Garnavillo Historical Society

Jacksonville to Garnavillo

This year (2021) marks the 175th anniversary of the naming of our town as Garnavillo. It was originally named Jacksonville in 1843, but the residents wanted a new name because the postal service kept sending their mail to Jacksonville, Illinois instead of Jacksonville, Iowa. Judge Samuel Murdock, an early resident, was instrumental in selecting the new name, Garnavillo, which is derived from two Latin words meaning beautiful village. The name was chosen at a social gathering (likely local saloon) where written accounts state Judge Murdock sang the Irish song “Kate of Garnavilla.” In the sharing of the song, the Judge took slight liberty with the lyrics and to create better rhyme with verse, changed Garnavill”a” to Garnavill”o”. The audience was so taken with the song that those present suggested Jacksonville become Garnavillo. The Judge thought “the name most appropriate to be given to the most beautiful spot in the county.”

Judge Reuben Noble & Judge Samuel Murdock both involved in naming Garnavillo.

So the name “Garnavillo” was proposed and the County Board of Commissioners chose it over all others. Its use was authorized by the Iowa Territorial Legislature April 15, 1846. Judge Reuben Noble, who was also present at the above named social gathering, played an important part in establishing and finalizing the name change as well. Read more about the naming of Jacksonville and Garnavillo in the book “Garnavillo, Gem of the Prairie,” pages 62-65.

Searching the internet, Garnavillo, Iowa is the only city one can find by that name. Some communities have used the name for roads. The McGregor zip code shows a Garnavillo Avenue, Dubuque zip code has a Garnavillo Drive and Anamosa zip code has a Garnavillo Street.

There are many items in the Garnavillo Museum with the name Garnavillo on them. Pay close attention the next time you visit, you may find some with printed misspellings.

GarnavilloJacksonvilleMurdockNoble

Garnavillo Historical Society • April 25, 2021


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