74 – WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—It’s easy to understand where these town and city names originated. Or is it?

With about forty-two towns or cities in the United States named Lincoln, it’s easy to surmise that most of them were named for Abraham Lincoln. Not so. Of the forty-two only a handful were named in honor of him. The rest were named after various other people with the Lincoln surname—members of the military, achievers, whatever—most of them now long forgotten. A multitude of locations and places and buildings, and loads of schools and streets, of course, were named after our sixteenth president.

On the other hand, of around seventeen towns or cities named Jefferson, thirteen of them were named in honor of Thomas Jefferson.

And reflecting on Mt. Rushmore, how many cities or towns are named Washington or Roosevelt? We all know Washington D.C., but there are a couple of dozen other towns named Washington, as well as the state, of course, plus schools and streets and memorial sites. As for Roosevelt, there are about eight towns bearing that name, most of them probably named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt.

Then we have Buffalo. The best known city, of course, is Buffalo, New York, located at the head of the Niagara River, most of its growth attributed to the construction of the Erie Canal.  But there are more than a dozen other Buffalos, mostly in the Midwest, ranging as far south as South Carolina. One in particular was determined by drawing straws. Several settlers gathered to decide on the name of their new community. They couldn’t decide, so they drew straws; the winner was a settler who had been raised in Buffalo, New York; he elected to name their new town Buffalo.

Now there’s New York City. Where did Manhattan originate? Written records go back to the 1609 logbook of an officer on Henry Hudson’s yacht, wherein the island was referred to as Mana-hata, while a 1610 map shows Manahata twice, on both sides of the Mauritius River (later the Hudson). Native Americans called it Manahata on the west side and Manahatin on the east, meaning the place for gathering wood to make bows.

And The Big Apple? Though after Washington, New York State is the chief apple producer in America, it’s horse racing that gave rise to the nickname. In the 1920s a prominent sports writer publicized the term used by stable hands when going to New York–”We’re going to the Big Apple.” The nickname lost popularity but was revived in the 1970s and has stuck since then.

Trivia Question: Who was the tallest U. S. president, and how tall was he?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.