Monday, May 13, 2013


Wow, looks like Nevada might be another Nebraska.  Just not a lot of funny-town-name action going on here.

Unlike Nebraska, though, Nevada may have a legitimate excuse.  Apart from Las Vegas, there just aren’t a whole lot of people in this state (less than a million outside Sin City).  And you need people to create a town.  Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

So, Nevada, I’m cutting you a break.  But only this once.

10. Scotty’s Junction *

This one’s not that crazy, but it does have a really great story.   

The town started as a depot for the building of Scotty’s Castle, a millionaire’s mansion now part of Death Valley National Park.  Interestingly, Scotty was not the millionaire.  Instead, he was a prospector, con man, and major-league character that the millionaire – Chicago insurance magnet Albert Johnson – took to in a very big way. 

Today, the town has 11 people, and includes two businesses, a truckstop/campground, and a brothel (The Shady Lady).

Y'all come!

9. Stagecoach

Named after the John Ford Western of 1938, this town is a wonderful example of life imitating art.  Not.

I’m afraid it’s a lot more prosaic than that.  Unsurprisingly, this burg started out as a stop on the Overland Stagecoach Line (as well as the Pony Express). 

Stagecoach is just east of Carson City on Route 50.   It’s got a little over 1,800 people.  Beyond that, it sounds pretty darn boring.  I’d say about 90% of the results on Google Images for this place are small houses, trailers, or lots for sale.

Like this one here
(So, when can I move in?)

8. Lovelock

Now, does this have anything to do with the Shady Lady?

Unfortunately, it does not.  It does have everything to do, however, with one George Lovelock, an early settler.  If you’re wondering where the heck that name comes from, it was actually not an uncommon one for a Middle Age dandy who cared a lot about his hair.  I kid you not.

What started out as a lush spot along the Humboldt Trail, then a station on the Southern Pacific, eventually became the metropolis of 2,000 that it is day.  In addition to being the county seat of Pershing County, Lovelock also boasts a major prison, one which once housed O.J. Simpson.   
Lovelock also includes this cryptic comment on its municipal website:

The City Of Lovelock, known as the “Banana Belt”, was established in 1868 …

I found several links that said much the same, but without any ever explaining what the heck that means.

Lovelock’s in the northwest part of Nevada, by the way – which looks pretty darn empty to me.

Cool old gas station along Route 40

7. Winnemucca

This is funny enough in itself, but it’s even better in translation.  Turns out the town was named after one Chief Winnamucca, whose name means “one moccasin.”  So, was he known for forgetting to put the other one on?  “Hey, uh, Chief.  You, uh, forgot your moccasin [again].”  Not what I personally associate with really inspired leadership, but hey …

Winnemucca is actually pretty big time.  It has over 7,000 Winnemuccans and is also the county seat of Humboldt County.  It’s in the northwest part of Nevada, which doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot else (see Lovelock, above), so I guess you could consider it the capital of that part of the state as well.

Local industries include mining, gaming, prostitution, and manning the many hotels and restaurants along I-80.  That last one is particularly important, as it’s 350 miles to anything going east and 165 to anything going west.

Ever on the lookout for those elusive tourists, Winnemucca has used many slogans over the years, including “Proud of It,” “Chukar Capital of the U.S.,” and “City of Paved Streets” – none of which I am making up.  Events to draw in said  tourists include a Mule Show, a Basque Festival, and the Run-a-Mucca Motorcycle Rally.

I’m a complete sucker for old postcards
(note Corvair and extremely demure bikini)

6. Steamboat

I do not associate Nevada with water, let alone with steamboats.

Well, the map shows me that this place is south of Carson City, and in very near proximity to Steamboat Springs as well as Steamboat Creek.  My guess is that the vents, fumaroles , and geysers around the hot springs let off their steam in much the same way that a steamboat might.  It’s how Steamboat Springs, CO got its name, after all.

Legend has it that none other than Mark Twain was the one who gave the Nevada springs their name.  Other famous visitors include Ulysses S. Grant, Jack Dempsey, and Man o’ War.  The spa is still there today, but the suburbs of Carson City seem to be fast encroaching. 

I have no idea who or what Borasca is
(last paragraph)

5. Deeth

A typo for “teeth”?  Misspelling of “death”?  I must know!

