What’s in a Name? Missouri-style

How does a town get its name? Back in the day postmasters – as you will see – wielded a lot of power when it came to naming their new towns. Usually the name chosen was that of a prominent citizen, a nearby industry, sometimes a natural feature. However, some of those Missouri postmasters had, shall we say, a slightly twisted sense of humor, because a Show-Me State map shows us some wild and crazy towns.

Photo credit: Jeff Bacca

Peculiar –After multiple names were rejected for various reasons, the postmaster complained “we don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar.’” He then submitted the name Peculiar and it was accepted. The folks there get extra style points for their town motto: “Where the ‘odds’ are with you.”

Bacon Township – This site took its name from a pioneer citizen, James Bacon. Well, that’s not nearly as interesting as I’d hoped; not a single connection to strips of cured pork.

Sleeper – Named after a railroad employee. The story is the railroad official was often noticeably tired.

Tightwad – As the tale is told, a postal worker was cheated on the price of a watermelon by a local store – a whole 50 cents more for a better melon. Some say the item in question might have been a rooster instead. I guess the postmaster thought the storeowner was kind of cheap – and didn’t want him to forget it?

Clever – When the first name suggested was rejected, the postmaster surveyed his store’s customers for suggestions. One suggested “Clever” because the young community’s residents were friendly and wise. And modest, obviously.

Bourbon – No disappointment here; the city actually was named after bourbon whiskey. The story is that the Irishmen building the railroad were used to drinking whiskey, and the store proprietor imported barrels of the new brand becoming popular all over the New West. It came in barrels labeled with the name: “Bourbon.” One barrel sat in front of the store, so it came be called the Bourbon store.

Blue Eye – Named because the postmaster had extremely blue eyes. Yes, really.

Noel – Named for locals C.W. and W.J. Noel, it’s pronounced “knoll.” Once a year, though, they change the pronunciation to “no-ell,” and postmark tens of thousands of Christmas cards and letters with “Noel, Mo – the Christmas City in the Ozark Vacation Land.”

Devil’s Elbow – When loggers were harvesting trees for railroad ties, they would float them down the Big Piney River to the Gasconade. There was a particularly bad bend (often called an elbow) on the Big Piney that caused chaotic log jams so bad, the loggers believed only the devil himself could have caused them – hence, the name.

Braggadoccio – Some believe the town got its name from the knight/horse thief Sir Braggadoccio, a character in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, or was named after locals named Bragg and Docio. Personally, I prefer the story that says the community was so named because a large share of the early settlers were braggarts.

Competition – After starting out as Newburg, the town held a contest to select a new name: a naming competition. Get it?

Halfway – It’s an equal distance from Bolivar and from Buffalo. The half way point. Duh.

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