Monday, February 08, 2016

Mahomet, Illinois

I don't think I've done a post quite like this one.


Mahomet, Illinois had 7,258 people in the 2010 census.  95.88% were white.  (Down from 97.94% white in the 2000 census.)  It's voter registration is:
Democratic:     505  or 12%
Green:                 4 or 0.10%
Non-Partisan   1,692 or 41%
Republican      1,926 or 46%

I know you're asking yourself some variation of, "What?!!"

Someone from Mahomet, Illinois dropped by this blog and I thought it interesting that an Illinois town had a variation of the Prophet Mohammed's name as the town's name.  Who are these people?
Or was this an Indian name?

So I looked it up.  Originally the town was called Middletown because it was between two larger towns.  But another town already had that name and mail deliveries were getting confused.  So in 1871 they changed it to Mahomet.

From Wikipedia:
The Illinois town's name derives from the "Mahomet Lodge," the local Masonic Lodge at the time the town was searching for a new name. Its use as the name of the lodge was a manifestation of the Freemasons' liberal use of religious names and stonemason tools and symbols."This claim needs references to reliable sources. (April 2009)" An alternative theory states that the name Mahomet was arbitrarily assigned when the conflicting names were noted by the US Postal Service.
[UPDATE 6:20pm: See comments that challenge this account and offer evidence the town was named after Native American Mahomet Weyonomon.  Comments also have interesting info about Mahomet possibly being a sunset town - a town were black were not allowed after dark.]

I did look up ethnicities and religion.  I would imagine that Muslims might find a town named after their prophet attractive.  The census data said there were 34 Arabs.  I also found a list of religious participation.  In general, religious participation seems significantly lower than the national average.  And there are double the Muslims than the national average and more Muslims than LDS, Presbyterians, and Jews.


Religion  Mahomet, Illinois United States
Percent Religious 34% 48.78%
Catholic 7.8% 19.43%
LDS 0.84% 2.03%
Baptist 4.18% 9.30%
Episcopalian 0.45% 0.65%
Pentecostal 4.64% 1.8%
Lutheran 2.96% 2.33%
Methodist 4.51% 3.93%
Presbyterian 1.52% 1.63%
Other Christian 5.22% 5.51%
Jewish 0.37% 0.73%
Eastern 0.11% 0.53%
Islam 1.64% 0.84%

BUT, take this with a big grain of salt.  I checked to see if the percentage of Muslims was greater than other Illinois towns.  First I checked Champaign, IL, ten miles from Mahomet. Champaign is the county seat and has 200,000 population.   It had exactly the same statistics. So these numbers mean nothing, really, for the Village of Mahomet.  I'm leaving them in here though as a reminder to folks, to double check things you find on the internet.


I couldn't help wondering what do people living in a place called Mahomet think of their town's name these days?  So, I googled, "discussion of name change Mahomet, Illinois."   I got the minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Mahomet, July 28 2015.

A Mr. Thompson wanted to change the name.  Here's the full report from the minutes:

PUBLIC COMMENT: Mark Thompson, had distributed a document on the American Flag. Thompson had mentioned the gold braid on the Village’s American Flag at a previous meeting.
Thompson stated he had expected to come to the meeting a few months ago but due to the death of his mother-in-law he could not attend. He also mentioned he had come to what he thought was the Board meeting but was mixed up on the date and showed up on a Wednesday.
Thompson began to speak to the name of Mahomet. He stated the Village of Mahomet can mean only one and that is “The Village of Mohammed. [sic] He stated there is no other meaning. Thompson stated there are 14 Christian churches in this town and no Mosque. He stated Mahomet being named after the Prophet Mohammed was an apostasy.
Thompson referenced the 1st commandment that “there shall be no other gods before me”. He stated he believed it was a slap in God’s face by having a town named Mohammed. Thompson distributed a document called the Life of Mahomet and History of Islam to the Board and the press.
Thompson stated as a Christian he is deeply offended by the Village being named after a Muslim Prophet. He stated the Confederate flag has been banned because someone was offended and added that he is much more offended by our town being named Mahomet.
He stated the name can be changed. He asked what he would have to do to start the process. He asked if he brought a petition, how many signatures would it take to change the name. He asked if he should start a Go Fund Me campaign and take this nationally to see how many Americans are also offended.
Thompson stated that Muslims are killing Christians every 5 minutes in the world but the Muslims would tell you they are a people of peace, but there are a revolutionary group of Muslims and they should not be ignored. He stated having our town named Mahomet was not compatible with our constitution.
He stated just recently there have been shooting in America that can be traced back to radical Muslim thinking.
He stated he was not here to make a speech, but looking for an answer. He asked if they could answer this tonight.
Widener stated he believed Thompson would not receive an answer tonight but he has the right to pursue whatever he believes he needed to do.
Widener stated he did not know the answer to this question. Lynn asked Thompson if he understood how much money it would take to change the name. Lynn stated making a change like this through the mail system could cost millions of dollars.
Thompson stated as a Christian he is offended by the name and he would hope others are as well.
Thompson stated he understands it costs money but he hopes everyone understands that the name Mahomet. He added that he had mentioned a Go Fund Me campaign and believed it would be supported nationwide.
Thompson added that the word Mahomet appears on our water tower so that is what people see when they enter our town.
Thompson stated he was disappointed in the response from the Board. He stated he believed the right answer would have been to encourage Thompson to circulate a petition.
Attorney Evans asked Thompson his address. Thompson stated his address was xxxx N., Dewey, but added that his children went to school in Mahomet. Brown stated this Board’s jurisdiction was on for the corporate limits. He stated if Thompson wanted to collect signatures he would need to canvas both the Village and Township, but this Board’s concern would be with the residents inside the Village limits.
So apparently Mr. Thompson doesn't even live in the Village of Mahomet.  I suspect that he's someone the Trustees know and are polite to, but don't take seriously.

