Sunday, May 04, 2003

Sinnissippi blog.

While we were in the Coronado Theatre, Yuriko was in the meantime in Rockford’s Riverfront Park with Ann, who had had limited experience with flawlessly warm days… for her whole life, actually. Temps were well above 70° F, the sun a friendly yellow ball. After the show was over, Lilly and I meandered over to the riverfront, and eventually linked up with Yuriko and Ann.

We drove a short ways north of downtown, looking for a more expansive park at which to finish off the afternoon. We found it on the other (west) bank of the Rock River, at the Sinnissippi Gardens and Park, which had a greenhouse that was already closed, and some gardens that were barely planted, but some benches to sit on and a lagoon with little rocks nearby — the kind Lilly enjoys heaving into the water.

By and by we wandered away from the gardens to an adjoining walking/bicycling path, appointed with greenery and benches, that parallels the Rock River. Rockford was out in force for the day, walking, jogging and bicycling along the path, but it wasn’t as crowded as the path in Chicago that runs along Lake Michigan. That was good, since it meant fewer of the kind of bicyclists who consider pedestrians as insubstantial as shades in Hades, meaning they can sail right through them.

We wandered northward on the path, away from Sinnissippi Gardens, going as far as an ice cream stand. It was good to have my feet back. Though I still had a minor limp and some muscle aches in the formerly broken ankle, last Sunday along the Rock River I was walking for pleasure once again. (Today, a week later, the aches are almost completely gone.)

I wouldn’t be much of an editor if I didn’t have an enduring fascination with words, and that includes place-names. Sinnissippi naturally got my attention. So like Mississippi, but that lead sibilant smooths off the first syllable. The curves of the S, you’d think, might be more fitting for that famous old river, bending and twisting as it does.

When I was able, I fed the name Sinnissippi into Google, the marvel of our age, and before long found an essay about the name Sinnissippi in a publication called “The Voice,” which sounds like something a cult aiming at respectability might produce, but in fact it’s put out by the Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce. Which isn’t really a recommendation, since C of C publications have a way of being flaccid.

But the article was interesting. An obscure subject in an obscure publication: right up my alley. The essay was called “Rediscovering our region’s name of Sinnissippi.” A CPA named Dan G. Loescher had written it for the October 2002 issue of “The Voice.”

“Our region (the five-county territory of Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson and Ogle in Illinois and Rock in Wisconsin) may well be described as the Sinnissippi watershed,” Loescher begins.

“The Sinnissippi (Rock River) originates in Wisconsin near the Horicon Marsh in Dodge County, widens into a lake, flows in a southwesterly direction through Rock County, weaves through Illinois, and eventually deposits into the Mississippi River at a point just below Rock Island, Ill.

“The name Sinnissippi derives from ‘Assini-sippi,’ meaning ‘Rock River’ in the language of the Sauk and Fox tribes… The river was also called the Rock River by the early Illinois tribes, the Potawatomi and the Winnebago…

“Sinnissippi has been spelled ‘Assenisipi,’ ‘Ossinisipi’ and ‘Sensepe.’ The Sinnissippi name is commonly used throughout our five-county region even to this day in various organizations, such as the Sinnissippi Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Rock County; or in our parks, such as Sinnissippi Park in Rockford; and in our businesses, such as Sinnissippi Forest tree farm in Oregon, Ill.

Historically, a strong case can be made for the precedent in calling our region ‘Sinnissippi.’ Maybe our biggest challenge is in learning how to spell ‘Sinnissippi.’ Just think 'M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i.' ”

I’m just an interested outsider, but I think Mr. Loescher doesn’t go quite far enough. “Rockford” isn’t a bad name, but it’s a little pedestrian. Sinnissippi, on the other hand…


Post a Comment

<< Home