A Dictionary of Iowa Place-Names

Overview

Lourdes and Churchtown, Woden and Clio, Emerson and Sigourney, Tripoli and Waterloo, Prairie City and Prairieburg, Tama and Swedesburg, What Cheer and Coin. Iowa’s place-names reflect the religions, myths, cultures, families, heroes, whimsies, and misspellings of the Hawkeye State’s inhabitants. Tom Savage spent four years corresponding with librarians, city and county officials, and local historians, reading newspaper archives, and exploring local websites in an effort to find out why these communities received ...

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Overview

Lourdes and Churchtown, Woden and Clio, Emerson and Sigourney, Tripoli and Waterloo, Prairie City and Prairieburg, Tama and Swedesburg, What Cheer and Coin. Iowa’s place-names reflect the religions, myths, cultures, families, heroes, whimsies, and misspellings of the Hawkeye State’s inhabitants. Tom Savage spent four years corresponding with librarians, city and county officials, and local historians, reading newspaper archives, and exploring local websites in an effort to find out why these communities received their particular names, when they were established, and when they were incorporated.
    Savage includes information on the place-names of all 1,188 incorporated and unincorporated communities in Iowa that meet at least two of the following qualifications: twenty-five or more residents; a retail business; an annual celebration or festival; a school; church, or cemetery; a building on the National Register of Historic Places; a zip-coded post office; or an association with a public recreation site. If a town’s name has changed over the years, he provides information about each name; if a name’s provenance is unclear, he provides possible explanations. He also includes information about the state’s name and about each of its ninety-nine counties as well as a list of ghost towns. The entries range from the counties of Adair to Wright and from the towns of Abingdon to Zwingle; from Iowa’s oldest town, Dubuque, starting as a mining camp in the 1780s and incorporated in 1841, to its newest, Maharishi Vedic City, incorporated in 2001.
    The imaginations and experiences of its citizens played a role in the naming of Iowa’s communities, as did the hopes of the huge influx of immigrants who settled the state in the 1800s. Tom Savage’s dictionary of place-names provides an appealing genealogical and historical background to today’s map of Iowa.

“It is one of the beauties of Iowa that travel across the state brings a person into contact with so many wonderful names, some of which a traveler may understand immediately, but others may require a bit of investigation. Like the poet Stephen Vincent Benét, we have fallen in love with American names. They are part of our soul, be they family names, town names, or artifact names. We identify with them and are identified with them, and we cannot live without them. This book will help us learn more about them and integrate them into our beings.”—from the foreword by Loren N. Horton

“Primghar, O’Brien County. Primghar was established by W. C. Green and James Roberts on November 8, 1872. The name of the town comes from the initials of the eight men who were instrumental in developing it. A short poem memorializes the men and their names:
Pumphrey, the treasurer, drives the first nail;
Roberts, the donor, is quick on his trail;
Inman dips slyly his first letter in;
McCormack adds M, which makes the full Prim;
Green, thinking of groceries, gives them the G;
Hayes drops them an H, without asking a fee;
Albright, the joker, with his jokes all at par;
Rerick brings up the rear and crowns all ‘Primghar.’
Primghar was incorporated on February 15, 1888.”

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Author Tom Savage devoted four happy years researching Iowa place names. This alphabetical assemblage of the monikers of nearly 1,200 communities (some of them unincorporated) will teach readers far more than the origins of Iowa town names. Savage describes the rich early histories of hamlets in this proud frontier state. He also provides capsules on each of the state's 89 counties and the numerous ghost towns that history somehow erased. A treat for residents and tourists alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587295317
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: Bur Oak Guide Series
  • Pages: 378
  • Sales rank: 1,401,296
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Native Iowan Tom Savage was born in Mt. Pleasant in 1945. He received his BS in psychology and his MA in college student personnel from the University of Iowa. He was a counselor for Muscatine Community College from 1978 until retirement in 2004; currently he is co-owner of Muscatine Books and More in Muscatine, Iowa. Loren Horton recently retired as senior historian after twenty-four years of working for the State Historical Society of Iowa; he continues to research, teach, and write in the area of nineteenth-century social history.

