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Howard County History

The "Kokomo" Name

(from Footprints, May 2019)
by Gil Porter
Kokomo Early History Learning Center

It was the day after Christmas, the year 1844, and in the Indiana House, Mr. Blakemore had the floor.

Rep. George Blakemore offered on behalf of the citizens of Cass County a petition for a state road to originate from Logansport. Its named destination that December in the Indiana General Assembly records actually is an early primary-source reference to “Kokomo” with that spelling.

The first-ever primary-source reference is found in “Record Number One” of the Richardville County commissioners’ record books. On Aug. 17, 1844, the county commissioners named the township for the unincorporated seat of justice “Kocomo.”

Interestingly, the spelling outside of Richardville County seemed to favor the “second-K” format, e.g. “32 lots for sale” in “Kokomotown” in the Indianapolis State Sentinel (Sept. 18, 1844), two references to “Kokomo” in Noblesville’s "The Little Western" newspaper (Dec. 7, 1844), and the aforementioned House petition.

Our own county commissioners used “Kocomo” in the early records of their proceedings. Approval of the first plat in October 1844 was recorded formally as the “survey of lots in the town of Kocomo, in Richardville County, the state of Indiana and that block No. Six shall be the publick square.” Also, “Kocomo town” was frequently applied as late as December 1844, particularly in relation to “lots surveyed” or “lots for sale.” Within six months, the “second-K” version was becoming standard -- the commissioners’ record shows “Kokomo” in the June 2, 1845, accounting of the previous October’s sale of lots. 

Yet another variant shows up in an official government publication issued in 1846 in Washington, D.C. Don’t look for our town under “K” in the "Table of Post Offices in the United States on the First Day of October 1846." Adam Clark is listed as the postmaster for Richardsville (sic) County’s post office in “Cocomo.”

Finally, in December 1855, when township citizens voted on whether to incorporate (62 “yes,” three “no”), it was official that “said town be incorporated under the name and Style of the ‘Corporation of the Town of Kokomo’.” 

But whence the name?

David Foster was an on-the-record interviewee for the U.S. government’s substantial Meshingomesia Testimonials in 1872-73, which established land ownership rights after the forced removal of Miami Indians from Indiana in 1846-47. As George Ironstrack, the assistant director of the Myaamia Center at Miami (Ohio) University, told “Footprints” in 2017 (see “Discovering Kokomo”, May 2017) Foster doesn’t provide much detail about the person Kokomo, although he calls him “Ma-ko-ka-ma” once and a variation of “Kokomo” several other times. Other interviewees in the testimonials – Miami Indians and other settlers – are “recorded as using some variation of ‘Kokomo’ in their testimony.” 

A man named “Co-come-wah,” thought to be Kokomo, was one of the Miami who signed the Oct. 23, 1834, treaty. Transcribers at treaties and testimonials often failed to accurately record the sounds of Miami names. Thus an anglicized form of “Kokomo” (its exact meaning is also not found against any known Miami words) may just be a distortion of sounds from the Miami language.