Some Wisconsin towns chose their names in odd ways. Loyal, in Clark County, was named from every eligible male volunteering for the Union Army during the Civil War. The name "Wyocena" came to its founder in a dream. But perhaps none had so strange an origin as the Jefferson County town of Ixonia, which was chosen at random.

Its founder, Benjamin Piper, arrived in Milwaukee in 1836. There, he recalled, "there was a great deal said of the Rock River Valley, which was represented to be the garden of America, a sort of second Paradise." As Piper put it, "my imagination was on tip-toe," so he relocated to the town of Union, southeast of Watertown.

Farmers streamed into the area, and by 1845 Union had to be divided. Residents east of the Rock River called themselves Concord, but residents on the opposite shore couldn't agree on a name.

Register for more free articles
Stay logged in to skip the surveys

Local tradition says that to resolve the difficulty, the letters of the alphabet were written on slips of paper and placed in a hat. Young Mary Piper was selected to pull out slips until letters could make a coherent word. Citizens gathered around as she began to draw out letters.

The first six slips Mary drew were "i", "x", "o", "n", a second "i", and an "a". Although no one remembered seeing this word before, they all decided that it would do. The town of "Ixonia" was officially recognized by the Territorial Legislature on Jan. 21, 1846, and is thought to be the only Ixonia on earth.

- Wisconsin Historical Society, www.wisconsinhistory.org

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

Subscribe to our Politics email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.