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Read an Excerpt

A Dictionary of IOWA Place-Names
By TOM SAVAGE
University of Iowa Press Copyright © 2007 University of Iowa Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58729-531-7



Chapter One COUNTIES

The date in parentheses indicates the date that the county was established. The numbers in parentheses at the end of each entry indicate the number of the source listed at the end of the book.

A a

Adair County (1851) was named for General John Adair. The general was a noted military man who fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. General Adair also served as a governor of Kentucky. The county seat is Greenfield. (4, 163)

Adams County (1851) was named after John Quincy Adams, who signed the Declaration of Independence and served as president of the United States. The county seat is Corning. (5, 163)

Allamakee County (1849) either was named for Allan Makee, an explorer and trapper who traded with the Indians in the area, or the name was derived from an Indian word. If drawn from an Indian dialect, it was probably the word an-a-mee-kee, meaning "thunder." The county seat is Waukon. (12, 163)

Appanoose County (1843) was named after a chief of the Sac and Fox Indians. The meaning of "Appanoose" in the Sac and Fox languages is "chief when a child." Appanoose was an important figure, because he attempted to peacefully end the Black Hawk War. The county seat is Centerville. (25, 163)

Audubon County (1851) was named after John James Audu bon, the noted ornithologist. The county seat is Audubon. (31, 163)

B b

Benton County (1843) was named after the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. Senator Benton fought in the War of 1812 and was also a noted attorney. Vinton is the county seat. (39, 163)

Black Hawk County (1847) was named after the Sac chief Black Hawk, most remembered for his participation in the Black Hawk War. Waterloo is the county seat. (48, 163)

Boone County (1846) was named after Captain Nathaniel Boone, who explored the region. Captain Boone was the son of the famous Daniel Boone. The county seat is Boone. (50, 163)

Bremer County (1851) was named after the Swedish writer Frederika Bremer. Waverly is the county seat. (4, 163)

Buchanan County (1839) was named after James Buchanan, a noted politician. Buchanan later became the president of the United States. The county seat is Independence. (59, 163)

Buena Vista County (1851) was named after the battle in the Mexican War where Santa Anna was defeated by General Zachary Taylor. The county seat is Storm Lake. (63, 163)

Butler County (1851) was named after General William O. Butler, who fought in the Mexican War and was a prominent politician of the era. Allison is the county seat. (68, 163)

C c

Calhoun County (1851) was first named Fox, for the Fox Indians who had lived in the region. The county was renamed by the legislature in 1853. It was named after John C. Calhoun, a prominent politician who served as vice president of the United States. The county seat is Rockwell City. (72, 163)

Carroll County (1851) was named after Charles Carroll, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Carroll is the county seat. (73, 163)

Cass County (1851) was named after Lewis Cass, a prominent Michigan politician. The county seat is Atlantic. (75, 163)

Cedar County (1837) was named after the Cedar River, which flows through the county. Tipton is the county seat. (76, 163)

Cerro Gordo County (1851) was named for the Mexican War battlefield where Santa Anna's troops suffered a defeat in 1847. Mason City is the county seat. (83, 163)

Cherokee County (1851) was named for the Cherokee Indians who lived in the southeast United States until they were forcibly relocated to the area that is now Oklahoma in 1838. Cherokee is the county seat. (86, 163)

Chickasaw County (1851) was named for the Chickasaw Indian tribe. The Chickasaws inhabited the southern United States until they moved to the area that is now Oklahoma after 1834. The county seat is New Hampton. (88, 163)

Clarke County (1846) was named after the governor of Iowa Territory at the time, James Clarke. Osceola is the county seat. (133, 163)