Well, you’ve got your choice of two stories with this one:

  • The first does indeed relate to death.  The story goes that travelers without enough water would certainly meet their death in this inhospitable region (the northeast part of the state).  How we got from “death” to “deeth,” though, isn’t quite as clear.
  • The second is that the town was named after an early settler named Deeth.

My money is on the boring one.  Deeth is, in fact, a not totally unheard of surname.  The boring explanation for the surname is that it comes from an Old English word for tinder, dytha, and signifies someone who gathered it for a living.  Interestingly, the name is sometimes spelled “Death” (but still pronounced “deeth”).

This near ghost town has 20-some flesh-and-blood inhabitants (though it had 250 at its height).   
Sounds like there are a bunch of dude (and real) ranches nearby

4. Searchlight

Okay, we’ve got three tall tales for this one:

  • A prospector who once said, “You’d need a searchlight to find gold here.”
  • A brand of matches
  • Searchlights used to guide miners to the brothels in town
  • A guy named Floyd Searchlight (???)

Yeah, sure.  Whatever.

This small town of 500 is just south of Las Vegas.  Historically, there were boom periods for gold and silver mining and for the Hoover Dam.  It has one famous son, Senator Harry Reid, and a couple of famous former residents, including Clara Bow and Edith Head.

Tea Party members express their severe psychological problems
First Amendment rights in Searchlight

3. Weed Heights

Formerly Heights of Weed, the town’s name was changed when the Chamber of Commerce types got tired of all the stoners that seemed to be attracted to the place.

Seriously, this place was actually created and named by the Anaconda Copper Company.  What kind of employees they were trying to attract, though, when they called it something like “Weed Heights” is not entirely clear to me.

Well, wouldn’t you know …  As it turns out, it just so happens that one Clyde E. Weed was the mine manager.  Poor schmuck.  Poor townsfolk. 

This one’s just east of Carson City.  Now that the mine’s closed, it’s almost a ghost town.  There is a nice view of the very blue water that filled the old pit (and is now an EPA Superfund site!).

As well as a rather surrealistic
miniature golf course

2. Pahrump *

Sounds like something some 19th Century prospector might have said when his diggings revealed nothing.  You know …  Pshaw!  Hurrumph!  Fiddlesticks!  Pahrump! 

Well, believe it or not, it actually could have been worse.  The name is from the Indian pah-rimpi, which means “water rock.”  Pahrimpi, Pahrump … Pahrimpi, Pahrump …  Ah, heck, it’s a toss-up.

Pahrump is just west of Lost Wages, with Mt. Charleston separating the two.  It’s actually got 36,000 inhabitants, and boasts casinos, racetracks, wineries, and more of those completely legal brothels that Nevada is famous for (including the well-known Chicken Ranch).

Come again?

1. Duckwater

It’s a great name, but I couldn’t find anything on where it came from.  My guess is its something super simple, like a small body of water that attracted ducks at one time.

Duckwater the town is in the east central part of the state, in the middle of absolute nowhere.  It’s actually on an Indian reservation, the Duckwater Indian Reservation, where the Duckwater Shoshone tribe hang out.  It doesn’t look like there’s a heck of a whole lot going on there.

So, where are all the ducks?

* - author has visited

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Mountain City, Stateline, Centerville
  • Short & sweet – Schurz, Vya, Roc
  • Just a little out of place – Boulder City, Sun Valley, Austin, Alamo, Dayton, Manhattan, Virginia City, Charleston, Genoa, Golconda, Mercury
  • Numerically oriented – Thousand Springs
  • Native American mouthfuls – Owyhee, Beowawe, Wabuska
  • Atypical adjectives – Ursine
  • Unconventional verbs – Contact
  • Abnormal nouns – Tunnel, Empire, Mogul, Sparks, Sulphur, Jackpot, Pinenut
  • Fun to say – Gabbs, Jiggs, Jarbidge (“devil,” in Shoshone), Elko, Jungo, Denio
  • Just plain weird – Goodsprings, Skyland, Battle Mountain, Blue Diamond, Red House, Bunkerville, Sodaville, Peavine, Dinner Station
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Ruth, Arthur, Milton, Verdi, Nixon
  • Ghost towns – hold on.  There are so many of these I’m giving them their own post.  Tune in next week.

1 comment:

  1. There is also Ely Wich is pronounced EEL-e
    Virgina city got it name from a old drunk prospector that fell in the middle of the street broke his bottle and said I Christen the town Virgina city. He was from Virgina.