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Cincinnati's sister towns have colorful pasts

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Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-13 10:52:22-04

We were the first and are the largest, but we are not alone.

Cincinnati – founded in 1788 and named in 1790 by Ohio Territory Gov. Arthur St. Clair after the fraternal Revolutionary War veterans organization The Society of the Cincinnati – has three sister towns in the Midwest that bear the same name.

One of the Cincinnati towns has a direct connection to a native son who took our city’s name with him when he led a farming colony of 40 people west to Iowa.

Another town has an indirect connection to Mark Twain in that it is near the iconic American author’s birthplace of Florida, Missouri, hometown of Hannibal and Mark Twain Lake.

The third is rather comical, so let’s start with that one.

Cincinnati, Indiana
Affectionately known as Little Cincinnati, this unincorporated community is but a dot on the map of Greene County in south central Indiana. Find Monroe Lake on a map. It’s south of Bloomington. Then glance to your left and look for the intersection of Ind. 45 and Ind. 52.

And there it is, so small this Cincinnati, located down the road from Eastern Greene High School where the enrollment is 425. One map we found showed there’s a Cincinnati Christian Church nearby, but when you click on “Things to do in Cincinnati” on Facebook, you get “Sorry, we could not find any results.”

According to Greene County’s website, Cincinnati was founded in 1874 and had a post office until it closed five years into the Great Depression in 1934.

The website also has this slice of Cincinnati, Indiana, history to share:

“This little community, located in Center Township, got its name in the 1800s when an unknown, drunken wayfarer fell off his horse into the mud on a dark and dreary night. The tipsy traveler thought he had arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. The townspeople took him to the town hotel, fed him, and kept him overnight.

“The next morning, he told them he was en route from Vincennes to Cincinnati, but his drunken insistence that he was actually in Cincinnati, Ohio, made such an impression on the settlers that they decided to call the place Cincinnati.”

Cincinnati, Iowa
Once a thriving coal mining camp southeast of Des Moines, this little Appanoose County town had a peak population of 1,355 in 1910 but was home to only 357 people a century later, just 52 more than its membership in the Local 775 Chapter of the United Mine Workers in 1912.

John Higgins Brown Armstrong named Cincinnati, Iowa, after his hometown in Ohio. Photo provided by Ancestry.com

The town was platted in 1855 and incorporated in 1875. Prominent resident John Higgins Brown Armstrong named it after his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Higgins was born in our Cincinnati in 1810, the same year his father, 1790 settler and lawyer John Higgins Armstrong, died at the age of 27. J.H.B. Armstrong was an only child.

Armstrong was a farmer and prolific father. According to Ancestry.com, he had 14 children by two wives and lived to be 89. At age 29 in 1839, Armstrong and 39 others crossed Indiana and Illinois into Iowa to establish a farming colony. Thirteen years later he moved his family to what was to become Cincinnati, buying 2,000 acres of farmland.

According to www.iagenweb.org, Armstrong was an active abolitionist who abstained from tobacco and alcohol. James Patrick Morgans wrote in his 2004 book “John Todd and the Underground Railroad” that Armstrong once helped two slaves named John and Archie escape to freedom. His home was described as “Armstrong Station.”

He voted for the Liberty Party ticket until the Republican Party formed in 1849, and he was an early GOP delegate to the Iowa state convention. Armstrong is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Cincinnati, Iowa.

Cincinnati, Missouri
Here’s another dot on the map to which the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain likely applied: “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always twenty years behind the times.”

Cincinnati, Missouri, is so small there’s no Wikipedia entry for it. Search for it on Facebook and you get this reply: “No places found.” But it’s on the map, right there on Cincinnati Road between Hannibal and Mark Twain Lake in Saline Township, Ralls County.

But unlike the Internet, maps tell little about towns. In this case, neither does. The website www.hometownlocator.com lists the nearest schools to Cincinnati, Missouri, as being Mark Twain Senior High School in Center, Missouri (272 enrollment), and Mark Twain Junior High School (182 enrollment).

Zebulon Pike, who was married in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after whom the Colorado peak is named, is also the namesake for a Missouri county in which there is a town named Cincinnati.

Not to leave Illinois out, we found townships named Cincinnati in Pike and Tazewell counties. Online searches turned up almost nothing about them other than Pike County's Cincinnati had 31 residents in 2010. The county is named for Gen. Zebulon Pike (1779-1813), who led the Pike Expedition of 1806 (Pike’s Peak) and fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 alongside future president and North Bend resident William Henry Harrison.

Pike and Boone County native Clarissa “Clara” Brown eloped to Cincinnati in 1801, and their daughter, Clarissa Brown Pike, married into the Harrison family, according to www.zebulonpike.org.

Perhaps the Browns and Harrisons passed their love for Cincinnati on to Pike as they sat around telling war stories and singing an early 1800s version of “Kumbaya.” That could have been, but we found nobody associated with naming Cincinnati, Illinois, and can’t attribute it to Pike, who died in the War of 1812.