Curious Cbus: Why Does Ohio Have So Many Townships Named Paint?

Dec 15, 2017

This story is part of the Curious Cbus project. You ask the questions, you vote for one of the questions and we answer.

Listener Conor Morris must have reached the end of his rope when he asked WOSU, “Why are there so many god dang townships in Ohio named ‘Paint’?"

Morris was rightfully confused: Ohio does indeed have six different Paint Townships. There are Paints in Fayette County, Highland County, Holmes County, Madison County, Ross County and Wayne County.

Can a town be guilty of plagiarism? Looking at a map of Ohio, though, it’s clear that four of the six Paint townships have something else in common: a local waterway.  

Ohio History Connection confirmed that the Paint townships in Madison, Fayette, Highland and Ross Counties are named after Paint Creek, a tributary – or smaller stream – of the Scioto River.

Paint Creek runs through Fayette County and along the borders of Highland and Ross. A dam in Highland and in Ross directs Paint Creek to form Paint Creek Lake.

The water continues through Ross County and then to the Scioto River. 

Explore the map of the Paint townships, labeled by red markers, and Paint Creek, highlighted in blue.
Credit Deepthi Hossain

Hope Farabee grew up on the cusp of Paint Township, near Chillicothe. She used to kayak on Paint Creek during the summer and said the cornfields made it a popular spot for bonfires.

“Paint Creek stretches through a lot of counties. People use it for kayaking and fishing,” Farabee says. “It’s so small and you know everyone.”

Farabee also didn’t know Paint Township’s name stemmed from the creeks.

“A lot of things in this area have ‘paint’ in their names,” Farabee says. “It might have something to do with old Indian tribes, because everything here is named after Indians.”

Farabee’s guess was a good one. The name “Paint” may have come originally from the shale in the Copperas Mountain in Ross County, according to a website curated by the Ross County Genealogical Society. Native Americans used the clay residue on the mountain as war paint.  

That still leaves two Paints unaccounted for. Historians suspect a different origin for those towns.

According to Andrew Mayer, a librarian at Ohio History Connection, the name of Paint Township in Wayne County – founded in northeast Ohio in 1816 – supposedly comes from a local spring, because the water resembled red paint.

“I suspect that the origin of Paint Township in Holmes County is the same,” Mayer says, “because the townships are adjacent to each other.”

This draws the question: Are creeks a common namesake for townships? After all, another Curious Cbus investigation found that Pee Pee Township in Pike County got its name from a creek as well.

“I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to be named after creeks,” Mayer says, who says each town is named on a case-by-case basis. 

Got your own question about Central Ohio? Ask us below for Curious Cbus.

_