Clay County (1851) was named for Lieutenant Colonel Henry Clay Jr., who was killed in the war with Mexico. Clay was the son of the well-known politician Henry Clay. Spencer is the county seat. (134, 163)

Clayton County (1837) was named after Senator John Middleton Clayton of Delaware. Elkader is the county seat. (136, 163)

Clinton County (1837) was named after DeWitt Clinton, who built the Erie Canal and served as governor of New York. Clinton is the county seat. (137, 163)

Crawford County (1851) was named after a noted politician, William H. Crawford. Denison is the county seat. (144, 163)

D d

Dallas County (1846) was named after George Mifflin Dallas, who at the time was vice president of the United States. Adel is the county seat. (148, 163)

Davis County (1844) was named after Garrett Davis, a politician from Kentucky. Davis was involved in the establishment of the Iowa Territory. In its early days the county was known as "the Hairy Nation" because of the wild appearance and manners of the men who lived there. Bloomfield is the county seat. (150, 163)

Decatur County (1846) was named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, who fought in the War of 1812 and defended U.S. interests against Algerian pirates. Leon is the county seat. (154, 163)

Delaware County (1837) was either named after the state of Delaware or for a county in New York State. Manchester is the county seat. (156, 163)

Des Moines County (1834) was named for the Des Moines River. Burlington is the county seat. (160, 163)

Dickinson County (1851) was named after Senator Daniel Dickinson of New York. Spirit Lake is the county seat. (161, 163)

Dubuque County (1834) was named after Julien Dubuque, a French Canadian trader who mined lead in the area. The county seat is Dubuque. (163, 172)

E e

Emmet County (1851) was named after the Irish hero and pa triot Robert Emmet. Estherville is the county seat. (163, 183)

F f

Fayette County (1837) was named after Marquis de La Fayette, the French general who fought in the Revolutionary War. The county seat is West Union. (163, 188)

Floyd County (1851) was named after Sergeant Charles Floyd, who was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Floyd died and was buried in the region that would become Iowa. There is another, less credible explanation that the county was named for one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Charles City is the county seat. (163, 193)

Franklin County (1855) was named after Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman. Hampton is the county seat. (163, 198)

Fremont County (1847) was named after the soldier and explorer John C. Frémont. The county seat is Sidney. (163, 199)

G g

Greene County (1851) was named after General Nathaniel Greene, who fought in the American War for Independence. The county seat is Jefferson. (163, 215)

Grundy County (1851) was named after Senator Felix H. Grundy, U.S. senator from Tennessee. Grundy Center is the county seat. (163, 219)

Guthrie County (1851) was named for Captain Edwin Guthrie, an Iowan who was a casualty in the war with Mexico. The county seat is Guthrie Center. (163, 222)

H h

Hamilton County (1856) was named in honor of William W. Hamilton, who was then president of the Iowa Senate. Webster City is the county seat. (163, 227)

Hancock County (1851) was named after the American patriot John Hancock. The county seat is Garner. (163, 231)

Hardin County (1851) was named after Colonel John J. Hardin, a soldier from Illinois who fought in the Black Hawk War and was a casualty in the Mexican War. Eldora is the county seat. (163, 232)

Harrison County (1851) was named after William Henry Harrison, the noted politician who served as the ninth president of the United States. The county seat is Logan. (163, 234)

Henry County (1836) was named for a participant in the Black Hawk War, but which participant in particular is subject to some controversy. It was possibly named after Henry Dodge, a veteran of the Black Hawk War and the governor of the Wisconsin Territory when the county was formed. The county was part of the Wisconsin Territory at that time. The other person reputed to possibly be the inspiration for the county's name is General James D. Henry, who had served with distinction in the Black Hawk War and had died two years before the county was established. The county seat is Mt. Pleasant. (163, 240)

Howard County (1851) was named after General Tilghman Ashurst Howard, a noted soldier and politician. The county seat is Cresco. (163, 308)

