Lathrop Miner Taylor and the three streets that carry his name

I’ve always been fascinated with Lathrop Street, ever since my earliest school buses hurtled down that road, and especially since I learned the history of the man who the road is named after. It’s a curiosity that’s not rooted in the story of the man himself, although it certainly could be. Instead, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the road carries Taylor’s first name instead of his last.

Aaron Helman

You expect a neat grid of South Bend streets with names like Washington, Lincoln and LaSalle. You’d be thrown if they were instead named George, Abe and Bob. Until I learned about Wilber Street, I couldn’t think of another roadway that took a man’s first name instead of his last. Turns out it might not be as rare as I thought, and by the end of this article, we’ll discover a third for the collection.

In my first book, An Incomplete History of St. Joseph County, Indiana, I even took care to note the curiosity of the Lathrop Street’s strange nomenclature; but it’s not until now that I’ve been able to explain it. Turns out there’s a reasonable and fascinating reason for all of it.

Lathrop Miner Taylor came to South Bend in 1827 as a trading agent of the American Fur Company. He came to find profit and make money. It’s not known if he originally intended to build a town.

But that’s exactly what he did. Along with Alexis Coquillard, Taylor is considered one of the co-founders and co-fathers of South Bend. He was a successful trader, a successful businessman, an early South Bend dignitary and the first postmaster in the new town. But despite all of that, he wasn’t nearly the most famous Taylor or the one most commonly mentioned in the newspapers.

That honor belonged to General Zachary Taylor, a household name renowned for his military exploits in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. For a while there, he was probably the most famous American outside of the president, at least until 1848 when Taylor won the presidency for himself despite his lack of political experience, and indeed, his lack of political conviction. By then, he’d already had a road named after him in the young city of South Bend. The original Taylor Street was named Gen. Taylor Street and at one point in time, it described the westernmost edge of the westside of South Bend. 

Taylor’s presidency was a short one, and barely a year into his term, Taylor became the second American president to die in office. The popular story ascribes his cause of death to eating too many cherries at an Independence Day celebration, and it’s no doubt a tragedy, but what a way to go.

Zachary Taylor’s abbreviated presidency is not considered successful by most political historians, and he is one of the only presidents to be more famous in the eyes of his contemporaries for something other than his presidency. South Bend and its newspapers would would continue to refer to South Bend’s Taylor Street as Gen. Taylor Street even after he attained that highest office and for at least 30 years after the man’s death:

South Bend Tribune; August 22, 1877. It was a different time.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Father Sorin had built neighborhoods and homes for the largely Irish population that was coming into South Bend to construct and reconstruct the University of Notre Dame. Proud Catholic names like Campeau, St. Peter and St. Louis dot the roads of the neighborhoods immediately southeast of the university because it was the Catholics who put the roads there.

But by the late 1800s, the prime real estate near campus was seized on by developers and real estate agents the same way that it has been all over again in the last twenty years. Miner Listenberger was among the first investors to get his hands on property that had once been earmarked by Father Sorin himself, carving a subdivision all his own and building a road between Sorin and Cedar streets to service his development.

Given that his last name was such a mouthful, it made more sense to just call the thing Miner Street, and given his status in the city, it made just as much sense that the man should have a road named after him. After all, Listenberger was important enough to become a regular figure in the papers even when he wasn’t doing anything newsworthy:

Clipping from The South Bend Weekly Tribune; June 22, 1872.

Clipping from The South Bend Tribue; October 26, 1880.

More than a century after Lathrop Miner Taylor helped to found South Bend, leaders within the city decided that he was worthy of the honor of a road name. As they set to carve a new path off of Portage Road, south of the cemeteries, along the portage path that delivered Taylor to South Bend in the first place, they knew that South Bend’s other founding father was deserving of the honor.

The only problem was that their city already had a Taylor Street and a Miner Street too, for that matter. Fortunately for them, Mr. Taylor had a unique and untaken first name. Today’s Lathrop Street connects Portage to Bendix and the backend of the airport.

Lathrop Miner Taylor died in 1892 and is buried in the City Cemetery.

Aaron Helman is an author, historian and adventurer from South Bend. He is a proud graduate of LaSalle High School. His books are available at