Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oklahoma, A-K

Oklahoma is OK, huh?  Well, were you aware that Arkansas is the Land of Opportunity, and New Mexico the Land of Enchantment?  You’ve also got your Gem State (Idaho) and Golden State (California) and Empire State (New York) as well.  So, what do you think, Oklahoma?  Do you think you could you raise your game just a little bit here?

Well, at least they’ve got their fair share of crazily named towns.  I had to break this post in two.  This week, A to K.  Next week, L to Z.
10. Gene Autry

This town of 100 in the south central part of the state was named for famous singer and Western movie star Tom Mix. 

Tom bought a ranch nearby in 1939.  The locals changed the name of their town, Berwyn, to honor him a couple of years later.  Interestingly, the town had previously been called Lou and also Dresden.  Here's hoping these folks have finally settled down.
And, yes, there is a museum!

Tom, wife Dale, and horse Silver
(not necessarily in that order)
9. Chilocco

I think I just like saying this one (though chances are pretty good I’m pronouncing it incorrectly).

It’s from the Muskogee (Creek) and means “big deer.”  And that’s – interestingly – the phrase they used for “horse.”
Chilocco the town is north of Oklahoma City, right on the border with Kansas.  It’s the site of a famous Indian boarding school, which closed in 1980.  Today, we have the Seven Clans Travel Plaza and Lil' Bit of Paradise Casino instead – and not much else, to tell you the truth.

Chilocco Agricultural Indian School basketball team, 1909
(and, yes, those are swastikas)

8. Bluejacket

Personally, I would much prefer Blueblazer … But, hey, who asked me?

The name comes from one Charles Bluejacket, Shawnee chief and first postmaster.
The town is in the far northeast of the state, and has 340 people.  Owen Cash, founder of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA for short) is a native son.

Hustler Bible Class?!?! Am I missing something?

7. Broken Bow / Broken Arrow

Would you kids stop touching everything!  Put that down!  Right now!

Broken Bow is named after Broken Bow, KS, where the town’s founders were from.  The OK version is in the far southeast corner of its state, and has 4,100 people.  It’s the nearest town to the wonderfully named Beaver Bend State Park.  The local high school team goes by the extremely politically incorrect nickname of the Savages.
Broken Arrow is named after a Creek community in Alabama.  BA is big time.  With about 100,000 people, it’s the fourth largest city in OK and the 27th largest city in the US.  It’s still basically a suburb of Tulsa though.  It dates back only to 1902, and had a mere 11,000 just back in 1970.  Kristen Chenoweth was born here.

Someone carved that
6. Cement

Cement factory?  Nearby clay mines?  We may never know.

I do know, though, that it’s a lot better than what the Comanche called it, Toyanarimii.  In case your Comanche’s a little rusty, that means "rock town."
This diminutive burg of 530 is in the southwest part of Oklahoma, in the wonderfully named Keechi Hills.  In Wild West days, it was known as an outlaw hangout. 

Google results include some wonderful combinations, such as the Cement Bulldogs (the local high school team), Cement News, Cement Weather, Cement Car Insurance, Cement Counselors, Cement Jobs, Cement Municipal Court, and Cement Houses for Sale.
Good name for a band

5. Corn

So, you think they grow corn around here?

Actually, this place was originally called Korn.  So I’m guessing it was really named after the band. 
Seriously, Korn is a German surname, literally means “grain,” and was typically given to someone who worked as a grain merchant.  So, this oddly named place may actually really have been named after some guy.  Alternatively, maybe some Germans just grew grain around here.

Corn and Cement are actually rather alike.  The towns, I mean.  They’re both in the same part of OK, and Corn’s got about 500 people to Cement’s 530.  There are also plenty of odd Google links for “Corn OK” as well – though my favorite is probably the “related search,” “Is corn OK for dogs?” 
There’s actually a fair amount of history in Corn.  It was settled by German Mennonites who brought over the wheat variety called Turkey Red (the primary winter wheat strain in the US).  It was also the site of the first tornado recorded on film.
Not every city can fit their educational and
government districts in the same building, you know

4. Frogville

So, you think they got a lotta frogs around here?

As a matter of fact, they do!  Wikiepedia says that the place “was named for the abundance of frogs in the area said to be so large they ate young ducks.” 
It’s in the southeast part of the state.  I spot a crossroads, some farms, and a cemetery – all a little north of the Red River.

I wasn’t able to find much on the town, though I did find a review for a play called So My Son Married His Boyfriend in Frogville Oklahoma. 
Scarily, this is the town’s main attraction
3. Battiest

adj. bat·ti·er, bat·ti·est. Slang. Crazy; insane. [From “bats in the belfry”].

