ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) - Residents of St. John have won a long battle to change the town’s name to its original spelling.
The U.S. Board of Geographic Names this month agreed to change the spelling of the small Stafford County town from Saint John to St. John, except for churches.
The town was established in 1874 and changed its name to St. John in 1879 to honor John Pearce St. John, the eighth governor of Kansas, and because the county seat was moved there.
The St. John spelling remained until the 1970s, when the U.S. Postal Service began spelling out Saint John while transitioning to computers that did not have punctuation, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1DT8hrp ). That meant anyone looking for the town through a government agency, computer page or Google map had to look for Saint John.
Last year, St. John High School alumni began petitioning to change the town’s USPS listing to the abbreviated spelling, which the agency did quickly. But the U.S. Board on Geographic Names declined to follow suit until it met in early July.
According to a letter sent to Gary Meyer, who was among those pushing for the change, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names agreed to use the abbreviated spelling on cultural and civic divisions, such as the City of St. John, St. John City Hall and the Post Office. However, it refused to change the names of St. John’s churches.
“This decision was made because the board believed the churches were more likely named for Saint John and not for Governor St. John,” the letter said.
Meyer, a 1986 graduate of St. John High School, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the decision was “pretty cool.”
“The No. 1 rule of courtesy or manners is to call people what they want to be called,” Meyer said. “That’s why this matters.”
Jim Ronen, whose family roots stretch back to the county’s formation, said he’s been bothered by the incorrect spelling for at least a decade.
“Some people may not have given a toot but I do,” Ronen said. “I have always been from St. John, and it feels good that at least the higher-ups have said this is St. John.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com
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