Tippecanoe & Other Places Too
In Search of a Name - And the Unusual Places Found Along the Way
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
There have been three towns named Tippecanoe, including my hometown of Tipp City.
Growing up in Tipp, I was aware that it was once known as Tippecanoe, as well as Tippecanoe City.
In school we learned that the reason for this was that another village in Ohio was also named Tippecanoe, and that the need for two different postal codes required the town I grew up in to add "City" to its name. This was done in 1850, and it wasn't until 1938 that the name Tippecanoe City was shortened to become Tipp City.
We also learned that our town was named in honor of the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, whose 1840 campaign song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" helped him win the Presidency.
Harrison was given the nickname "Old Tippecanoe" after defeating a confederacy of Native Americans during the Battle of Tippecanoe in Northern Indiana in 1811. The "victory" gained Harrison national fame and, ultimately, the Presidency, not to mention the admiration of a man named John Clark, who was looking for a name for his new town in Miami County.
I had always wondered about the other towns that were named Tippecanoe, as well as where the name originated. So this summer, on two different trips, my family and I visited Tippecanoe, Indiana, and then Tippecanoe, Ohio - two very different towns that are much smaller, and much different than Tipp City.
Along the way, we also discovered some unique tourist destinations, including an amusement park on a lake, countless historic villages and the birthplace of James Dean, just to name a few.
The trip we took to Indiana was about 415 miles roundtrip and started with a stop at the Tippecanoe River...
If you go back far enough, you'll find that the word "Tippecanoe" comes from the Miami Indian word for "buffalo fish," which is the largest sucker fish in North America and a popular meal in Memphis and St. Louis to this day.
The Tippecanoe River in Indiana was named after this fish, as was the battle that Harrison fought, due to the river's proximity to the conflict.
There are many things named after the river in this part of Indiana, including the small, quiet village of Tippecanoe.
Surprisingly, although it sits directly on the Tippecanoe River, of the three towns named Tippecanoe it was founded last - in 1882. Both of the Ohio Tippecanoes were founded in 1840, although it's unclear which one came first.
Tippecanoe, Indiana consists of only a handful of streets. It has a post office, a fire department, a city building, and a small grocery store, but not much else. The town is surrounded by vast stretches of farmland in every direction, and it's very quiet. A railroad line that runs on the outskirts of town provides the only background noise.
A small park on the edge of town offers access to the Tippecanoe River, which is about the same size as the Stillwater River in Miami County, and fishing is very popular there. On the north side of the river is a small group of streets with the name Old Tip Town, and then... endless cornfields.
About 35 miles west of Tippecanoe is Tippecanoe River State Park.
The park is popular for camping, canoeing, (including canoe-exclusive campgrounds found along 11 miles of river trail), fishing, swimming, and enjoying Sand Hill Nature Preserve.
Although this region of Indiana is mostly farmland, Tippecanoe River State Park is heavily wooded and contains old growth white pines.
The state park is located about 50 miles north of Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, which is a National Historic Landmark that features a great museum and the impressive 85-foot-tall Tippecanoe Monument.
Visitors can tour the battlefield and monument and also pay a small fee to see the museum. It contains exhibits about the battle, the histories of the Native Americans that lived in the region, and Harrison and his presidential campaign. It's all very well done.
To the north of the battlefield is a very retro, fun place called Indiana Beach. It's home to Indiana Beach Amusement & Water Park, which sits on a lake formed by the Tippecanoe River and features roller-coasters and other big rides. There's also camping, cabins, boat and bike rentals, a drive-in movie theater, arcades, and endless restaurants to discover. (I imagine this is what Indian Lake in Ohio was like when it had an amusement park.)
On the way home from Indiana Beach is a must-stop in Indiana - Fairmount. It's the hometown of James Dean and Garfield creator Jim Davis, and it's filled with interesting things to see and do. (See the full story on Fairmount HERE).
ROLLING HILLS, QUIET TOWN
Tippecanoe, Ohio is located 175 miles east of Tipp City in Harrison County, which is the fifth least-populated county in Ohio with less than 15,000 people. The area feels much more like Appalachia than the rural farmland that surrounds the other Tippecanoes.
Rolling hills and deep forests in the county hide two of Ohio's least developed lakes - Clendering Lake (located next to Tippecanoe) and Tappar Lake, located just to the north. Both lakes are surrounded by dense woods, and the Buckeye Trail passes by each lake.
The region is so desolate that, upon arriving in Tippecanoe in late August, the only sounds we could hear were the songs of crickets and cicadas; no highways, no airplanes, no trains.
The population is less than 700, almost all which live in homes located along the only major road in the region, Route 800. Other than a few paved streets on either side of Route 800, most of the streets in town are gravel. Homes on the east side of road sit on hills that begin to climb toward the lake, while houses on the west side are platted. A fire station and several churches are clustered in one area of town, and Camp Tippecanoe, a YMCA summer camp, sits on a hilltop beyond the town. A visit to the camp offers one of the best birdseye views of Clendering Lake.
A drive around the lake is peaceful, scenic and quiet, as is Tippecanoe.
THE WAY HOME
To reach Tippecanoe, we drove east on I-70 until almost reaching Wheeling, West Virginia and then took Route 800 north to the village.
To get home, we decided to take a different route. We drove further north on Route 800 to Uhrichsville, Ohio, which is where U.S. 36 begins. (It ends at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado). We would be able to drive west on U.S. 36 and reach Piqua in a few hours, but not before stopping at some very interesting places along the way.
Much of U.S. 36 in Ohio follows the old Union Pacific Railroad line, as well as parts of the old Ohio and Erie Canal and through Amish Country.
Many communities along U.S. 36 feature historical landmarks, museums, tourist attractions and other interesting sights. Highlights include Dennison, historic Roscoe Village and Mount Vernon.
After Mount Vernon in Centerburg (the geographical center of Ohio), which has historical murals that are worth of a stop, and then Delaware, which is the largest city on Ohio's portion of U.S. 36 and has much to offer.
Rounding things out before reaching home are the covered bridges between Marysville and Urbana and Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, which I've written about HERE.
This day trip to Tippecanoe and then back home via U.S. 36 is about 380 miles roundtrip and could be done as an overnight experience. Along U.S. 36 are numerous campgrounds, wineries, historical markers, one-of-a-kind restaurants, inns and motels, architectural masterpieces and farm markets, not to mention historic homes, barns and churches around every corner. It's a great way to see a different part of Ohio.
Even if you're not from Tipp City, either of these road trips is a unique experience that can't be found anywhere else.