those big pieces of gingerbread that were san other gala occasions, in connection with cider. I went into a baker’s shop and asked for “a fip’s worth of gingerbread.” The man said, “ I guess you want hoosier-bait,” and when he produced it I found that he had the right idea. That was the first time I ever heard the word “hoosier,” but in a few years it became quite commonly applied to Indiana people. The gingerbread referred to was cooked in square pans—about fifteen inches across, I should think—and with furrows marked across the top, dividing it into quarter-sections. A quarter-section sold for a fip, which was 6 1/4 cents. It is an odd fact that when Hosier J. Durbin joined the Indiana Methodist Conference, in 1835, his name was misspelled “Hoosier” in the minutes, and was so printed. The word “hoosier” always had the sense of roughness or uncouthness in its early use.

Indiana Magazine of History (June 1929)
Origin of the Term “Hoosier”
By Oscar D. Short
There has been a tradition in our family, which I have known since boyhood, that Aaron Short, an older brother of my grandfather, gave to the inhabitants of Indiana the name “Hoosiers”.1

So far as I know, my grandfather and his brother Aaron were the only members of the family present on the occasion in which Aaron used the word which later came to be applied to himself and other companions from the hills of Southern Indiana. They were then employed in construction work on the Canal at the falls of the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky.

Actual work on the Canal was begun in March, 1826. The first steamboat that squeezed through the Canal, the Uncas, made the passage on December 21, 1829, though the work was not yet completed. It was not in full operation till 1831.

During the last year of work on the Canal, that is, 1830, the incident occurred which, trifling as it seemed at the time, was to put the label “Hoosier” on millions born in or residing within the boundaries of Indiana since that date or who may be born in the State through the coming centuries. My grandfather died in 1898. I will present the story as he told it as nearly as possible.

John Short, a resident of Kentucky, migrated across the Ohio River into the hills of southern Indiana in the year 1815, entered a farm four miles south of Salem, known later as the Evans Wright farm. Here he lived and reared a large family of boys, some of whom had been born before he left Kentucky. Among these sons were Aaron Short, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the family, and Jacob Short, who was born in 1812.

Aaron and Jacob, the latter of whom was then only eighteen years of age, were employed on the Canal in 1830. The building of the project required the work of many laborers who were worked in gangs under separate bosses. In one of these gangs, there was a big Irishman who had made a reputation as a fighter, and whose foreman sent the word along the canal that he had a man who could whip any one on the job.
When the challenge came to the group where my grandfather and his brother Aaron were working, the latter accepted it promptly. The fight was arranged, and, although not carried on under the “Marquis of Queensbury’s” rules, it proved to be a real fight. The battle was witnessed by quite a number of men, principally employees on the Canal.

Aaron was a large man of powerful build, a giant in strength, who weighed about two hundred fifty pounds. The combatants proved to be about equally matched. After they had fought for some time, and while they were in a clinch, they rolled off an embankment falling on a pile of rocks several feet below. The fall gave Aaron an advantage and he came out winner in the fight. Being elated over his victory and being very active, he did one of his “stunts” which was to leap into the air and strike his feet together twice before touching the ground again. As he did so, he yelled, “Hurrah for the Hoosier.” What he tried to say, perhaps, was “Hurrah for the Husher,” as I understand some such word was in common use in those days to designate the champion fighter. The one who could hush up all comers. Or it has been suggested that he was thinking of the “Hussars”, hired British soldiers. Being comparatively uneducated, as was the rule at that time in the back woods of southern Indiana, he mispronounced the word, calling it “hooser” in attempting to allude to the Irishman’s connection with the English.

Posted by Barry Popik
Other ExpressionsOrigin of "Hoosier" (Indiana nickname) • Monday, February 15, 2010 • Permalink