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The smoky past of Smoky Row Road

The smoky past of Smoky Row Road

No one has shared exactly how Smokey Row Road received it’s name. (Photo by Jeff Beck)

A family buying a home in the Somerset housing addition on Smokey Row Road asked me where the road obtained its name – I had no answer. Searching history is enjoyable for me, especially Bargersville, Center Grove and the White River Community. The Johnson County Historical Atlas did not provide any leads or answer to this question, thus I made a call into the Indiana Historical Society. IHS provided a couple of suggestions, obtained from the book titled Indiana Place Names.

Readers, remember our community in earlier times: forests, wildlife, folks striving to survive as rural life was tough. Homeowners used wood for cooking and heating their home.  Preserving meat by smoking was also a common practice; ham and bacon were family meat staples along with vegetables from the garden, preserved mainly for winter use.

I have a memory of my father talking about a “smoke house” on the farm. It was a small building, similar to many yard barns in our community. The smoke house my father referenced had an underground storage area which was used for fruit and vegetables storage.  The upper level of the family smoke house had a small wood stove, providing a source of smoke/low heat for curing and preserving the meat. Fruit and vegetables were harvested by families who were storing items for winter use. An abundance of harvested items provided the opportunity to share with those whose need was great. That sharing could be called the early food pantry.

I remember numerous mason jars of green beans and peaches being in my parent’s home basement and lower level of the smoke house. The basement was cool but not cold enough to freeze, thus helping with the preservation of stored items. General stores were located throughout our community, but families normally did not have money to purchase items, thus the harvest and storage of produce was required for survival. I recall my mother canning green beans on stove, a large pot designed to hold six quart-sized jars at a time.  Mother would always say to listen for the “jars to pop.” Pop meant jars were sealed, ready for storage and future use. Hours and hours of vegetable harvest and preparation for the canning process was required. Parents and children would sit at kitchen table to clean and break green beans into pieces to fill the jars. Mother often said canned or processed fruit and vegetables purchased were the cause of one of our greatest health problems.

Smokey Row Road, west of SR 135, was home to many White River Township families, Smith (Somerset), Brown (Shadow Woods) Newhouse (Woodland Streams) and Grose/Kunz (Cavanaugh), to name a few. The Smokey Row Road naming comments by Indiana Historical Society suggests smoke houses or dense fog a reason for the road naming; I vote for smoke houses. Names references above were longtime farmers and landowners with homes on a one-and-a-half mile stretch of the road. The land is rolling with valley north of Smokey Row Road, a great place for smoke to be visible and remain.

Checking with residents, children and grandchildren of landowners in the area, no one knows how Smokey Row Road obtained its name. Smoke makes sense to me. Please share information of any other potential reasons for road naming; I’m happy to learn history. I’m proud that the community continues to embrace both rural and urban living.

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