It’s actually from the honorable Byington Battiest, a Choctaw judge.  Further, my guess is it’s pronounced with just two syllables – like “ba-teest.”
That’s actually too bad, because pronouncing it like the adjective gives us such beauties as Battiest Rd., Battiest High School (home of the Battiest Panthers), the Battiest Cemetery, and the Battiest Burger Barn.

However it may be pronounced, it’s got 250 people and is in the southeast part of the state (not that far from Beaver Bend State Park, by the way). 
It’s the battiest!
2. Bowlegs

No, this town’s name is not a celebration of the medical condition known as genu varum.  It’s named after somebody with the last name of Bowlegs.  There’s a little controversy about who that might actually be:
  • Billy Bowlegs, a famous Seminole chief
  • Lulu Bowlegs, his descendent, on whose land oil was discovered here
  • David Bowlegs, who got murdered here

Bowlegs the town has about 370 people.  Wikipedia says it’s a bedroom community, but it appears to be in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest city (Oklahoma City) more than an hour away.
Must make it hard to kick the ball

1. Gay / Straight

Take your pick. 

Well, it looks like I could definitely find some Straight Oklahomans.  I’m not so sure about the Gay ones though. Here, let me explain ...
A search on “Straight OK” does point to a place on Mapquest.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing there other than some big crop circles.  It is just to the west of the equally iffy town of Mouser.  A little further east, though, is the wonderfully named – and very alive and well – Hooker.

As for “Gay OK” …  Well, I did get plenty of hits.  They just weren’t what I was expecting.
Miss Gay Oklahoma,
Claire Voyance

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Green Pasture, Grove (world’s largest fishing pole), Countyline, Centralia, Center
  • Short and sweet – Dow, Fay, Jay, Joy, Ada, Eva, Eucha, Enid, Eram, Gans, Foss, Babbs, Box, Bee, Kaw
  • Just a little out of place – Kansas, Camp Houston, Fargo, Canton, Cleveland, Albany, Dover, Chattanooga, Helena, Cheyenne, Billings, Boise City, El Reno, Burbank, Berlin, Kremlin, Cairo, Delhi, Bengal
  • Just a little off-color – Hooker, Beaver (Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World), Cox City
  • Numerically oriented – Four Corners, Carter Nine
  • Orthographically challenged – Cogar, Chewey, Grainola, Bacone, Brooken
  • Atypical adjectives – Hardy, Blue, Brown, Golden, Gray, Cloudy, Canadian, Jumbo, Hollow, Greasy, Kenefic
  • Abnormal nouns – Friendship, Fame, Enterprise, Colony, Cache, Driftwood, Daisy, Apple, Antlers, Buffalo, Bison, Elk City (National Route 66 Museum), Gray Horse, Herd, Kingfisher, Carrier, Blocker, Bunch, Bromide, Bushyhead, Hominy, Hydro, Happyland, Jet, Jester
  • Unconventional verbs – Felt, Bond, Bray
  • Fun to say – Harjo, Depew, Felker, Krebs, Eakly, Andarko, Eufaula, Inola, Binger, Belzoni
  • Homa, homa, homa – Indiahoma, Centrahoma
  • Just plain weird – Ft. Supply, Empire City, Dill City, Big Cabin, Burns Flat, Cloud Chief, Jollyville, Hockerville, Cookietown, Hicks Addition
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Katie, Gerty, Bessie, Bernice (formerly Needmore), Idabell, Amber, Krystal, Hugo (Circus Town USA), Homer, Calvin, Canute, Geronimo, Cleo Springs, Devo
  • Ghost towns – Acme, Grand, Gate, Eddy, Bathsheba, Indianapolis, Hext, Hochatown, America, Creek Agency, Cheek, Karma, Beer City

Monday, August 19, 2013

Southern Ohio

Well, if this informal little survey means anything, I think people in southern Ohio are definitely weirder than those in the northern part of the state.  It’s not real scientific, mind you, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that based on the top three Southern Ohio names alone – Twightwee, Fleatown, and Knockemstiff.  Read on!

10. Kitchen

Well, the only room in the house more important than the kitchen is probably the bathroom.  Funny, though, there don’t seem to be any towns called Bathroom, OH out there.

This has to be from a surname.  And that surname basically denotes some long ago ancestor who worked in or managed a kitchen.

Not a whole lot on this one.  Apart from all the links to people who want to remodel my kitchen, serve me dinner, or provide me with a free bowl of soup before I head over to the homeless shelter, that is.

