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Gnaw Bone, Indiana
Gnaw Bone, Indiana.jpg
Brown County's location in Indiana
Brown County's location in Indiana
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Coordinates: 39°11′27″N 86°11′28″W / 39.19083°N 86.19111°W / 39.19083; -86.19111Coordinates: 39°11′27″N 86°11′28″W / 39.19083°N 86.19111°W / 39.19083; -86.19111
Country United States
State Indiana
County Brown
Township Washington
Elevation
643 ft (196 m)
Population
 (2000)
 • Total c. 200
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
47448
Area code(s) 812 & 930
GNIS feature ID 452046

Gnaw Bone is an unincorporated community in Washington Township, Brown County, in the U.S. state of Indiana. Gnaw Bone is situated on State Highway 46, between Nashville and Columbus. The small community contains three flea markets.

Origin of name

The origin of the name Gnaw Bone is obscure. One theory is that the town's name derives from that of the original French settlement in the area, Narbonne, named in turn for the southern French city of that name. To the ears of English settlers at the time, "Narbonne" sounded like and came to be known as "Gnaw Bone." Another story says that many years ago some one was looking for a certain man and was told, "I seed him over at the Hawkins place a' gnawin' on a bone."

Recently a new theory has emerged that challenges the long held views concerning the naming of Gnaw Bone. In 2014, historian Larry Budde stumbled upon a tradition dating back to the 1930s. Budde's work, which relied heavily on historical archives as well as oral traditions, traces the name "Gnaw Bone" back to the great depression. Rural Indiana was hit hard by the drought of the 1930s, and Gnaw Bone was no exception. Budde shows that the name "Gnaw Bone" first appears in town records shortly after well known musician and side show performer Robert Gee visited the area. In reference to the conditions in the area, Gee was quoted by the local newspaper as saying "they ain't nuddin' here; how dis people stayin' alive without any more than a bone to gnaw?" The phrase "bone to gnaw" quickly became a popular expression of the poverty and angst faced by many in the rural community. Eventually the phrase "a gnaw bone" was used to describe any impoverished area, and was adopted by Gnaw Bone to commemorate the hardships they faced throughout the great depression.

Gnaw Bone has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.

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