Humboldt County (1851) was named after a noted German scientist and explorer, Baron Alexander von Humboldt. Dakota City is the county seat. (163, 311)

I i

Ida County (1851) was probably named after Ida Smith, the first settlers' child born in the area. Other stories attribute it to Mt. Ida in Greece or to someone's wife or friend back east. Ida Grove is the county seat. (163, 314)

Iowa County (1843) was named for the Iowa River, which runs through the county. The county seat is Marengo. (163, 319)

J j

Jackson County (1837) was named for the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. Maquoketa is the county seat. (163, 322)

Jasper County (1840) was named after a Revolutionary War hero, Sergeant William Jasper. The county seat is Newton. (163, 325)

Jefferson County (1839) was named after Thomas Jefferson, who signed the Declaration of Independence and served as the third president of the United States. Fairfield is the county seat. (163, 326)

Johnson County (1837) was named after Richard Mentor Johnson, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a prominent politician. Iowa City is the county seat. (163, 329)

Jones County (1837) was named after George Wallace Jones, a surveyor and politician. The county seat is Anamosa. (163, 334)

K k

Keokuk County (1843) was named after Sac chief Keokuk, or "watchful fox." The county seat is Sigourney. (163, 338)

Kossuth County (1851) was named after the Hungarian patriot Lajos Kossuth. It is the largest, in physical size, of all the counties in Iowa. The county seat is Algona. (163, 343)

L l

Lee County (1836) has some controversy about the origin of the county name. The official county position appears to be that the county was named after William Elliot Lee, an eastern land speculator whose land company owned large tracts of land in the area. The other credible possibility is that the county might have been named after Lieutenant Albert M. Lea. Lieutenant Lea had explored the region, particularly the Des Moines River, the year before the county was established. Add to that the fact that Lea was reported to have said that the county was named after him. The original documents spelled the county's name as "Lea," which provides evidence that Lieutenant Lea was probably the source of the name. Lee County is unique in the state of Iowa in that it has two county seats, Ft. Madison and Keokuk. The county's population was deemed to be large enough that more than one seat of justice and county business was needed. The Iowa legislature passed a special act allowing two county seats in the county. (163, 354)

Linn County (1837) was named after a Missouri senator, Lewis Linn. Cedar Rapids is the county seat. (163, 362)

Louisa County (1836) has two potential explanations for its name. It could have been named in honor of a young woman who lived in Dubuque, Louisa Massey. Massey shot a man who had killed one of her brothers. The other story is that the county was named after Louisa County in Virginia. The county seat is Wapello. (163, 367)

Lucas County (1846) was named after the first territorial governor of Iowa, Robert Lucas. The county seat is Chariton. (163, 370)

Lyon County (1851) was first called Buncombe County. The name was later changed to honor General Nathaniel Lyon, a casualty in the Civil War. The county seat is Rock Rapids. (163, 372)

M m

Madison County (1846) was named after the fourth U.S. president, James Madison. The county seat is Winterset. (163, 374)

Mahaska County (1843) was named after Mahaska, a chief of the Iowa tribe. The translation of the name is "White Cloud." Oskaloosa is the county seat. (163, 378)

Marion County (1845) was reportedly named after Revolutionary War general Francis Marion. There is another story that the county was named for one of the original settlers in the area. The county seat is Knoxville. (163, 383)

Marshall County (1846) was named after the U.S. Supreme Court justice John Marshall. The county seat is Marshalltown. (163, 387)

Mills County (1851) was named after Major Frederick Mills, an Iowan who died in the war with Mexico. The county seat is Glenwood. (163, 408)

Mitchell County (1851) was named for either the Irish patriot John M. Mitchell or in appreciation for an area surveyor. The county seat is Osage. (163, 412)

Monona County (1851) was believed to be a name of Indian origin, but that appears to be a dubious explanation. There are two other explanations that are more reasonable. The county either was named after Monona, a town in Clayton County, or the name was possibly drawn from a created Indian name that eastern writers had used in works of fiction. Onawa is the county seat. (163, 415)