I do know, though, that it’s in the far south of Ohio, not too far from the junction with West Virginia and Kentucky.

By the way, there is also a Range OH as well.

VP candidate Paul Ryan washes some
already clean dishes in a soup kitchen
somewhere in Ohio

9. Socialville

What a friendly place!  Look at all these interesting links I could find on it:
  • Meet Socialville Ohio Single men - Free Online Dating Site
  • Meet Socialville Ohio Senior dating - Free Online Dating Site
  • free adult dating socialville ohio
  • Sex Dating Sites In Socialville Ohio
These super-friendly folks live in the northwest Cincinnati suburbs.  Couldn’t find much else on this place though.  I figure it’s one of those once-rural crossroads that’s been totally taken over by cul-de-sac land.

It is famous for its dual water towers however

8. Revenge

Would you believe this one came about from some competition between a couple of shopkeepers?  How lame.  I was hoping this would be a lot more bloodthirsty.  Kinda boring, if you ask me.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot left of this crossroads southwest of Columbus.  I did find two pages devoted to it though (probably because of the great name):
That second link is actually a book review.  Yup, there is a book out there that just so happens to be set in Revenge: Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio, by Lisa Harris.  Here’s a description:

The only thing worse than being a spinster is being a twice-jilted spinster. At twenty-five, Catherine Morgan is hardly an old maid, but she’s given up on marriage and instead manages the family’s general store in the small town of Revenge, Ohio. Bound by a promise to care for her three sisters until they marry, she’ll do anything it takes to keep them safe. However, the town’s heriff has evidence that may stand in the way of her sister’s happiness and her own. Revenge can be stronger than love. Will a vow for vengeance arrest Catherine’s third chance for love?

No, this is not Catherine Morgan in old age.
This babe owned one of those stores.

7. Dry Run

And when they finished with this one, they went to the west a couple of miles and started a real town.

Well, the meaning of this one is actually pretty obvious.  Why anyone would want to start a town at a site without any running water is the real question.

So, we’ve got another Cincinnati suburb here.  This one’s east of the Queen City.  It boasts 7,300 Dry Runners.

6. Pyro

It’s short for pyromaniac, right?  You know, the people who like to set fires?  Just checking.  ‘Cause it doesn’t seem like an obvious name for a town.  I mean, to me at least.

This one’s not too far from Kitchen.  In fact, they’re only four miles apart.  It looks like Pyro might be the more populous of the two.  I see a couple of dozen houses.

What’s really interesting about this place, though, is that some band from Virginia borrowed the name.  Yup, most of the links you get on Google will be to the band.  Here’s a description of them from their website:

By combining a variety of musical influences Pyro, Ohio has created a sound that is both refreshing and modern while challenging themselves and their audience with every song they write. Branching out from the post-hardcore genre and experimenting with non-standard song structures, the band seeks to write profound songs that hinge on the edge of progressive styling while also remaining accessible to listeners. The band is most commonly compared to A Day to Remember, Chiodos, Circa Survive, A Skylit Drive, and Glassjaw.

The guys in the band

5. Mudsock

Well, there are three possibilities for this one, none of which I’m buying into:
  • Horses with mud up to their fetlocks (or some other horsey anatomy part)
  • Travelers losing their boots in the mud
  • “Mud” plus a word for “sink” from some other language (Old Norse in one story, Finnish in another …)

Though there’s not much left today, Mudsock does have its share of history.  It was one of the first towns settled by the Ohio Company in what was then the Northwest Territory.  No, not the Ohio Players.  The Ohio Company.  This was a land speculation company that a bunch of Virginians – including Lees and Washingtons – organized to settle the Ohio Country, the land past the Ohio River, in the 18th Century. 

This barely-there kind of place is just west of Columbus.  I see a farm at a crossroads.  Chances are, though, that that’s probably been knocked down and a subdivision’s been put up in its place by the time you read this.

Hard to believe, but Mudsock was a fairly common name for towns.  There may, in fact, have been four others in Ohio alone.  Read more about it right here.

NOT a real university!

4. Kinnikinnick

What, wasn’t just one Kinnick enough?

Well, as you can probably guess, this one is Native American.  From Merriam-Webster online:

a mixture of dried leaves and bark and sometimes tobacco smoked by the Indians and pioneers especially in the Ohio valley

Hmm, I wonder what was in those “dried leaves.”  Was it a little of the ol’ wacky weed?  Maybe a pinch of some good, old-fashioned mary jane?  A tad of the famous wacky tobacky?  (BTW, the term means “mixture,” and is from the Delaware language.)

