It’s become common knowledge around Philomath that the city’s name is derived from two Greek words — “Philos” meaning “love” and “math” meaning “learning.” This reference to Philomath and “love of learning” pops up at special events, public speeches and here at Philomath News is the name of a column that former mayor Eric Niemann writes.
Greater Oregon, an Albany-based newspaper, in 1963 wrote about Philomath’s name: “No community was better named. While the people struggled to clear their lands and scratch livings from the soil, they taught and studied furiously.”
The city got its name from Philomath College, which the United Brethren Church opened in 1867. Today, Philomath has a reputation as a timber town but back in those very early years, life in town particularly revolved around religion, education and agriculture.
There are a couple of other “Philomath” communities in the world — two here in the United States and a college in West Africa.
Philomath is the name of a very small, unincorporated community in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. As you might expect because of the name, the Georgia community also has a strong connection to learning.
Here’s an excerpt from a short history written in the 1970s:
“The name Philomath, which means ‘love of learning,’ was suggested by Alexander H. Stephens, a frequent visitor in the John W. Reed Academy of Oglethorpe County’s Woodstock. Reed Academy was a famous boarding school for boys, and much of the early history of Woodstock, now Philomath, centered around the school.”
Philomath Presbyterian Church was built sometime around 1840 and still stands.
In the Midwest, Philomath sits in Union County near the eastern border of Indiana. The unincorporated community is located within the township of Brownsville. A post office operated at Philomath from 1837 to 1907.
In north-central Nigeria, Philomath University serves as a private learning institution located in what is called the Federal Capital Territory. It plays on the “love of learning” meaning in its marketing.
“Philomath University is, therefore, envisioned to stimulate students with a deep appetite and hunger to learn seamlessly while achieving excellence and top-class performance.”
Here are a few other uses of “Philomath”:
• Philomath was once used as a term to describe an astrologer or prognosticator, according to the definition listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. The term in that usage has become obsolete.
• Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Swift at times both used Philomath as a pen name.
• James Charles Stuart (1566-1615), king of Scotland as James VI and king of England and Ireland as James I, created a character called “Philomathes” in a dissertation.
• The Philomaths was the name of a Polish secret student organization at the Imperial University of Vilnius in Lithuania from 1817-23.
• Various societies in the United States have used the name, including the Philomathean Society at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philomathean Literary Society at Erskine College (South Carolina) and the Philomathean Society at New York University.
• The Philomathean Club, which dates back to the 1890s, is a women’s club in Stockton, California that met at the historic Philomathean Clubhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
So there you go. More than you may want to know about “Philomath.”
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).