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"The Naming of Scio...."

by Ron Taylor 

As an introduction to this page I print the following information furnished to me by County Historian, Craig Braack: 

SCIO (1823):  (Locally Pronounced "Sigh--o").Before getting its final name it was called Bloods Corner or Bloods and then later Riddleville, unknown as to where these came from. Of all the place name origins in our County,  Scio has probably generated the greatest amount of controversy and interest.  The most commonly held belief is based on the construction of the Erie Railroad through the county from 1849-1851.  Construction of the line apparently was done by section with the area in this part of the county called “section 10” on maps/blueprints of the time.  Some believe this area was abbreviated to Sc.10 and the corruption of “Scio” resulted.  However, common sense and historical knowledge dictate otherwise.  The town of Scio was formed-by that name in 1823, many years before the railroad was even planned.  In 1820 there was a massacre of Christians by the Turks on the Greek island of Scio in the Aegean Sea.  This act horrified many in the western world with the great Daniel Webster giving a passionate speech that swept the country.  The founding fathers so honored the victims by naming their new town Scio.  Formed from Angelica January 31, 1823.

Recently I received an email from a "Robert":

"The historical summary listed below was from the website for the town of Scio ,Michigan. I have a little knowledge of Greek geography and have never seen a reference to 'Scio'. If the origin is the name of a Greek island, then the description below would seem very plausible. The reason why i was researching this was because we have a "Scio St" and was wondering if i could determine the origin of the word. I had thought that it was Roman, mixing up 'Scipio' with Scio--there's more. What prompted me to check now was that there were new expensive condos being built on the city center end of the street while the rest runs thru one of our less 'nice' areas. They wanted to change the name of their part of the street so as not to confused 'high-end' buyers...not sure what the outcome of that is.

Like your area and hope to get back there someday; but with the high price of gas don't do much driving anymore. Lately, been doing most of my sightseeing on my PC monitor."

History

By 1832, the area had enough population to qualify as a township. Up to that point the entire western half of Washtenaw County, plus parts of Jackson and Livingston Counties, were governed by the original Township of Dexter. It was comprised of land that would later become Dexter, Scio, Webster, Lima, Freedom, Bridgewater, Manchester, Sharon, Sylvan, and Lyndon Townships.

Petitions were signed and submitted by area residents and the Michigan Territorial Council (March 25, 1833) approved the formation of a township government. The first Scio Township meeting was held at Horace Leek's house on Section 9. Leek's house was a little over a mile from Foster's sawmill at the corner of Leek (now Scio) and Ann Arbor Roads. It was here that the controversial name was chosen.

The origin of the name Scio  has long raised contention among historians and local residents. The Combination Atlas Map of Washtenaw County (1874) says ...The town derives its name from the Greek island [Chios]---a name associated with the great and successful struggle of the Grecian patriots for their independence…. Samuel Beakes, in his Past and Present of Washtenaw County (1891) claimed that the name was taken from Scio, New York. Walter Romig, author of Michigan Place Names (1973) states that Scio was named for the Latin word for I know.

Because early township records were reportedly destroyed by fire, no one is sure how and why the name Scio was selected. World events of that era however, make a convincing argument for the island (pronounced Heos) and Scio name connection--despite the fact that the names neither look nor sound similar.

Several years prior to the time that Scio and Webster townships were being carved out of the original Dexter Township, there was a strong pro-Greek sentiment growing in the U. S. Greece was fighting for its independence and Americans, fresh from winning their freedom, were cheering them on. One of their most vocal supporters was Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Webster undoubtedly had a strong following in Washtenaw County. Some of the area's most prominent citizens (Judge Samuel Dexter, G.W. Peters, J. W. Wing) were originally from Massachusetts.

Word reached Washington that Greece had lost one of its prized communities in a massacre. The island of Chios ...was the seat of modern Greek literature; here were libraries, printing-presses, and other establishments, which indicated some advancement in refinement and knowledge… had been overrun and destroyed by the Turks. Webster recounted the catastrophe in a speech delivered in the House of Representatives of the United States, on the 19th of January, 1824.

Weeks or perhaps months later, in the untamed wilderness of the Michigan Territory, Webster's worshipful admirers read his words. And from those words springs the answer to the Chios and Scio connection.

The fifth paragraph of his speech began, It was April of this year that the destruction of Scio took place. The master orator, his speech writers or a journalist transcribing the speech, misspelled Chios. Years later his admirers in the wilds of Washtenaw County named their township and village after the misspelling.

...Comments: (email: Ron Taylor and have your remarks on this subject printed here.)

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