I couldn't find anything else on the name change, but I suspect it didn't get much further than this.

Given the anti-Muslim sentiments among some in the US today, I'm glad to see that there is a town named Mohamet and that it's not interested in changing its name.


5 comments:

  1. Mahomet is probably a former sundown town.

    Whites Only After Dark: Historian James Loewen uncovers Illinois' legacy of Sundown Towns

    Although some apparently don't believe this.

    Guest Commentary: Sundown towns remain problem

    Which might help explain the lack of minority residents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon, interesting. I hadn't thought about this aspect. Thanks for adding this information. It adds significant context to the original post. BTW, Loewen's first book Lies My Teacher Told Me is excellent. Just curious - do live in the vicinity of Mahomet?

      Delete
  2. It takes just a few minutes to determine the guys a regular.

    http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2009-04-29/ultra-conservative-man-shouting-whos-listening.html

    Mohammed? Or Satan worship? Whichever is in front of him?

    — About a dozen members of Mahomet Masonic Lodge 220 were on hand to address recent claims made by Dewey resident Mark Thompson, who took to local media this week to urge residents to demand that leaders change the village's name.

    Drawing on historical records indicating that the community was renamed in the 1870s in honor of the Masonic Lodge, he alleged that the name was somehow related to Satan worship.

    Thompson was not present, nor did anyone speak in favor of his proposal
    http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-06-25/mahomet-ending-county-contract-animal-control.html

    As it turns out maybe Mr. Thompson was wrong.

    In 1840, Porter applied for a post office for the town—and named the post office “Mahomet.” Although the village wouldn’t officially gain that name until 1872, local residents referred to the town as Mahomet from that time, Pasley said.

    He believes that Porter took the name in honor of Mahomet Weyonomon, a sachem—or leader—of the Mohegan tribe, who lived in Connecticut at the same time as members of his family.

    The Mohegan tribe was among the first in the nation to convert to Christianity, and lived closely with European settlers in the area, possibly including the Porters.


    http://www.mcitizen.com/news/politics-and-government/2015-08-19/connecticut-connection-village-name.html

    This is interesting:
    The issue gained notoriety this summer, as Dewey resident Mark Thompson began a public campaign to urge the board to rename the village. He alleged that “Mahomet” is a reference to the French name of the Prophet Muhammed, the central figure in Islam.

    But Pasley said that’s unlikely. Porter was a very devout Baptist who later dedicated his life to the ministry, and wouldn’t have chosen a name to honor an Islamic religious figure. “Certainly he would never have done that,” Pasley said.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you the same Anon who did the previous comment? Again, new info. Thanks. And it suggests my original thought - that it was a Native American name - was probably right.

      I did try looking for the followup on his proposal to change the name, but couldn't find it. You have to have the right search words and I didn't, obviously. I did find the minutes of when he (Mark Thompson) had some issue with gold-braid on the flag, but since that was mentioned in the minutes I posted, it didn't seem necessary to add more.

      Again, thanks.

      Delete
  3. I also thought at first read that the name Mahomet was more likely of Native American origin. I don't live in the vicinity of Mahomet, but do occasionally stay at Holiday Inn Express. Also have visited the UI area on a number of occasions.

    I'd like to suggest that if Mr Thompson needs a new project, for some the name University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign may be offensive, in that the word Champaign may possibly be derived from the French region notorious for producing bubbly intoxicants. /s

    ReplyDelete

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.