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by Luke Warm

"Texas is one of those rare state names that goes with anything."
- John Fergus Ryan

Bonnie & Clyde, Jeckyll & Hyde. Some things just sound better together. Fred & Ginger, Laurel & Hardy, Burns & Allen, Ben and Jerry and Jasper & Newton.

Jasper can mean a petty scoundrel. As in: "Dagnabit! That ornery Jasper stole mah spurs!" As for Newton, you got Sir Isaac, you got Newton Boys, and you got Huey, Wayne and Figs Newton.

In Texas, Jasper and Newton Counties lean their elongated shapes up against one another a little like New Hampshire and Vermont. The difference is J&N's dividing line runs straight up and down, not diagonal.

The namesakes for Jasper and Newton are two American Revolutionary War soldiers who were both from South Carolina. Both served under Major Francis Marion, AKA "The Swamp Fox". Marion has had his own share of counties named after him, including the one that Jefferson, Texas is in.

Ironically, although there are eight counties named after each of these men, South Carolina has a Jasper, but no Newton County.

Sgt. John Newton is remembered for saving several patriots from execution when he made prisoners of their British Guards. William Jasper, also a Sergeant, must've done something worthy, but we don't know what*. Perhaps one of our all-knowing readers will tell us.

Bob Bowman of Lufkin says that Newton was a Corporal, and Bob Bowman is right. Corporal Newton received a promotion - much like Sergeant Alvin York, of WWI. Few remember that he was actually Corporal York at the time of his action.

Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas' Jaspers and Newtons are all joined at county lines. Iowa has no Newton County - but the town of Newton is the county seat of Jasper County (see Mr. Richard Sawyer's letter below). Mississippi's arrangement has Newton directly North of Jasper and both are square as Pi. But just to throw a wrench in the works, our source* states that Mississippi's Newton is named after Sir Isaac, not Sgt. John. How could this be?

In Indiana, Newton and Jasper are again side-by-side and as they are in Texas, both have an elongated shape. The only difference is that Newton is on the left here.

Texas' Jasper predates Texas Independence, and Newton County was carved from Jasper's territory in 1846. The town of Jasper, Arkansas is in Newton County, however this Newton is named after neither Sgt. John nor Sir Isaac, but (supposedly) an Arkansas legislator.

If you've read this far, you're probably one of those people fascinated by names. If that is the case, we're including a list of the more repeated county names across the country.
  • There are 8 counties named Orange. Except for California, Florida and Texas, the others are in the North.
  • There are 11 counties named Fayette.
  • There are 18 counties named Montgomery.
  • There are 15 named Grant (mostly in the North), 12 named Lee (all in the South), 14 Johnsons, 12 Polks, and 10 Hancocks. Franklin and Jefferson are tied. Both have 25 counties and 1 parish named after them. Washington has the most with 30 counties and 1 parish named after him.
There is a Texas County in Oklahoma (in the center of the three Oklahoma Panhandle counties), and one in Mississippi. Missouri has a Texas County with Houston as its county seat. The only Maverick County in the entire U.S. is in Texas, while Maui County is found only in Hawaii.

"God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world."

John Troesser
*Our source is the 1997 Edition of Counties, U.S.A.

See Texas Counties »

Readers' Forum
  • Subject: Jasper and Newton

    Dear Texas Escapes, I was reading your article about Jasper and Newton Counties in Texas. I am from Jasper County, Indiana. We also have a Newton County on our western border in Indiana. Our county seat of Rensselaer was originally called Newton before a name change in the 1860's. Newton County and Jasper County were part of a large land area in Indiana, and in the 1830's it was divided into Jasper, Newton and Benton Counties.

