Word Etymologies: Surnames and the Placenames

"In western Monroe County a county road runs straight up hill and down and true north and south for at least three and a half miles. It is named Hartstraight Road, Hart Straight Road, or Hart’s Trace Road depending on whom you ask, what map you consult, or what road sign you look at. At one time different signs at different intersections gave all three possibilities. People who favor one form of the name over the others usually have a legend to support their choice. These legends involve a pioneer logger name Hart who built a straight road to haul his logs, an Indian named Johnny Hart, or a trace (as in Natchez Trace) beaten down by harts (i.e. male deer).

A few years ago I was asked by man who lived along the road to appear at a meeting of county commissioners to set them straight on the proper form of the name. He, of course, assumed that I would support his spelling and etymology based upon the logger named Hart. I declined. I feared that my explanation would please no one, but would probably unite the warring faction in an attack against me. The name of the road, I suspect, is Hartstrait. I say this because, although there is now no family with that name living on or near the road, there are families with that name not too far away. . . . Many of the county roads in Monroe County are named for families that live or once lived on them."

"Hoosier and Family Names," in Viewpoints, 46.