That Other Warsaw

On December 28, 2014 · 1 Comments

In the recent Not the City article I focused on Richmond among other places, not the city of course rather the county, and noticed that its local government was centered in a village called Warsaw (map). That seemed like an exceptionally odd choice. There wasn’t a large Polish diaspora on Virginia’s Northern Neck as best as I could tell. Why name a town after the capital of Poland in a place without any discernible Polish influence? I did discover the reason soon enough. Warsaw’s original name was Richmond Courthouse which must have been terribly confusing as the much larger city located elsewhere in Virginia with the same name continued to grow. Residents changed the name to Warsaw in 1831 in allegiance to events of the Polish–Russian War of 1830–1831.

I’d learned in Can’t Get Enough of Kossuth that citizens of the United States often associated personally with the struggles for freedom and democracy happening beyond its borders. These clashes mirrored some of the underpinnings of the American Revolution and resonated emotionally with many citizens of the early United States. This sense of solidarity even translated to the naming of towns. Warsaw was another example. While GNIS listed 51 Warsaw place names in the U.S., and while many of those were likely settled by Polish immigrants, a handful received their names in the same period as the Polish–Russian War and were likely named for it.

This video provided a basic overview of the November Uprising and the Battle of Warsaw. Accompanying text is in English and most of the imagery requires no direct translation so 12MC readers should be fine after getting past the early part spoken in Polish. I guess it’s Polish. I couldn’t tell what language it was even though I’ve been to Poland and should know better (even went to Hel and Back). It’s definitely from somewhere "over there" though. No matter, you’re all bright people and you’ll figure it out.

For those who don’t want to sit through nine minutes of video, let me see if I can provide a very brief synopsis. A portion of Poland under Russian control gained a modicum of independence after the Napoleonic Wars. The Czar granted its Polish province authority to establish its own constitution and congress, allowing it to run its own courts, form its own army and establish its own treasury. Russian control remained mostly hands-off at the start and then began to gradually tighten, becoming increasingly autocratic. Frustrations reached a tipping point in November 1830 when the Polish army broke into rebellion, and support spread to the rest of population. This uprising soon broke into an actual war involving large armies. Decisively, Russian forces assaulted and crushed resistance at the Battle of Warsaw in September 1831. Things went badly for the Polish people afterwards.

Fryderyk Chopin monument
Fryderyk Chopin monument by Bartosz MORĄG, on Flickr (cc)

Thousands of Polish elites fled Poland and spread throughout Europe. This included many of its citizens with education, money or special talents. One example was the composer Frédéric Chopin (Fryderyk Chopin) who fled to France. Poland never forgot its cultural heritage however. Today, Warsaw’s Royal Baths Park (Łazienki Park) includes the Chopin Statue (map) which was cast in 1926, destroyed by Germans in World War II and re-cast in 1958 using the original mold. I’m not sure how I got down that tangent although I found it interesting. Let’s get back to places in the United States named Warsaw that were likely named for the uprising and the ensuing war.


Welcome to Warsaw
Welcome to Warsaw by J. Stephen Conn, on Flickr (cc)

Kentucky’s Warsaw (map) was named as such in 1831. Originally it had been named Fredericksburg. However Kentucky already had a Fredericksburg so this newer one was changed to Warsaw to avoid confusion. Events from Poland were still fresh in the news at that time.


Warsaw Shrine Club
Warsaw Shrine Club by Patrick Hoesly, on Flickr (cc)

In Missouri, a brand new town was platted in 1837 and it became Warsaw (map). I didn’t find conclusive evidence to tie its name back to the Polish–Russian War although the year of establishment made it plausible. Rather, it had been attributed to honoring Tadeusz Kościuszko, a hero of the American Revolution who was from Poland. He was best known for constructing American defensive fortifications including West Point.


Warsaw Public Library ~ Historic Building ~ Kosciusko County
Warsaw Public Library ~ Historic Building ~ Kosciusko County by Onasill ~ Bill Badzo, on Flickr (cc)

Indiana followed a similar pattern and its Warsaw (map) was established in 1836 at the same time its home county was formed, Kosciusko County. It’s now the "Orthopedic Capital of the World."

The Warsaw, Indiana-based orthopedic cluster is unique in the business world. Its rise to global prominence started serendipitously when Revra DePuy began his company in Warsaw in 1895. It was assured when DePuy employee and area native J.O. Zimmer launched his own company in 1927

That same source attributed Warsaw with $11 billion in orthopedic sales, one third of the orthopedics sales in the world, and employing 45% of the Kosciusko County workforce.


Warsaw, Ohio, USA

I didn’t find much about Warsaw, Ohio. It was a tiny place with only about seven hundred residents. Its website said merely, "Our Village of Warsaw was laid out in 1834 and was named after the Polish capital, a country then endeavoring to secure her independence. The village is among the youngest in Coshocton County." The time period seemed just about right and the town history implied a connection.

On December 28, 2014 · 1 Comments

One Response to “That Other Warsaw”

  1. David Overton says:

    Australia’s highest mountain was also named after Kościuszko.

Comments are closed.

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