Thursday, January 21, 2016
Looking Back: How Did Dorchester Get Its Name?
Just how did Dorchester get its name?
That's been a topic of debate in our community for decades.
According to the Dorchester centennial book, published in 1981, the railroads formed land companies soon after the government gave away “every other section of land for ten miles on each side of any track laid.”
In December 1870, the South Platte Land Co. received ownership of the section containing present-day Dorchester after the company erected one house in the center of the section -- a step taken to “improve” the land in order to comply with the federal Homestead Act.
The section was originally platted under the name "DeWitt," but that was changed shortly thereafter by an entry in the margin of the land company’s deed book, which noted that the name of the section was indeed Dorchester.
There are varied accounts of where the name "Dorchester" came from. A staff member of the Times reports that her great grandmother once recounted a story that our village was named after a town in southwest England.
But a March 1967 account in The Crete News stated that Thomas Doane, the chief engineer with Burlington Railroad, named it after Boston's largest neighborhood in his native Massachusetts. The name continued the alphabetical naming of towns along the new railroad line: Berks, Crete, Dorchester, Exeter, Fairmont, Grafton, Harvard, Inland, etc.
Another account mentioned in the Dorchester centennial book came from William Ferguson of Chicago, who said that C.E. Perkins, president of Burlington Railroad, and his wife named Dorchester and other railroad communities from their parlor in Burlington, Iowa. Mrs. Perkins was a native of the Boston area and she chose the name Dorchester for our town, according to Ferguson's explanation.
The mystery remains since the stories above are mired in controversy. It seems neither Doane nor the Perkins family had much to do with establishing the other towns along the current Burlington tracks that came to Dorchester in 1871 and runs through our community today.
If you have historical information on the naming of Dorchester, please share it with fellow readers by leaving a comment or e-mailing us at Dorchester.Times@gmail.com.