In 1836, rural Olive Township was formed in western Elkhart County, and in 1849, as the population grew, a post office named Mt. Olive opened. After more population growth, a new village named Salem was established to prevent people from having to travel to either Goshen or Elkhart to conduct business. Since there is already a town named Salem in Indiana, the name was changed to Wakarusa in 1859. The Mt. Olive Post Office was renamed for Wakarusa a year later. The etymology of the name “Wakarusa” is not known. It is thought that that the name Wakarusa is from a native American language, meaning “knee deep in mud”.