It began as a simple enough proposition once I noticed Newark, Ohio on a map. Was it related somehow to the Newark in New Jersey, and what about the Newark in Delaware? Did they all intertwine in a way? It sounded like a mystery that needed to be solved.
Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey USA
I noticed Newark, Ohio because Newark, New Jersey was still fresh on my mind after appearing in the recent Small Change, Big Difference article. Honestly I didn’t know much about the appearance in New Jersey except that it seemed to be overshadowed by nearby New York City and it had a lousy airport (map). I think all of us who have traveled in the northeast corridor of the United States have at least one Newark Airport horror story, and probably many more. It placed perennially at or near the bottom for on-time performance. Twelve Mile Circle readers from Newark should feel free to defend the honor of their fair city in the comments. I’m sure there must be wonderful attributes that could rebut my negative travel associations.
The name had biblical roots. A group of Puritans lost power when the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven united. They migrated to New Jersey, founding Newark in 1666. However it wasn’t Newark at the very beginning, it was New Ark. This referenced the "New Ark of the Covenant." The Bible described the Ark of the Covenant as holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments as well as perhaps other sacred objects depending on the citation referenced. By proclaiming a New Ark, these offshoot Puritans put their stake in the ground, a foundation based upon their specific biblical interpretations.
University of Delaware by Prehensile Eye, on Flickr (cc)
Alternately, even the City of Newark, Delaware didn’t know much about its origin.
Little is known of Newark’s initial settlements. It appears our community’s early growth, like most villages of Colonial America, owed much to natural features and location. In Newark’s case, historians tell us that in the early 1700s a small English, Scots-Irish and Welsh hamlet grew along two old Indian trails and the fall line where the Christina and White Clay Creeks turn sharply eastward toward the Delaware River. In time, the area began to serve travelers on route from the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia and Maryland and colonial Philadelphia.
Many have speculated on the origin of the name as it appeared in Delaware. There it’s pronounced New-Ark and might lead one to think it also had a connection to the New Ark of the Covenant. However, the New Jersey pronunciation is Newerk so that didn’t necessarily mean anything at all. Delaware Online attempted to find an explanation and came up short.
The name: Historical evidence suggests that Newark was nameless prior to 1758. It was most likely named for a town in England, such as "Newark-on-Trent." It also may be related to the New Wark or Newark Quaker meeting held north of Wilmington, according to a 1960 "Know Your Newark" government survey published by The League of Women Voters of Newark. It is also suggested that the three Bond sisters from Cecil County’s "Nottingham Lotts" came up with the name for the city.
Newark, Delaware was notable for a couple of things. First, and most importantly, it had the good fortune to be located within the Twelve Mile Circle for which this website was named. Second, it was the home of the University of Delaware (map) whose Fightin’ Blue Hen is a rare example of a team mascot named for the female of an animal species.
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire by Roland Turner, on Flickr (cc)
Various references mentioned Newark-on-Trent as a possible inspiration for New Jersey or Delaware. Newark-on-Trent was an ancient town, perhaps extending back to the Roman era. The name came from nearby Newark Castle (map), constructed in the Twelfth Century. The original castle spelling was Niwerc as noted in its royal charter granted by King Henry I in 1135.
I couldn’t trace the etymology of Niwerc. When I typed "etymology Niwerc" into Google it asked, "Did you mean: etymology Twerk?" No, I definitely didn’t mean that. The etymology of Twerk, by the way, was "probably an alteration of work." None of that really mattered however because it was unlikely that either the Newark in New Jersey or Delaware were named for Newark-on-Trent directly.
Longaberger Basket Company, Newark, OH by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)
I mentioned finding Newark, Ohio at the beginning of this article and now I can finally return to that place. This one was actually the second-largest Newark with nearly 50,000 residents, coming behind only the one in New Jersey. According to the History of Licking County, Ohio (1881),
In 1802 however immigrants came in greater numbers and from this time forward there was a steady stream of immigration. The most important arrival in this year was that General William C. Schenck who laid out the town of Newark calling it after his native place Newark, New Jersey.
The most fascinating feature of Newark, Ohio had to be the giant basket (map) featured in 12MC’s Weird Ohio Explorations in 2009. It was the home location of the Longaberger Basket company, an office building constructed of stucco over steel.
Newark, Indiana USA
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention tiny Newark, Indiana. The History of Greene and Sullivan Counties, State of Indiana (1884) noted, "Newark is a village of over 100 inhabitants and is situated west of the central part of the township. John Edwards had its site surveyed by Thomas Axtell who named the village after Newark Ohio."
Thus, the Newark in Indiana was named for the Newark in Ohio, which was named for the Newark in New Jersey, which was named for the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible.