As the legend goes, the sparsely populated Indiana Territory, before statehood in 1816, bordered on the “Great Unknown”. Whenever an early settler heard noises around his cabin, he knew the sounds could be made by anything from Enemy Indians to Grizzly Bears to Wild Outlaws to Space Aliens. As the nearest neighbor was miles away, he generally picked up his loaded rifle and yelled, “Who's there?” which, through his drawl, was usually incomprehensible and came out as “Whoshier?” So, the Indianans became known as the “Whosier People” or the “Hoosiers”.
There are other tales. Once there was a company of hussars who drew the objections of Kentuckians because of their drinking and rowdiness. Kentuckians came to call any objectionable outsiders “hussars” or Hoosiers. Some think hoosier is derived from the word “hoose,” a disease of calves which causes their hair to stand on end and puts a wild, staring look in their eyes, the same way a man from the Indiana wilderness may have appeared. And then, in 1825, there was said to have been a contractor named Sam Hoosier who preferred Indiana men as laborers on his projects. Hoosier's men became known as Hoosiers. Another claim is that Hoosier came from the old Saxon word “Hoozer” meaning “Hill Dweller,” but no one really knows.
The most believable legend suggests that Hoosier was derived from the question asked at the end of a bloody saloon fight. One of the participants pulled a chunk of skin out of his clenched teeth and asked: “Whose Ear?”
Indiana got its name from the many Indians who came here to live when their lands were taken over by white men.
“Hoosier Hysteria” is basketball. Indiana consists of many small towns with fewer than 100 teenagers but much community pride. Part of that pride is the hope of getting together their able high school boys and sending a basketball team to the State Basketball Tournament. Hoosiers have fought against classification of high schools by size because they know the smallest school in Indiana can go to Indianapolis and beat the largest school. Don't laugh, it's been done. (The movie Hoosiers was based on a real Indiana high school, filmed on location near here.)
For those who insist that Hoosiers are relatively illiterate and intellectually backward, Indiana authors rank second only to New York's in the number of books on best seller lists. Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur, James Whitcomb Riley, who became a millionaire with his poetry, and Kurt Vonnegut are all Hoosiers. Additionally, Reverend Jim “Koolaid” Jones sports an Indiana background.
The state song is On the Banks of the Wabash by Paul Dresser:
Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool,
Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons - nature's school.
Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay.
Through the sycamores the candlelights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.
The state flower is the Peony. The state bird is the Cardinal. The state tree is the Yellow Poplar, also called the Tulip tree. The state motto is “The Crossroads of America.” Indiana ranks first nationally in the harvest of popcorn.
As of Fall 2005, most of Indiana (including Lafayette) is on Eastern Standard Time (New York time). There are few areas Northwest that are in the Central Time Zone (Chicago time). Previously, most of Indiana had not participated in Daylight Savings Time during the summer. That meant when most of the country set their clocks forward or backward an hour for Daylight Savings, Indiana did nothing. Indiana shared time with New York in the winter and shared time with Chicago during the Summer.