K-town (I’m not going to type that monster in again) is south of Columbus, a little bit north of Chillicothe (see below).  Looks like it’s a crossroads with a couple of dozen houses.  And that’s about it for this place.

I understand they have a special ingredient

3. Twightwee

My spell checker wants to change this to “tightwad,” but also to “tight wee” and “twig twee.”  All of which actually make a lot more sense than “twightwee.”

Twightwee was actually what the Delaware Indians called the Miami Indians.  How it came to be applied to these four blocks along the Little Miami River (just up from the local wastewater treatment plant) is, however, beyond me.  Twightwee is actually part of the wonderfully named Loveland, which is really just a suburb of Cincinnati. 

2. Fleatown

Truth in advertising?

Well, according to the Internets, this place was named by a local traveler after spending a sleepless night at a stagecoach stop here.  It was previously called Hog Run. 

Umm … I hate to tell you this, guys, but I’m not sure Fleatown’s really that much of an improvement.  I mean, yeah, Hog Run isn’t that great, but have you considered something like Pleasant Grove, or maybe Springfield, or even Twightwee?

This place also gets called Van Burentown.  It’s basically a handful of houses at a crossroads east of Columbus.  It’s in [snicker, snicker] Licking County.

The main attraction

1. Knockemstiff

One of the all-time greats, Knockemstiff has probably made it into every book on funny place names.

Where does it come from?  Chances are it’s a reference to moonshine, something that was quite popular in rural southern Ohio when the town was founded. 

Wikipedia calls it a ghost town, but there’s a New York Times article out there that points to some homes and a church.  Sounds like the local residents are more apt to call it Shady Grove than Knockemstiff. 

Oh, almost forgot …  The NY Times article is actually about a book that a local author wrote about growing up here.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

In this unforgettable work of fiction, Donald Ray Pollock peers into the soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents. Knockemstiff is a genuine entry into the literature of place. Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories that comprise Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring characters who are irresistibly, undeniably real. A father pumps his son full of steroids so he can vicariously relive his days as a perpetual runner-up body builder. A psychotic rural recluse comes upon two siblings committing incest and feels compelled to take action. Donald Ray Pollock presents his characters and the sordid goings-on with a stern intelligence, a bracing absence of value judgments, and a refreshingly dark sense of bottom-dog humor.

Honorable Mention:
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Stone, Roads, Newtown, Centerville, Center Station, Junction City, Midway, Midland, Middletown, Middlesburg, Plain City, The Plains
  • Short & sweet – Aid, Way, Mack, Era, Eber, Enon, Octa, Leo, Gano, Gath, Neffs, Fly
  • Just a little out of place – far too many
  • Native American mouthfuls – Moxahala, Chillicothe (first capital of Ohio)
  • Alliterative apotheosis – College Corners, Huber Heights, Powhatan Point, Point Pleasant, Pleasant Plain, Viking Village, Grape Grove
  • Orthographically challenged – Whisler, Starr, Eifort, Peebles, McLuney
  • Just a little off color – Gaysport, Hooker, Beaver, Mt. Joy, Round Bottom, Long Bottom, Blue Ball, Pee Pee
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Mile, Five Points, Twenty Mile Stand
  • Atypical adjectives – Superior, Modest, Mutual, Gratis, Senior, Stout
  • Lots of littles – Little Hocking, Little Farms, Little Walnut
  • Unconventional verbs – Cook, Dent, Dart, Wade, Goes, Plants, Veto
  • Abnormal nouns – Torch, Marathon, Arcanum, Antiquity, Felicity, Tranquility, Joy, Sunshine, Shade, Frost, Mineral, Emerald, Hue, Farmers, Patriot, Pansy, Centerfield, Getaway
  • Fun to say – Frazeyburg (world’s largest apple basket), Philo, Excello, Roxabell, Zaleski, Tuppers, Dorcas, Vandalia, Wamsley, Wilberforce, Whipple, Winkle, Wegee, Nipgen
  • Just plain weird – Commercial Point, Tradersville, Businessburg, Residence Park, Morning Sun, Sunnyland, Singing Hills, Yellowbird, Red Lion, White Cottage, Raccoon Island, Possum Woods, Young Hickory, South Olive, Franklin Furnace (Ohio & Union too), Bookwalter, Blue Ash (& Blue Rock), San Toy
  • Too many towns – Yankeetown, Frytown, Stringtown
  • Too many villes – Circleville, Coolville (Ohio’s smallest church), Outville, Guysville, Salesville, Crooksville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Ray, Vernon, Byron, Melvin, Alfred, Pedro, Hamlet, Glen Karn, Wayne Lakes, May Hill, Tom Corwin
  • Ghost towns – Moonville

Monday, August 12, 2013

Northern Ohio

My road atlas happens to break this great state in two right across the middle.  What an excellent organizing scheme!  Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the wild and weird town names of northern Ohio.  