Monroe County (1843) was originally named Kishkosh County and was renamed in 1846 for the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe. Albia is the county seat. (163, 416)

Montgomery County (1851) was named after General Richard Montgomery, who fought and perished in the Revolutionary War. Red Oak is the county seat. (163, 418)

Muscatine County (1836) was named for an island in the Mississippi named Muscatine Island. The name was at one time thought to have been derived from the Mascoutin Indian tribe, thought to have lived on the island for a time. A more probable reason for the name is that it was drawn from the Fox word for a flat place or prairie. The county seat is Muscatine. (163, 427)

O o

O'Brien County (1851) was named after the Irish patriot William Smith O'Brien. Primghar is the county seat. (163, 437)

Osceola County (1851) was named after Osceola, a well-known Seminole chief. Sibley is the county seat. (163, 446)

P p

Page County (1847) was named after a casualty in the war with Mexico, Captain John Page. Captain Page died in the battle of Palo Alto. Clarinda is the county seat. (163, 450)

Palo Alto County (1851) was named for the first battle of the war with Mexico. The battle took place before the war was formally declared. The county seat is Emmetsburg. (163, 452)

Plymouth County (1851) was named after the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony. The county seat is Le Mars. (163, 466)

Pocahontas County (1851) was named after the young Indian woman who was involved with the Jamestown Colony. The county seat is Pocahontas. (163, 467)

Polk County (1846) was named after James Knox Polk, who served as the eleventh president of the United States. Des Moines is both the county seat and the state capital. (163, 468)

Pottawattamie County (1847) was named for the Pottawattamie Indian tribe, who once controlled the area that became the Iowa Territory. Pottawattamie can be interpreted as meaning the "keepers or makers of the fire." Council Bluffs is the county seat, though the county has two courthouses, one in Avoca and one in Council Bluffs. (163, 479)

Poweshiek County (1843) was named after Poweshiek, a Fox chief. The area where the county is located was reportedly the hunting and fishing ground for Poweshiek and his followers. The county seat is Montezuma. (163, 473)

R r Ringgold County (1847) was named after the soldier and inventor Major Samuel Ringgold, who was killed in the war with Mexico. Mt. Ayr is the county seat. (163, 496)

S s

Sac County (1851) was named for the Sac Indian tribe. "Sac" can be translated to mean "yellow earth." The county seat is Sac City. (163, 503)

Scott County (1837) was named after General Winfield Scott, the veteran of both the Black Hawk War and the war with Mexico. The county seat is Davenport. (163, 508)

Shelby County (1851) was named after the Revolutionary War veteran General Isaac Shelby. Harlan is the county seat. (163, 514)

Sioux County (1851) was named after the Dakotas, also known as the Sioux, an Indian tribe that inhabited the western prairies of Iowa. The name Sioux can be translated as "snakes." The tribe had lived in the region for many years. Orange City is the county seat. (163, 518)

Story County (1846) was named after the U.S. Supreme Court justice Joseph Story. Nevada is the county seat. (163, 533)

T t

Tama County (1843) was named after an Indian, but exactly which person is in dispute. There are advocates for the Fox chief Tama, or Taimah. Others believe that the name comes from the name of the wife of Poweshiek, Taomah. Still others believe that the county was named after Chief Potama. The county seat is Toledo. (163, 536)

Taylor County (1847) was named after Zachary Taylor, veteran of the war with Mexico and candidate for president of the United States when the county was established. Taylor served as the twelfth president of the United States. The county seat is Bedford. (163, 538)

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Dictionary of IOWA Place-Names by TOM SAVAGE Copyright © 2007 by University of Iowa Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Contents Foreword by Loren N. Horton....................ix
Acknowledgments....................xi
Introduction....................xiii
Counties....................1
Towns....................17
Former Counties, Towns and Post Offices....................245
Sources....................311
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