    Responding to your inquiry about the history of the men Jasper and Newton, and how the honoring of the two came about, I would like to share the following. It gives quite a story on how they handled themselves in the Revolutionary War, and how they came to be honored by the naming of the numerous counties. The following is paraphrased from "A History of Warren, Benton, Jasper and Newton Counties, in Indiana" published in 1883:

    As you know, the two were part of the group of soldiers called "Marion's Men." The story states that Sergeant Newton was a compatriot of Jasper and the two were often involved in "deeds of daring". One of these occasions is described in a story that states that the two were visiting Jasper's brother, who had decided to remain loyal to the British. Jasper and his brother were still family and on good terms, so Jasper decided to secretly visit him in the British encampment. If caught, the two would surely be shot.

    While on this secret visit to Jasper's brother, the men learned that some American patriots were being transferred to Savannah. These prisoners had deserted from the British and their fate would surely be death. Jasper was moved by the fact that the wife and children of one of the prisoners was accompanying the group. Jasper and Newton decided to ambush the British soldiers and free the patriots before the detachment reached Savannah.

    Just before arriving at Savannah, the group stopped to rest and Jasper and Newton attacked, killing two guards and running off the remaining of British soldiers. The patriots were freed. The two men were deemed heroes and their names have been listed on adjacent Counties in many States in honor of their achievements.

    The story behind the two has always intrigued me as well. I know of many people who have wondered about the many twin counties almost always found side by side, and at least one of the towns in those counties being named for Jasper or Newton. By the way, coincidentally or not, we have a Marion Township in our County, which is the site of our county seat, Rensselaer (formerly Newton), and to the west of Marion Township is Newton Township.

    I hope this information sheds a little more light on the subject.
    - Michael G. Kingman, R.L.S.
    Jasper County [Indiana] Land Surveying Services,
    May 26, 2007

  • Jasper and Newton

    I came across your item on Jasper and Newton Counties and the guys after whom they are named while I was searching for similar information about Jasper and Newton Counties in Mississippi and the frequent pairing of the two names elsewhere. You imply that there is a Newton County in Iowa, which there is not. The city of Newton, where I taught for seven years, is the seat of Jasper County. The same holds true in Illinois.

    People in Newton, Iowa, suffer from an urban legend about the names. I was told, and for several years I repeated, that Jasper and Newton were a pair of surveyors who named places after themselves across the Midwest. I got suspicious only when I passed through Newton and Jasper Counties in Mississippi recently (while on Katrina duty with the Red Cross). Surely the same guys whose names are plastered across Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa did not also survey Mississippi. Your site gave me the story of the Revolutionary soldiers, which I confirmed at other sites including a history of Jasper County, Iowa.

    I am trained as a historian of science. My colleagues in that discipline naturally think first of Sir Isaac when they hear of my association with Newton. Until now, I have been giving them one misconception to replace another. I haven't yet learned where the surveyor story came from, but I'm trying. - Richard C. Sawyer, Keomah Village (not in Jasper County), Iowa, October 25, 2005

  • *JASPER, William. c.1750-1779.
    Rev. hero. S.C. Of obscure parentage, but apparently from the vicinity of Georgetown, S. C., he enlisted on 7 July '75 in Francis Marion's Co. for service in Wm. Moultrie's Regt. During the defense of Charleston in 1776 he braved enemy artillery to replace the flag that had been shot from the parapet of Ft. Sullivan (later Ft. Moultrie). Given a sword by Gov. Rutledge, he declined a commission on the ground of being ignorant. As a roving scout under Moultrie, Marion and Lincoln, successively, he gathered valuable information of British activities. He was killed while planting the colors of the 2nd S.C. on the Spring Hill redoubt in the assault on Savannah, 9 Oct. '79. An impressive monument has been erected at Savannah in his honor, and one of the redoubts at Ft. Moultrie was named "Jasper Battery." (James W. Patton in Dictionary of American Biography, quoted in Boatner's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.)

    I have found that it is much easier to find information on Sgt. Jasper than it is on Sgt. John Newton. - Regards, R. Keith Young Fairfax, VA

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  • Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.


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