What's In A Name? Mahomet

What's In A Name? Mahomet

Each week, staff writer Marcus Jackson explores the origin of a local landmark. Email sugggestions to mjackson@news-gazette.com

Mahomet once was known as Middletown.

The ancestors of Daniel T. Porter, founder of the village, came from a town in Connecticut known as Middletown. In 1836, according to research by Greg Pasley, Porter obtained the services of surveyor Garrett Moore to lay out the plat of the new village. He named it Middletown.

In Middletown, Conn., the Porter family had an affinity for a Mohegan sachem, or chief, named Mamohet Weyonomon, though most pronounced his name "muh-HOMM-it." He was an ally and negotiator for the tribe. When Porter applied to have a post office in Middletown, Ill., he called it Mahomet (spelled the way many pronounced Weyonomon's name). From 1840-71, the village was known as Middletown and the post office as Mahomet.

Because there was another Middletown in Illinois, the newly arrived railroad insisted that Middletown could not be used as the name for its depot in the Champaign County village. Later that year, village supervisor Theodore Brown petitioned to change the name of the village to Mahomet and it was unanimously approved by the board.

There have been various stories of how the names of Mahomet and Middletown came to be. Some believed it was originally named Middletown because it was halfway between Danville and Bloomington. And some thought it was named Mahomet after the local Masonic Lodge's name.

But Pasley's research found each of those justifications to be unlikely, as Peoria was the next major waypoint west along the Fort Clark Trail and the Mahomet Lodge wasn't established until 1856 — 17 years after the post office was named.

Because of the confusion, Mahomet leaders have moved to make the history known in a public fashion.

"We're doing a historical plaque in front of Village Hall," Mahomet village Administrator Patrick Brown said. "We've got the area ready for a big, large rock to come in that someone donated a while back."

The plaque on the rock will include all the relevant information about the Porter family and Mamohet Weyonomon.

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