10. Reminderville

There was something I wanted to say about this place, but I just can’t remember what it was.

Oh yeah!  You’re not going to believe me, but this place was named after one of the prominent families in the area, the Reminders.  According to the town website, the other competitor was the Grimm family.  Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I guess.

This town of 3,400 is part of the Akron Metropolitan Statistical Area.  If you’re a little short on your Buckeye geography, that puts it in the northeast part of Ohio.  It’s right on beautiful Aurora Lake, and is bordered to the south by Liberty Park.  It looks like lots and lots of cul de sacs. 

Oh, and I’m not making that surname thing up, by the way.  Click here if you don’t believe me.

Is it just me,
or does he have a little bit of a pot?

9. Funk

For some reason, the poor folks in this town always seem to be under the weather, a little down in the dumps, feeling crummy, down in the mouth, bummed out, blue …

Wikipedia says the source of this town’s name is “not well documented.”  My guess is it’s just a surname – a surprisingly common one, as a matter of fact.  It’s from the German for “spark” – basically a nickname for a blacksmith.

It was kind of hard to find anything on this place, as most search results were for things like “Hire a funk band in Ohio,” “Dayton, Ohio: the Land of Funk,” and “Funk Lab Dance Studio: Kettering, Ohio.”  Looking it up on Google maps, I found a couple of dozen houses out in some farmland about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland.  The town is right next to the wonderfully named Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area.

I was afraid of that
(Google Images search = “Funk OH”)

8. Kunkle

Sounds like something your doctor might offer to zap off with a laser.

Well, wouldn’t you know.  It’s another German surname.  Turns out the local grocer was named Kunkle, and they named the town after him.  There’s a ton of possible meanings for this one: a maker of spindles, a spindly person, from the personal name Kuno, from a place name …

It was actually originally called Kunkle’s Corners.  Too bad it didn’t keep that name.  Celeryville (see below) would have definitely had some competition.  Other former names include Barrett’s Corners and Deer Lick.

This town of 250 is in the far northwest part of the state.  Things look pretty darn flat.

Founding father Henry Stone Kunkle
(and wife)

7. Academia

Yes, there was a college here.  Alas, Mt. Vernon College is no more.  All that’s left is the barely half-mile-long College St.

Today, Academia is basically a neighborhood on the far northwestern outreaches of the town of Mt. Vernon.  (Mt. Vernon is a decent-sized city – of 17,000 – smack dab in the middle of Ohio.)  As for Academia, the Knox County Fairgounds seem to be the main attraction. 

The hallowed groves

6. Pepper Pike

Positively perfect.  Plainly without peer.  Pure perfection. 

Well, we’ve probably got another surname here.  Chances are there was a family by the name of Pepper who lived along a local turnpike.  Once again, we’ve got a positive plethora of possibilities for that surname’s meaning: a spice merchant, a fiery person, a piper …

This “affluent” (according to Wikipedia) suburb of Cleveland has about 6,000 people.  From Google Maps, I can see lots and lots of cul-de-sacs and also more-than-your-average number of golf courses.  It’s the home of Ursuline College, a Catholic women’s school.  You can find a history of the place right here.

I wonder if they patrol Pepper Pike Park

5. Jelloway

Originally called The Way of the Jello, the town was renamed in the 1830s to make it sound more modern.

Seriously, this one’s American Indian.  The town was named after a creek, which in turn was named after an Indian chief, Tom Jelloway, whose tribe liked to camp on its banks.  It was originally called Brownsville.

This burg of maybe two dozen homes is between Funk and Academia (i.e., between Columbus and Cleveland).

This way to the jello!

4. Cranberry Prairie

No, this one isn’t that unusual.  It is, however, a genuine tongue twister.  Go ahead, try it yourself.  It’s either going to come out “cranbrairie prairie” or “cranberry pairie.”  You can’t win.

This place actually has its own historical marker.  Here’s the complete text:

The Cranberry Prairie, southwest of this marker, is a part of Ohio's natural history. The place was named for the cranberries that grew in a swamp here prior to drainage of the area. The Cranberry Prairie was created by centuries of peat accumulation in a late Ice Age lake that formed at the base of St. John's Moraine. Paleo-Indian or Early Archaic peoples probably killed the elk whose skeleton was dug up here in 1981. This elk was dated at approximately 7400 B.C.

