Ohio's decision to call itself the "Buckeye State" is a natural choice. The hardy tree with the distinctive seeds used to dot much of the landscape during the colonial acquisition of this territory, and it still does. Adding to the symbolic weight of the name, the Indian word for buckeye nuts,
Colonists began to settle the Northwest Territories in the late 18th century, landing at the first outpost in what is now Marietta, Ohio. One of that city's founders, Ebenezer Sproat, reportedly became known as Hetuck to the natives. Some historians believe this is the first connection of Ohio to the nickname "Buckeye State." Though historians often note that this was due to Sproat's tall stature and popularity with the Indians, it is perhaps important to note that the buckeye tree's other nickname is "fetid buckeye" for the rotting smell it emits when its twigs or leaves are broken, despite all pleasant appearances. Also, the tree's eye-like nuts are toxic to livestock and humans alike.
Just before the Civil War, the "Buckeye State" nickname stuck to the national conscience when presidential candidate William Henry Harrison used the tree for symbolic gain. Harrison, a retired general from the War of 1812, was born in Virginia but settled in Ohio after the war, becoming a U.S. Congressman. On his second run for president in 1940, Harrison countered criticism from incumbent Martin Van Buren that he was too provincial by embracing the image. His supporters used a buckeye log cabin, festooned with strings of distinctive buckeye nuts, to install the candidate as a "log cabin candidate." Harrison became the nation's ninth president, then died on his 32nd day of service from pneumonia. The "Buckeye State" nickname stuck.
The Ohio State University has used the buckeye as its mascot and nickname since 1950. It is also the name of a popular confection. Made by dipping peanut butter fudge into milk chocolate, the chef leaves just a small pale pupil of fudge showing to mimic the buckeye seed's exposed basal scar, said to resemble a "buck's eye."
Though the buckeye tree, or