For many generations, the origin of “Norwalk” has been explained as being derived from the original grant to the first settlers of Norwalk, Conn. — the grant extending from Long Island one day’s “north walk.” However, there is another school of thought on the subject.
Simplistically, Norwalk, Ohio, is named for Norwalk, Conn., but we must look carefully at the latter city’s origin. In September of 1651, the latter town was incorporated as a town in what is now Fairfield County. At that time, the name was spelled Norwaukee, perhaps from an Algonquin word noyank, or perhaps from an Indian word Naramauke.
We are told that Norwalk or variations of it in spelling is an old Indian word; that those native Americans living in Connecticut were called the Norwalk Indians and that there was a river called the Norwalke River, which was one boundary of the original purchase. Thus, the word existed long before the “one day’s north walk” which 19th century writers presented to us.
Connecticut is divided into counties which are divided into towns or townships, just as it is in Ohio. Here we use the word townships, but it is shortened to towns in our “Mother State.” Each “town” can contain any number of actual villages or cities, just as we sometimes find here in Ohio. It also was common to name one of those villages with the same name as the larger town or township. Some examples are that Norwalk Township of Huron County contains the city of Norwalk as well as the village of East Norwalk and the Blue Fly community. Ridgefield Township holds the villages of Monroeville and North Monroeville as well as Standartsburg. In New Haven Township, we find the village of that same name along with parts of both Plymouth and Willard.
Your next question might be “Well then, how many Norwalks are there around the country?” There are or have been at least nine around the United States. Norwalk, Wisc., is located in Monroe County and was platted in 1856 by Seluim McGary and C. G. Hettman. Mr. and Mrs. McGary are supposed to have come from Norwalk, Ohio, but I’ve never learned more about them.
Norwalk, Iowa, also dates to 1856 and was settled by George Swan. a one-time Norwalk, Ohio, resident. There also is a rural Norwalk Township in Pottawattomie County, Iowa, but I know nothing more of its story. Norwalk, Mich.; Norwalk, Kan.; and Norwalk, Fla., each had a post office in 1893, but apparently have faded into obscurity now.
The largest Norwalk is in California, with a population well over 100,000. However, this city ruins my story by apparently not being connected with any other of the Norwalks in the United States. There was a trail in the area called the Norwalk Walk, and when settlement began, the railroad station there was called Norwalk and the name stuck.
When you travel, watch the road signs for the name. You might find a Norwalk which I missed.
* * *
REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.