Why is Evansville, Indiana called “The Pocket Town?”
Many of us who live in Evansville have done it all our lives, myself included. Chances are that at some point during this time, we’ve heard of our hometown as “The Pocket City.” Have you ever wondered why? Turns out it’s a nickname we’ve had for over 200 years.
City nicknames are quite common. New York has “The Big Apple”. Las Vegas is “Sin City”. Boston is sometimes referred to as “Bean Town”. Our state capital of Indianapolis has two, “The Circle City”, because the original design of the city was modeled after the capital of the United States, and “Nap Town”, in part because the word ” nap” is right in the middle (IndiaNAPolis), and partly because the perception of the city was that it lacked animation. This perception has changed over time, thanks in part to the city’s professional sports teams, the Colts and Pacers.
How Evansville got the nickname “The Pocket City”
I thought maybe we had that name because the state of Indiana looks like a pocket on a pair of pants that would put us down. That kind of makes sense, right? Law?!?! I mean look at it in the context of the image below and tell me that’s not a ridiculous way to look at it.
Turns out our location in the state is why we got the nickname, but not because the state looks like a pants pocket (although now that you see it, you won’t be able to see it anymore sorry, not sorry).
According to author Jacob Platt Dunn who wrote an article titled “Indiana Geographical Nomenclature” which was included in Volume 8 of the Indiana History Magazine in 1912, the name comes from the fact that at that time we were the “big city” (my words, not his) in that part of the state that was called the pocket. So, I was kinda right, wasn’t I?
Although the name is not used as frequently as the others listed below, some local sports teams and a high school conference use it in their name. Examples include Pocket City Basketball, a local youth basketball league, and the Pocket Athletic Conference, which includes North Posey, Gibson Southern, Southridge, Forest Park, and Boonville, among others.
Chances are you’ve heard our city called a lot of things, none of which are official and most of them I won’t repeat here because they’re usually said by people who don’t like not live here for some silly reason or another. However, outside of “Pocket City”, we are often referred to by one of three names.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. A boundary of the entire city is the Ohio River which has been our calling card and an important part of history since the founding of the city in 1812 by Hugh McGary, Jr. who named it after Robert Evans.
This one might not be so obvious, but the Ohio River is also responsible. The place where we sit on the river is shaped like a crescent.
red light city
This one is unofficial, but may be used more than any other by residents and truckers whose routes take them through the city. Since its inception, the joke has always been that there is nothing “express” on the Lloyd Expressway thanks to the number of red lights along the way. However, to be fair, I’m old enough to remember when the Lloyd didn’t exist, and going from the west side of town where I grew up to the east side was an easy 30 minute drive. Now, depending on traffic, you can get from the east side to the west side and back again in about 15 minutes.
No matter what name you give it, the name I like the most for Evansville is “house”.
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Whether you’re in the mood for pulled pork, smoked chicken, smoked sausage, brisket or any other part of a pig, chicken or cow that can be slow cooked and coated in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, you won’t go wrong by stopping at one of these restaurants in southern Indiana or western Kentucky to get your fix.