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Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

Why did they name it that?

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Everyone wonders why some cities and towns in East Texas are named as they are but never really make a effort to learn the secrets-except Fred Tarpley, long-time professor of English at East Texas State University, nee Texas A&M at Commerce. Fred's curiosity led him to compile 1001 Texas Place Names, published by the University of Texas Press.
Some locations are obvious, or at least logical. Nacogdoches got its name from the group of Caddo who once lived there; Tyler is named for John Tyler, president of the United States, and Sacul is Lucas spelled backwards. O.K., some names are illogical, but it is still interesting that the Post Office Department would not accept "Lucas" but did accept "Sacul."
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1001 Texas Place Names
Toadsuck, located in Grayson County, took its name from the Toadsuck Saloon, or alternately, was so named by mill owner John Jones in honor of his birthplace, Toadsuck, Arkansas. Most notable Toadsuckian was William "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, who stepped across the Red River and served as governor of Oklahoma.

Bug Tussle, in Fannin County, had so much trouble keeping signs up to mark the crossroads, says Fred, that the highway department just quit putting them up. The legend here is that Sunday afternoon picnickers called the place Bug Tussle because the swarms of bugs were so terrific that all they could do was watch the bugs tussle.

Athens, in Henderson County, received its name from Mrs. Dull Averitt because she wanted the town to become a center of learning. That was before anyone counted them and found out that Athens, Texas, like Athens, Greece, was built upon seven hills. But then so was Rome, Italy, and Roma, Texas, which is in Starr County.

Latexo, in Houston County, combines some letters from each of the principal words in the Louisiana and Texas Orchard Company, which shipped local produce from there. Cut and Shoot, in Montgomery County earned its name because of its' citizens' fondness for settling disagreements with knives and firearms.

My favorite wondering over a place name involved Bon Wier in Newton County. We began going there regularly when I was in graduate school, fresh from learning just enough French to pass the required language requirement. I knew "bon" meant "good," but could never figure out the translation of "wier."

One day I asked an old timer who was lounging around the filling station. Said he, "I guess it was named for old man Bonner and old man Wier, who ran the Kirby mill here." Indeed, B.R. Bonner and R.W. Wier did just that.


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
October 23, 2006 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association.

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