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THE NAMING OF NAMES

by John Troesser


"Texas is one of those rare state names that goes with anything."
- John Fergus Ryan

Can you imagine Abilene, Wisconsin or
Lubbock, Massachusetts?
If you live in Texas, there are several books on Texas place names. The most recent and one of the best is "Muleshoe & More: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Naming of Texas Towns" by Bill Bradfield & Clare Bradfield. We thought our piece "The Naming of Names" would be an appropriate introduction for the Bradfields' book. Some of these names may be old hat to our Texas readers, but there's bound to be some you haven't heard of, and for our out-of-state readers, here's a collection straight off The Texas Department of Transportation's Official Highway Map for the year 2000.

Railroads were built by men, but they named many towns after their womenfolk. A sampling:

Louise, Edna, Inez, Sarita, Donna, Mercedes, Maybelle and Thalia. Pandora sounds like a place to keep the lid on and Hedley might have been named after a Lamar family member. (name courtesy of Mel Brooks). For people who say bafroom or birfday, there's Marfa as in Marfa Washington. And then there's Maud. There's Winona and Annona, Lydia and Celeste. Idalou was named after two girls, as was Mineola. Desdemonia will connect us to Iago and our other male names:

Gordon, Vernon, Seymour, Chester and Sidney all have a 19th Century sound to them. There's a New Willard, but no sign of an old one, and there's a Smiley, Leroy and Dabney as well. Some towns are both first and last names like George West, who got to name the town since he built it on his ranch. Ben Bolt, the person, has been lost to history, but he's a lyric in a song and the town still wears his name. Tom Ball has become Tomball, Burk Burnett has become Burkburnett and Ed Couch Edcouch. Tarzan was condensed when he got here.

Condense Milk, Not Names!

While we're on the subject of condensing: It's safe to say everyone's heard of Texarkana, and maybe Lake Texoma. But unless you live close to Austonio, you might not be aware it exists. One would think Austonio would be between Austin and San Antonio. If one did, then one would be wrong. It's between Houston and Dallas (Houston County).

There was a recent movie called Happy, Texas, and indeed there is one. The movie was shot in some other state, though. Speaking of shooting, there are towns of Gun Sight, Gun Barrel City, Point Blank and Cut and Shoot.

There's the modest trio of Elysian Fields, Utopia and Paradise. There's Munday and Friday and Keene's Post Office is open on Sunday*. There's Telephone, Telegraph and Energy. There's Coffee, Coffee City, which is almost as good as Hot Coffee, Alabama, and other food names include Raisin, Oatmeal, Rice and Noodle.

Old foes here are not forgotten

Indian names are well represented with Caddo, Seminole, Comanche and Kickapoo. While we're sure there's no Sam Houston City in Mexico, we've got a Santa Anna in Coleman County. Actually, the town's name comes from local mountains named after an Indian Chief, or so we're told.

One would think Levelland, Horizon City and Sundown would be in a straight line, but they're not. Other names which we hope are only in Texas include: Grice, Latexo, Lazbuddie, Wamba, and Fluvanna.

Texas is not a four-letter word

But these towns are: Alto (Cherokee Co.), Port Alto (Jackson Co.), Acme, Best, Buda, Bula, Buna, Cash, Fink, Grit, Hext, Lawn, Lodi, Nada, Spur, Toco, Voca, Wink and Zorn.

Texas isn't a three-letter word either

Arp, Dew and Tow. Coy, Joy, Hye, Guy, and Rye.

Too many Villes, Not enough Burgs

Our map shows 51 Greenvilles, Hallettsvilles, and Floresvilles etc. and only 10 Pittsburgs, Bloomburgs, and Oldenburgs. If you exclude Rosenberg which is a berg and not a burg, then it's only 9.


*Since Keene's population is mostly comprised of Seventh Day Adventists, most businesses are closed Saturday, but open Sunday. Including the Post Office.

John Troesser
First published June 2000

The Naming of Texas Towns

  • Texas Town List - Over 3,100 Texas Towns
  • Texas Ghost Towns - Over 900 Ghost Towns
  • Texas on a First-name Basis
    Of the roughly 2,000 town names on the official state map, over 400 of them are first names.
  • Texas place names describe unique stories of towns by Delbert Trew
    The Place Name Survey of Texas, developed and added to for the past 20 years or more, lists and explains the uniqueness of names in Texas. Here are a few that caught my eye...
  • Those strange town names by Bob Bowman
    While some early East Texans named their towns for families, their hometowns or landmarks, othes were a tad more creative...
  • Jasper and Newton Counties, Beyond the Sabine
  • Despite odd names all over Lone Star State, 'Top 10' of the U.S. are commonplace here by Bill Bradfield
  • Why did they name it that? by Archie P. McDonald
  • Wonder Why They Named it That by Archie P. McDonald
  • A Geography Lesson by Bob Bowman
  • New Geography - Place name tweaking of several Counties and County Seats by Mike Cox
    Place name tweaking of several Counties and County Seats
  • Twin Towns by Mike Cox
  • Cut and Shoot, Gun Barrel City, Gunsight, Point Blank and Winchester by Mike Cox
  • Boo-boo towns by Mike Cox
    The Texas map is sprinkled with cities and towns that got their names by mistake...
  • Population Ranks by Mike Cox
    The historic urban population hierarchy and population figures dating back to 1850...
  • Unique town names by Bob Bowman
  • Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.

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