On Feb. 10, 1988, Gov. Richard F. Celeste signed Ohio House Bill 312, making the white-tailed deer the state animal.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. EJ Thomas at the suggestion of Cheryl Phillips' fourth-grade class at Worthington Estates Elementary School in Worthington, Ohio. The students selected the white-tailed deer because it fit well with another Ohio symbol - the buckeye tree.
The Native American word for the seed of the buckeye tree was "hetuck," which means "eye of the buck."
Not only is the buckeye tree the official state tree, but it lends Ohio its nickname - the Buckeye State. In 1788 - before Ohio became a state - Col. Ebenezer Sproat led a delegation to the first court session of the Northwest Territory in Marietta - the first Ohio capital. When the local Indians spotted him, they shouted, "Hetuck! Hetuck!" Sproat (who was 6'4") was thereafter known as "Big Buck."
By the 1830s the nickname "Buckeye" was used locally to refer to all Ohioans. William Henry Harrison further linked Ohioans and buckeyes when he used the buckeye tree as a campaign symbol in this 1840 presidential campaign.
-- Rebecca Goodman
Ohio Moments will appear here daily during 2003. Have a suggestion? Contact Rebecca Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 768-8361.
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