Thomas Jefferson’s Absurd Proposed Names For Minnesota & Other States In 1784
It's time for a little history lesson. Minnesota was the 32nd state admitted to the union in 1858, however the 3rd President of the U.S. had a different name chosen for Minnesota and other states in his original proposal.
Over the weekend I came across a crazy proposal that Thomas Jefferson whipped up for states in the North West territory. Jefferson was a diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, Founding Father and the 3rd President of the United States. Before he became President, he wrote up a proposal for names of states and they are wild.
The names suggested for these ten States are a peculiar mixture of Latin and Indian, and while a semblance of some of the names still remains in two cases, in all others it is so absolutely forgotten that the very fact has ceased to be known by many close students of American history. He proposed as names for the several subdivisions of this territory: Sylvania, Michigania, Cheronesus, Assenisippis, Metropotamia, Illinoia, Saratoga, Washington, Polypotamia, and Pelipsia.
So the committee, chaired by Jefferson proposed to divide the Northwest Territory into 10 states of roughly equal size. Let's dive into what they would have been:
- Sylvania - would have covered much of present-day Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and some of Northern Wisconsin.
- Michigania - would have incorporated most of Wisconsin, but really nothing of what Michigan is today.
- Chersonesus - which is simply the Greek word for ‘peninsula’. This would include most of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
- Assenispia - after the Assenisipi River, also known as the Rock River. This would be the northern part of modern-day Illinois.
- Metropotamia - In between Assenispia and Pennsylvania you would find this state. The name refers to the many rivers originating there.
- Illinoia, Saratoga and Washington - Are put together due to all incorporating large parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio respectively.
- Polypotamia - Translates to ‘Land of Many Rivers’. This state and Pelisipia would have covered the western and eastern parts of Kentucky.
Luckily, this proposal didn't stick. It's definitely weird to think about that these were almost state names. It also took awhile after this proposal for the states as we now know to take shape. The more I deep dive on this, the more weird stuff I find. Here is a map from the 'Bailey's Pocket Almanac' of Jefferson's developed a plan in 1784:
There has also been arguments throughout history stating the Jefferson had 17 names for the proposal and not just ten. Here is the 17 state proposal that has been circling Reddit: