by D.J. Wilson –
Have you ever glanced at a map and spotted a place with a curious name? All across America there’s a plethora of towns and places with catchy and entertaining names. Due to my inquisitive nature, I researched some which caught my eye and made me scratch my head in curiosity. Here are some I found amusing which I’d like to share with you.
- Cheesequake, NJ – Have you been there? Perhaps you unknowingly stopped at Cheesequake’s rest area located on the Garden State Parkway at milepost 123. Those who take a fleeting look at its name often mistakenly think it reads cheesecake. The origin of the name has nothing to do with baked goods or any natural disaster. The quirky name is derived from the Lenni Lenape Native American word Cheseh-oh-ke and means “upland” or “upland village.” Historically, the Lenni Lenape Indians were the first to inhabit the area and were known as Unami or “people down the river.”
- Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, Webster, MA – What a lengthy name! In fact, it is the longest place name in the United States. The complicated spelling led to an incorrectly spelled sign bordering Connecticut. Due to its extremely difficult pronunciation, many of the locals simply call it ‘Webster Lake’. Named by the Nipmuk Indians, it loosely means “fishing place at the boundary.” The lake was historically considered a neutral territory and was used for meetings and powwows by the Nipmuk Indians, as well as other tribes such as the Narraganssett, Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The lake is comprised of three spring-fed lakes, narrow channels and ponds. Three songs have been written about the lake. The first was performed in the 1930s, a second was recorded by Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger in the 1950s, and a third was released by singer-songwriter Diana Taraz in 2010.
- Hopeulikit, GA – Located outside of Statesboro, many wonder how this 800 acre community got its intriguing name. According to long-time resident and co-founder of the town, Beatrice Ellis, it got its title from a dance hall off Highway 80 that was open in the 20s and 30s. Ellis recalled sitting on her porch listening to band music coming from The Hopeulikit Dance Hall. The Ellis family owned two businesses in town, a grocery store and meat market which no longer exist. However, generations of their family were raised in this charming community.
- Truth or Consequences, NM –Is it a game or a town name? How about both. The town got its name from the 1950 NBC radio program. The city, located on the Rio Grande, was originally named Hot Springs but changed its name after host of the radio quiz show, Ralph Edwards, announced he would air the program from the first town which renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs proudly did so and Edward visited the town during the first weekend of May for the next 50 years. It became a notable event known as “Fiesta” which is still celebrated to this day. Truth or Consequences is known as a spa city due to its hot springs and is located in Sierra County, New Mexico.
- Unalaska, AK – If you ask residents where they’re from, the answer is bound to be confusing. Unalaska is the 11th largest city in Alaska, with about 4,000 residents. It is a picturesque island, located along the Aleutian Chain, about 800 miles southwest of Anchorage. The economy is based on commercial fishing and is strategically located along a shipping route, making it a hub of transshipment of cargo. There are different theories about the derivation of its name. It is most widely believed to come from an altered form of the Russian word Ounalashka , which was derived from the Aleut word for near the mainland. Despite its prefix, make no mistake, Unalaska is officially part of Alaska.
- Paint Lick, KY –If you think the town got its name from paint licking, you’re incorrect. Historians believe, due to a marker found near old Paint Lick Presbyterian Church and Paint Lick Cemetery, it’s likely settlers discovered Indian signs painted on trees near creek banks, near Salt Lick. Paint Lick is located in Garrard County, Kentucky and lies along Routes 21 and 52. It is approximately 78.9 square miles with a relatively low population density.
- Joe, Montana – Yes, it’s true. The town was named after the famous quarterback when he signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. A Missouri radio station personality urged the folks of this southeast Montana town to change its name. Not far from the North Dakota border, the small town of Ismay obliged. All 22 of the apparently sports-loving citizens voted in favor of the name change. In fact, Joe Montana souvenirs helped the town to build a new fire station. The name change was only temporary, though, and Joe, Montana has officially reverted to its original name.
- Idiotville, OR – Wonder why it’s currently a ghost town? Perhaps no one wants to live in a place which deliberately takes pot shots at human intelligence. Located in Tillamook County, Oregon, it is situated northwest of Portland. Nothing currently remains at the site. A logging camp which was once part of a salvage operation is a half mile up the creek. Due to its remote location, folks declared that only an idiot would work there. The camp, once called Ryan’s camp, became popularly called Idiotville. The name was also given to the nearby stream, Idiot Creek.
It’s evident that throughout America many states have places with interesting names. Some encompass historical significance, while others provide a glimpse into the interests or mindset of its people. Towns on the map, like Zig Zag (OR), Knockemstiff (OH), and You Bet (CA), leave us yearning to learn more about their curious names. Please comment if you have an interesting place to share with our readers. We welcome your input.