By the 1860s, immigrant German farmers had begun transforming the swamp into fertile farmland. "Wild Bill" Simison, a legendary inhabitant, lived in the swamp and settlers respected him for his knowledge of the area. By the turn of the nineteenth century, Granville Township School #7, St. Francis Catholic Church, and Bertke's Store stood at the edge of the Cranberry Prairie.

Kale!  My favorite! (Google search = cranberry prairie oh")

3. Tawawa

Birthplace of Babwa Wawaa …

Well, actually, no.  She was born in Boston.  I think I can be pretty confident saying nobody famous was born in Tawawa.

This tiny town of maybe 30 houses is in the western part of the state.   The name comes from the Shawnee for “clear water.”  By the way, Ohio also features a Toboso.

2. Mentor-on-the-Lake

Why on the lake?  What was he doing there?  Did you have to go there every time you needed to be mentored?  Did he occasionally make house calls?

This town of 7,400 is basically a Cleveland suburb, which explains the lake part.  As for the Mentor …  Well, there is a larger city called Mentor nearby.  And that place was named after the character in The Odyssey.  And that character is where we get the term “mentor” from.  So, it really does mean what it says.  Weird, huh?

By the way, there is also a Painesville on the Lake, Geneva-on-the-Lake, and Vermillion-on-the-Lake.
$13.99 at
(yup, Sears)

1. Celeryville

Surely there are more worthy vegetables to name your town after.  I mean, all it really is is crunchy, right?  Honestly, who eats it by itself?  You gotta put peanut butter or ranch dressing on it before you can get it down.  It has no taste!

Interestingly, Celeryville actually is named after celery.  Some Dutch guy came here and planted away in the “muck lands” of north central Ohio.  The rest is history

Another website shares these fascinating celery / general vegetable facts:
  • There are 1,000,000 celery seeds in one pound
  • If combined, the vegetable farms in Celeryville would be the third largest employer in Huron County
  • The Celeryville Conservancy District maintains over seven miles of ditches

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the rolling hills of celery!

Honorable Mention:
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Valley City, Flat Rock, Forest, Centerburg, Center Village, New Middletown, Middle Point, Ohio City, Junction, Settlement, Plain City
  • Short and sweet – Lena, Eris, Scio, Iler, Zoar, Dola, Ada, Ney, Neffs, Ink
  • Just a little out of place – just way, way too many
  • Just a little off-color – Beaverdam, Climax
  • Numerically oriented – Twinsburg, Seventeen
  • Orthographically challenged – Morral, Jewell, Justus, Luckey
  • Alliterative apotheosis – Rush Run, Sahara Sands
  • Native American mouthfuls – Chuckery, Pataskala, Tontogany, Wapakoneta (Neil Armstrong’s birthplace), Wakatomika, Tippecanoe
  • Atypical adjectives – Green, Orange, Continental, Mutual, Brilliant, Delightful, Dull
  • Abnormal nouns – Phalanx, Peninsula, Prospect, Farmer, Yankee, Diamond, Silica, Signal, Cable, Carriage, Lock, Seal, Champion, Chili, Charm, Novelty, Defiance, Assumption, Zone
  • Unconventional verbs – Convoy, Converse, Bangs, Jump
  • Fun to say – Swander, Lake Slagle, Mingo, Mogadore, Monclova, Maumee, Maximo, Philothea, Piqua, Byhalia, Bucyrus, Botkins, Burgoon, Ruggles, Erastus, Glandorf, Ashtabula
  • Hard to say – Gnadehutten, Deunquat
  • Unconventional villes – Salineville, Conesville, Lightsville, Ballville, Footville, Widowville, Worstville, Hicksville
  • Just plain weird – Honeytown, North Industry, Magnetic Springs, Mount Air, Pigeon City, Chagrin Falls, Neopolis, Uniopolis, Ft. Recovery, The Bend, Hills and Dales, Reedurban, Risingsun, Roundhead, Brokensword, Rushsylvania, Newcomerstown, Stelvideo, Fryburg, Killbuck, Cornersburg, Canal Fulton (and Canal Lewisville), New Stark, Steam Corners, Put-in-Bay (world’s largest geode), Devil Town, River Styx
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Nellie, Clyde, Wayne, Willard, Gerald, Jerome, Arthur, Arnold, Elmore, Elroy, Gomer, Rudolph, Waldo, Bono, Montezuma, Napoleon, Brady Lake, Craig Beach, Rich Hill, Grover Hill, Dolly Varden, Maria Stein
  • Ghost towns – Beagle, Wonderland
Next week: the wild and weird town names of southern Ohio.

