INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has lost its Zipp.
The tiny community on the northern edge of Evansville fell victim to John Jackson, a cartographer-illustrator with the Indiana Department of Highways. He determined that Zipp no longer existed and had no place on the official state road map.
One might think Zippians are up in arms.
"I haven't heard a word," Jackson said from behind his drafting board on the 12th floor of the State Office Building. "Apparently it was another one of those that was just a crossroads."
This was not some capricious ruling to eliminate an unincorporated community by the 37-year-old native of Barstow, Calif. Zipp's glory days--from its founding as Mechanicsville in the 1800s and the establishment of the post office in 1881 (first postmaster: Frank Zipp Jr.) to the name change to Zipp in 1894--were long behind it.
Absorbed by City
No Zipps exist any longer in the Evansville area phone book, nor does any business carry that name. Jackson consulted with officials from Evansville and Vanderburgh County and learned that Zipp had been absorbed by the city some time ago.
"I don't consider that being eliminated," Jackson said.
Jackson's mild manner offers no clue to the power he wields. In the 15 years he has been redrawing the state road map, 68 Hoosier communities that once rated a mention have disappeared. Conversely, others have suddenly sprung up virtually overnight, at least on the day when the new map is issued.
"Rego (in Orange County) was an unincorporated town that had been dropped from the map, and several years had gone by when it was not on the map. It reappeared around 1980 or so, and suddenly industry had rediscovered it there. There was a lot of settlement going on in that area," Jackson said.
"We send people out to check to see that the town's really starting to grow. Sometimes you go out and look and there's nothing really there.
'Two or Three Letters'
"If we take one off (the map), I'll get two or three letters if there's someone still there," he said.
After talking to a state trooper last August, Jackson asked him to go to Anita in Johnson County and subsequently learned that this burg about a mile south of Bud had become another Hoosier ghost town. The information did not get back in time to strike Anita from the 1988 map, but the same luck may not hold next year.
Jackson originally migrated east from Barstow to attend Purdue University. He soon found himself working for the Highway Department, where he has now spent 19 years. In that time he figures that he has traveled several thousand--"more than I like to think"--of the state's 11,286.53 road miles.
"Since coming to Indiana and taking over this job, I've learned a lot about the history of Indiana. I've had to learn about these places because problems will come up," he said.
For example, consider the dispute over whether the Brown County town of Beanblossom should be spelled as one or two words. Many thought it should be the latter.
Colonel Drowns in Creek
But Jackson delved into the matter and discovered that the town was named after a Col. Beanblossom who was traveling to the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 when he fell off his horse and drowned in the nearby creek that now bears his name. That is why it is one word.
But matters of spelling also bring pitfalls to Jackson's job and he is not likely to forget two of them.
"One year I left the 'h' off Vanderburgh (County). I caught a lot of flak for that. I try to forget that one. Another year I put an 'e' in Boonville. I heard about that one too.