It’s been told so many times that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, but it makes for a nice story.
It comes from a 1992 Christmas Eve Broadcast by Paul Harvey:
There were many suggestions, but every time somebody made a suggestion, it was discovered that some other town already had that name. How did the folks find their way to the “nameless town”? Well, people who lived on the gently rolling hillscape of southern Indiana would simply point and say, “Over yonder is the ‘nameless town.’” So that’s exactly what they came to call it until one Friday night, late in 1852, on Christmas Eve.
And this is The Rest of the Story…
The Christmas Eve service had just concluded in the little log church, and everybody was there. [It was] as good a time as any to hold a final town meeting of the year, one citizen decided. As had often been the case through the years of town meetings since the community’s founding, there was only one order of business that night: a name for the “nameless town.”
All were gathered around the pot-bellied, wood-burning stove. The circuit riding preacher, who had just preached the service, was there, too. He was a popular fellow—the Reverend Christian Wyttenbach. So esteemed was this minister that somebody suggested naming the town Wyttenbach, Indiana. But I think it was the reverend himself who respectfully declined; after all he didn’t even live there.
The frustrating discussion continued. Now when I mention “everyone there,” I mean everybody; children–although quiet and not participating–children were included. But then, with a chilly December gust, the door of the church blew open. It was the adults who fell silent and it was the youngsters who suddenly came to life. For beyond the picture-framed doorway was a magical scene of snowflakes winking on black velvet, and the magical sound of sleigh bells.
But whose sleigh might it be? All were present, remember–and nobody else for miles and miles around except…that’s right. And as the children ran to the doorway they excitedly shouted the name that every grownup was thinking, “Santa Claus!” they cried. “It’s Santa Claus!”
Thus one Christmas Eve because of some bells that nobody’s ever been able to trace, the little nameless town received its name: Santa Claus, Indiana; and it is so named to this day. The population no longer numbers in the dozens–there are 2,800 residents now.And in a sense you might say that there are 28-hundred-and-one. For each and every Christmas season, hundreds of thousands of letters arrive in the town’s post office. Letters come from all over the world with but a single name inscribed upon them. The inscriptions are often scrawled in crayon, but the letters are sent in utmost sincerity. Of course, you know what the name is on all those envelopes, and you know why those letters arrive where they do ’cause, well, because you know The Rest of the Story.
The Post Office finally and formally recognized it in 1895, giving it the one and only official post office in the world bearing the name of Santa Claus.”