Monday, August 5, 2013

North Dakota

North Dakota.  The Peace Garden State.  The Peace Garden State?  Wait a minute …  What the heck is a peace garden?  And why would anyone want to name a state after it?

10. Kindred

I thought this was just an old-timey way to refer to “one’s family and relations.”  Not an obvious candidate for the name of a town, but hey …

Well, wouldn’t you know?  “Kindred” is also a surname.  In our case, we’re talking in particular about the surname of one William S. Kindred, a local “realtor” (i.e., the guy who bought the land from the railroad) and later mayor.
This town of about 700 is in the eastern part of the state, and serves basically as a bedroom community for Fargo.  (Seriously?  Fargo has its own “bedroom communities”?) 
The homepage of the town’s website states that Kindred “has a lot to offer.”  In fact, it repeats that statement no less than eight times.  And the last one of these ends with this priceless typo:
We have a lot to offer! Come see for yourselft!
You really have to check out that site.  Between the typos and the over-the-top prose, it’s a real beaut.
Probably the main thing Kindred has to offer, though, is pie
(“hero shot” – i.e., main pic – on the site’s homepage)
9. Cannon Ball

It’s an odd one, but at least it’s changed from what the Arikara Indians used to call it – načiiʾuuháwi sananaapíkat.
It’s named after the Cannon Ball River.  The river gets its name from the concretions of sand, silt, and calcite that occur in it and that resemble cannonballs.
Cannon Ball the town is in south North Dakota, right on the border with north South Dakota.  It’s on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  The main drag in town appears to be called Weasel Street.
Make sense now?
8. Maxbass

Named after a particularly loud stereo system?  As a lure for fishermen?  After some dude?
Yup, it’s the third one.  Max Bass was the North Dakota land commissioner and also the General Immigration Agent for the Great Northern Railway, around the turn of the 20th Century. 
Maxbass is another border town – this time, up north, on the border with Canada.  We’re talking some 80 people here.  It dates back only to 1905.

7. Starkweather

Well, the winters are cold.  And the summers can get surprisingly hot and dry.  And that’s not to mention the tornados …
Starkweather is actually another surname. isn’t too sure where this one comes from, but thinks it might be a nickname for a “stormy person.”
Well, that certainly was the case for Charlie Starkweather.  Pardon the diversion, but Charlie Starkweather was one of the great spree killers of all time.  In 1958, he and his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, killed eleven people in a bloody road trip around Nebraska.  He inspired several films (including Badlands and Natural Born Killers), a couple of books, Bruce Springsteen’s song Nebraska, and a young Stephen King (who kept a scrapbook on the guy).
Oh, the town?  I figure there must be some Mr. Starkweather out there somewhere who it was named after (and who may even have been some relation to Charlie).  This place dates back to 1902, is in the northeast part of the state, and has a little over 100 people.
Charlie and Caril Ann
6. Donnybrook

According to the dictionary, this place is “a scene of uproar and disorder.”  Hmm, could that really be what the founding fathers meant?
Well, the etymology for this term does mention a town in Ireland of the same name (and whose fairs were famous for much drinking and mayhem).  Maybe the founding fathers were from there.
Another small town in the middle of nowhere with not a whole lotta information on it.  60 people, northwest part of the state.  Someone did have a little fun with it, though, on a parody news site:
T-shirt probably printed
before they lost 25% of their population

5. Overly

Overly what?  Overly cautious?  Confident?  Critical?  Complicated?  Sensitive?
Ah, it’s another surname.  Early settler Hans Overlie gets the credit for this one.  One possibility for that surname is the Old English ofer, meaning “shore,” or “bank.”  So, Overly would most likely apply to someone who lived in a field or meadow on the shore or bank of some body of water.
Wow, these places just get tinier and tinier.  Overly is barely there.  18 people in total. 
At one time, though, Overly was much more.  Not too much more, mind you, but ... 
Overly was once a big railroad town.  Unfortunately, the railroad giveth and the railroad taketh away.  Today, Overly has 14 blocks, but there’s absolutely nothing in four of them. 
4. Concrete

Yes, everything in this town is made of concrete.  All the houses, all the fences.  The roadways, the yards, the cars …
Actually, the real story is almost as crazy.  Would you believe the town was named after one William M. Concrete, an early settler? 
Ha!  Got you again.  This place was actually named after the final product of the many clay mines in the area.
Okay.  So, the actual town …  Well, I’m afraid all we’ve got is 25 people and one business (Hank’s Corner Bar).  There is, however, some sort of Cold War anti-missile radar thingee installation nearby (officially, the Cavalier Air Force Station, Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System).
That Air Force thingee
(and, yes, it does appear to be made out of concrete)
3. Hoople

