Mrs. Linda Long
The city of Linton was originally named New Jerusalem in early pioneer days but was later changed to honor William Crawford Linton. On November 19, 1835, the federal government through the United States Postal Department designated the small settlement in western Greene County as Linton in tribute to General Linton of Terre Haute, who had fought in the Indian Wars and the War of 1812.
A common practice during the early days in American history was to derive the name of a town from a military person or a transplanted name from a former place of residence. Naming the town in General Linton’s honor may have seemed fitting, considering the fact that the white men had forced the Indians out of this area even before Linton’s predecessor, New Jerusalem, was founded.
William Crawford Linton, born in 1794, was a native of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Linton wedded Ann Aspinwall, daughter of Dr. Elezar Aspinwall, in December 1820. Later, Linton reportedly married Eliza Perkins. One child, Freeman Hubbard Linton, died in 1841 at age 11 after falling from a horse.
As an early Terre Haute merchant, Linton successfully operated a store in a white-framed house on the east side of the Courthouse Square as early as 1820. Soon he built a brick residence on the southeast corner of Third and Ohio Streets. The house included a larder, a bathroom, a milk room, a smokehouse, and a post office. About 1828 he bought Spring Hill Farm in Honey Creek Township.
Linton was small, spare, and yellow-complexioned. He was a nervous person--he would walk rapidly back and forth with his arms swinging behind his counter when he was not busy as if in a fierce debate with some unseen person. Although he was a fidgety person, he was not without courage. Whenever leadership, integrity, or effrontery were needed, Linton surfaced.
As Vigo County commissioner, he directed the construction of the first courthouse. In 1824 Linton became president of the first library in Terre Haute; he served in this office for more than a decade. He was an initial trustee of the first Presbyterian Church in Terre Haute. He co-founded the Indiana Historical Society and authorized its constitution in 1830-1831.
First elected to the Indiana Senate in 1827, Linton crusaded for the National Road, the navigability of the Wabash River, the State Bank of Indiana, libraries in every county, and the Wabash and Erie Canal. He served three terms in the Indiana Senate: 1828-1829, 1829-1830, 1830-1831.
His ethical tenets exceeded any zeal for political success. When Governor James Brown Ray did not return a book he had borrowed from the State Library in 1831, only Linton had the fortitude to speak out after notices from the Senate Education Committee, on which he served, were ignored. In reckless devotion to principle, Linton made Ray’s petty malfeasance public. "The Case of the Overdue Book" cost him election to his fourth senate term and probably a Congressional seat.
Even after the controversy surrounding "the overdue book" that had ended his political career, Linton continued to work for all the organizations in which he believed. In fact, Linton was too valuable to remain away from public service. Governor Noah Noble named him Indiana’s first Canal Fund commissioner, serving from 1832-1835. He was totally dedicated when he accepted a responsibility. When gold specie had to be delivered to eastern banks as security for Indiana canal bonds, Linton toted it alone by horseback, stage, steamer, canal boat, or on foot. Fearful of robbery, he did not sleep. The State Bank of Indiana also named Linton its fund commissioner in 1834.
Linton’s life tragically ended before his forty-first birthday. On January 31, 1835, during a business trip, he died on a stagecoach in Philadelphia from a violent heart attack. He had literally crammed a lifetime of achievements into 14 Indiana years.
The regard for this pioneer merchant-statesman was so pronounced that a Vigo County township and a Greene County town changed their names to honor him. However, time has been cruel to this local celebrity. Linton Square and Linton Street were once well-known landmarks in Terre Haute. The street has been renamed Sycamore while Linton Square no longer exists.
In an attempt to keep Linton’s name from fading forever from the historical scene in Terre Haute, the Canal Society of Indiana erected a memorial gravestone at Linton’s gravesite in Roselawn Cemetery, located north of Terre Haute on 7500 North Clinton Road.
The newly-designed memorial gravestone was inscribed as follows:
SEN. WILLIAM CRAWFORD LINTON
1794 - 1824
1ST PRES. T.H. LIBRARY - 1824
IND. SENATE 1828-29, 1829-30, 1830-1831
FOUNDER IND. HIST. SOCIETY 1830-1831
WABASH & ERIE CANAL FUND COMM’R. 1832-1835
FUND COMM’R. STATE BANK OF INDIANA, 1834
TOWN OF LINTON * LINTON TOWNSHIP
DAVID C. LINTON
BROTHER W. C. LINTON & SARAH L. BLAKE
MERCHANT- OWNER * LINTON HOUSE
1803 - 1835
ERECTED IN 1995 BY THE
CANAL SOCIETY OF INDIANA, INC.
On Saturday, July 29, 1995, a dedication ceremony was held at Roselawn. Canal Society of Indiana President Robert Schmidt, dressed in turn of the century clothing, recognized the achievements of two of the Wabash Valley’s most significant founders: William Linton and Thomas Blake. Both men became area and state trailblazers during their lifetimes. Sally Russell played "Taps" on the trumpet as the crowd paused to honor the deceased. Local organizer Mike McCormick received a certificate of honorarium for his efforts in setting up the events from Terre Haute Mayor Pete Chalos. Officials representing the city of Linton were Mayor Jimmie K. Wright and Clerk-Treasurer Ron Sparks.
William Crawford Linton’s name will live as long as the city of Linton exists. Although details about the man named Linton may be forgotten, this city will provide a living memorial to his name as it exhibits leadership, integrity, and effrontery.
[Written May 1997]
DuVall, Ryan. "Gravestone of City’s Namesake Dedicated in Special Ceremony," Linton Daily Citizen, July, 1995.
Goddard, Dale. "Linton Marks 148th Birthday," Linton Daily Citizen, April 30, 1993.
Gormong, Greg. "Origin of Indiana Small Towns’ Names Featured in New Book," Linton Daily Citizen.
"Linton Over 140 Years Old," Linton Daily Citizen.
McCormick, Mike. "Linton Great Statesman," Terre Haute Tribune Star, July 30, 1995.