Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Utah's Quirky Place Names

                  "Schoolmarm's Bloomers Arch"? It could have been ...

UTAH definitely has its share of quirky place names: Tooele (is that Tool or Two-lee?), Carcass Canyon, the Confusion Mountains . . . Joe and His Dog?
But if some of the monikers bestowed by early settlers had caught on, the state would have some even weirder names on its maps.

How about "The Schoolmarm's Bloomers" as unofficial state symbol?
Would you consider settling down in lovely E.T. City, Frogtown, Neversweat, Ragtown or Sober City?
And obviously, the Unknown Mountains couldn't hold that name for long.
"We do have some unusual names," said Tracy Cayford, communications director for the Utah Travel Council. "The mixture is really interesting."
Delicate Arch is certainly a more P.R.-savvy name for that popular attraction in Arches National Park. But to early cowboys, the natural feature that graces thousands of Utah license plates (and many a coffee-table book) was known indelicately as the Schoolmarm's Bloomers. It also had other nicknames, such as "Cowboy Chaps" and "Mary's Bloomers."
Fairfield, west of Utah Lake in Utah County, can be thankful it is no longer Frogtown. Austin in Sevier County also was once known as Frog Town, for the plentiful amphibians in the nearby Sevier River.
Sevier County's Vermillion, too, can bless the stars that it has outgrown the name of Neversweat, a reference to its high summer heat and humidity.
"Ragtown" was the original name for Magna (which also, for some reason, surrendered its attractive second title, "Pleasant Green"). And "Sober City" was first applied, tongue in cheek, to Gusher in Uintah County because, it is said, of the residents' drunkenness.
The Henry Mountains in Garfield County were the last mountain range in the country to be named in 1869. Earlier they were listed as the Unknown Mountains.
Cayford said many of Utah's more unusual names stem from the state's extensive pioneer heritage.
"The major destinations for tourists here are pretty self-explanatory," Cayford said. "Some in the outlying areas require explanations."
The book "Utah Place Names," by John W. Van Cott, is a most complete directory to the state's communities and landscapes.
Here are some other surprising place-name origins:
  • Adventure. Now there's a hometown with an inviting name. Or is it? Utah's Adventure, founded in 1860 along the Virgin River, is now a ghost town. Residents felt it adventurous to live there, what with flooding and other desert conditions. It was abandoned and Rockville was founded — upriver — after the town was flooded.
  • Baptist Draw, in Emery County, received its name when early settler Joe Swasey "baptized" his dog by tossing it into one of the draw's water pockets.
  • Bottle Hollow, Uintah County, was so named because it was a mile-long dump for empty liquor bottles of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duchesne in the 1880s.
  • China Lake in Summit County got its name either after a Chinese man and his mule drowned in it or because it was said you could sink down to China before reaching the bottom of the deep lake.
  • Deadman Ridge, Garfield County, got the title after Myron Shurts was killed by lightning there in 1912.
  • And Beaver County's Gorilla Ridge received that name after prospectors in the area saw an unshaven miner they thought to be a gorilla.
  • (-From a Deseret News article by Lynn Arave on Dec. 25, 2000.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

No comments:

Post a Comment