This one’s a beaut, but what I really like is how comedian P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) singled this place out in his album Report from Hoople, P.D.Q. Bach on the Air.  In case you’ve never heard of him, Schickele was a very funny comedian whose specialty was classical music.  The Hoople album purported to come from the radio station at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, and contained things like Beethoven’s Revenge and the Schleptet in E Flat Major, all performed by I Virtuosi di Hoople.
Oh, the town?  240 people.  Founding date: 1889.  Source of name: probably some dude name Hoople (surname is English and a corruption for someone who lived the “up the hill”).  Nickname: “Tatertown.”  Location: northeast North Dakota (???).
Just 8 more miles, kids!
2. Flasher

Named during the flasher craze of the 1970s …
Well, actually, that’s not totally true.  The town dates back to 1902, so I guess there must have been a previous craze in the early 1900s. 
Okay, okay, it’s probably named after some dude.  Actually, as it turns out, it was named by some dude but after some babe.  In particular, the founder of the town, William H. Brown, named it after his niece, Mabel Flasher Vrooman.  I’m assuming Mabel was already taken.  Though even Vrooman seems like an improvement.  I dunno.
Flasher is part of the Bismarck, ND Metropolitan Statistical Area.  It’s got 230 people.  I was surprised to learn that such a small town actually has its own history, Flasher, ND Centennial: 1902 – 2002 ($58, from the ND State Univ. website).  One of the chapters in that book is the absolutely priceless “Flasher at a Glance.”
Early Flashers, Mr. & Mrs. Hudsonbehler
1. Zap

Well, the Internets are telling me that this was named after a coal mining town in Scotland called Zapp.  I’m having a hard time believing that one though.  My guess is we’re back to surnames again – in this particular instance, probably the German Zapf.  That means “bung,” or “stopper,” and signals someone who owned a tavern, or perhaps was just a big boozer.
Coal is big here though.  This town of 240, a little northwest of Bismarck, has coal mines, a coal power plant, and a coal gasification plant. 
What Zap is famous for, however, is the Zip to Zap.  This was basically a student happening in 1969, where long-haired hippie freak types were encouraged to converge on this tiny town in the middle of nowhere.  The 2,500 or so students / trouble-makers soon got out of control, and the National Guard was called in to settle things down – the only time that ever happened in sleepy and law-abiding North Dakota.
Run, here they come!
Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Valley City, Woods, New Town
  • Short & sweet – Mott, Kief, Kulm, Ayr, Jud
  • Just a little out of place – Nome, Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti, Michigan, Cleveland, Erie, Niagara, Buffalo, Cooperstown, Scranton, Trenton, New England, Jamestown (world's largest buffalo), Raleigh, Palm Beach, Alamo, Havana, Cuba, Lisbon, Wales, Wimbledon, Glasgow, Hague, Hannover, Strasburg (Lawrence Welk birthplace), Munich, Bremen, Berlin, Dresden, New Leipzig, Warsaw, Petersburg, Palermo, Verona, Crete, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Walhalla (oldest building in ND)
  • Orthographically challenged – Hamberg, Tokio, Pekin, Mylo, Mantador, Gardena, Dazey, Sawdwood, Skaar
  • Just a little off color – Buttzville
  • Numerically oriented – Four Bears Village, Four K’s Estate
  • Atypical adjectives – Cavalier, Fried
  • Unconventional verbs – Huff
  • Abnormal nouns – Price, Page, Portal, Plaza, Beach, Bluegrass, Crocus, Crystal, Regent, Rugby (geographical center of North America), Wing, Antler (world's largest historical quilt), Towner, Trotters
  • Fun to say – Tuttle, Gackle, Fingal, Fargo, Pingree, Pembina, Grenora, Gwinner, Guelph, Golva, Velva, Backoo, Alkabo, Anamoose, Marmarth
  • Hard to say – New Hradec, Omemee
  • Just plain weird – Fryburg, Spiritwood, Pick City, Town and Country, Inkster, Devils Lake, White Shield, Wild Rice, Scenic East (it's on the border with Montana), South Heart, Bonetrail
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Alice, Olga, Norma, Ray, Leroy, Leonard, Max, Burt, Barney, Clyde, Calvin, Arthur, Alfred, Milton, Horace (ND's largest tree), Hamlet, Voltaire, Bismarck, Glen Ullin, Raymond Lee
  • Ghost towns – Lark, Lostwood, Turtle, Expansion, Deep, Kidville