Names of Northern Pacific Stations
A study of the names of towns and stations on the Northern Pacific Railway reveals six general classes of names. These classes are divided as follows: 1. Personal names. 2. Descriptive names. 3. Names from distant places. 4. Indian names. 5. Composite names. 6. Miscellaneous names. These same classes may probably be noted in any large group of names. Certain events have influenced the naming of places on the Northern Pacific, as, for example, the fact that the United States Army protected the survey parties of the Northern Pacific from the Indians was responsible for naming about ten towns in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. These towns are Forsyth, Hathaway, Custer, Shirley, Miles City, Terry and Fort Keogh, Montana, and Fryburg, Beach and Yates, North Dakota, all named after United States Army officers. Sampson and Schley in Montana, stations which were established in 1900, were named after admirals in the United States Navy who had just became famous in the war with Spain, and Fortson, in Washington, was named after Captain George Fortson of Seattle, mortally wounded in the Philippines. Nome in North Dakota and Klondyke in Minnesota, also established in 1900, were named after places of similar names in Alaska, which at that time became famous on account of the gold discovery there.
Nearly all former presidents of the railroad were honored by having towns named after them. These were Josiah Perham, J. Gregory Smith, General George [Washington] Cass, Charles [Barstow] Wright, Frederick Billings, [Ashbel] H. Barney, Henry Villard, Thomas [Fletcher] Oakes, and [Jule Murat] Hannaford. The station of Elliott was named after T.M. Elliott from whom right-of-way at that place was acquired, not after Howard Elliott, a former president. Several of the stations were named after directors of the company, among them: Ainsworth, Wash., Aldrich, Minn., Belmont, Wash., Cheney, Wash., Dilworth, Minn., Fargo, N.D., Livingston, Mont., Moorhead, Minn., Rea, Mont., Tower City, N.D., and Wilkeson, Wash. The stations of Colgate and Hoyt, both near Glendive, Mont., were named after Colgate Hoyt, a director. Towns have been named after many railroad officials, especially of the Engineering Department, superintendents, trainmasters, roadmasters, etc. The following names are after the names of chief engineers: Adna, Wash., [General] Adna Anderson; Milnor, N.D., [William] Milnor Roberts; McHenry, N.D., [Edwin Harrison] McHenry; Darling, Minn., [William Lafayette] Darling; Blum, Mont., Bernard Blum. It seems that two stations only are named after station agents: Carney, Mont., being named after John Carney, agent at Springdale, Mont., and Holker, Mont., after Thomas Holker, agent at Toston, Mont. The town of Roberts in Montana is said to be named after a baggage master on one of the trains running into that place. Not only were towns named after railway officials and employees, but their daughters have also been honored thus. Kathryn and Marion, N.D., were named after the daughters of [Charles Sanger] Mellen, a former president; Zillah, Wash., after a daughter of Thomas F. Oakes; and Elizabeth, N.D., after a daughter of [Charles] S. Fee, a former general passenger agent. The station of Persis, N.D., was named after Persis Howes, a stenographer in the Engineering Department at the time the station was established.
Other stations which bear personal names were named after early explorers, early settlers, prominent local men, men from the Northern Pacific acquired stations grounds, postmasters, etc. Among those named after early explores are Fort Lewis, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho, named after Captain Meriwether Lewis. Lewark, Mont., is a named coined from the names of Lewis and Clark, the explorers. Shields, Mont., is named after John Shields, one of the party of Lewis and Clark. Among those named after early missionaries are Spalding, Idaho, Rev. H.H. Spalding; DeSmet, Mont., Father Pierre Jean DeSmet; Ravalli, Mont., Father Anthony Ravalli; and Allouez, Wis., Father Claude Allouez. In this class are also some feminine names – Alice, N.D., was named by R.S. Lewis, a Fargo banker, after one of his family. Mildred, Minn., was named after Mrs. Mildred Schofield, first postmistress at that place. Crete, Myra and Hazelton, N.D., Florence, Mont., and Hazel, Wash., all are named after daughters of the owners of land at those places. Jessie, N.D., is named after Lake Jessie, which was named by General John C. Fremont in honor of his wife. Ellensburg, Wash., is named after Mary Ellen, the wife of Mr. Shoudy who platted the town. Almira, Wash., is named after the wife of the first merchant at that place, and Beulah, N.D., after the niece of Mr. L.C. Pettibone, who laid out the town. Agatha, Idaho, is named after the wife of Jim Evans, and early settler. Two towns on the Northern Pacific were named Larson, one in Montana and one in Washington. Both were named after Peter Larson of Helena, a contractor, lumberman, and railroad director. The towns of Jud, Judson and LaMoure, N.D., were all named after Judson LaMoure, a prominent citizen of North Dakota. There are also among the personal names of towns some of which are in honor of historical and famous persons, presidents and vice-presidents of the United States, governors of states, senators, etc., Those named after presidents of the United States are Lincoln, Minn., Garfield, Wash., Cleveland, N.D., and Taft and Woodrow, Mont. Harrison, Mont., is named after H.C. Harrison, who owned property in that vicinity. Duluth is named after Daniel Graysolon Du Luth, an early explorer. Gwinner, N.D., is named after Arthur von Gwinner, president of the Deutsch Bank in Berlin.
An interesting class of names of towns is the descriptive class, towns whose names are derived from local features, characteristics, etc., Among them is a group of names indicating that the places are at high altitudes or at the highest point in their vicinity, among which are Highview, Mont., High Point, Wash., Skyline, Mont., Apex, Ore., Summit, Ida., Creston, Wash., Corona, Minn., Hillgrove, Wash., Topside, Wis., and Hilltop, Minn. Another group indicates the variety of trees growing in the vicinity, namely Alderton, Wash., Alder, Mont., Hemlock, Wash., Cedar Lake, Minn., Willow Creek, Mont., Tamarack, Minn., Maple and Poplar, Wis., Oak Lake, Minn., Oakville, Wash., Pine City, Minn., and White Pine, Mont. The station of Chestnut, Mont., is not named on account of chestnut trees but for Colonel J.D. Chestnut, United States Army officer. Other descriptive names among the stations on the Northern Pacific show the soil or mineral conditions in their locality. These are Scoria, N.D., Claymont, Minn., Quartz, Mont., Pipestone, Mont., Granite, Ida., Silver Star, Mont., Gold Creek, Mont., Iron River, Wis., Talc, Mont., and Black Carbon, Wash. Silver Bow, Mont., is named after Silver Bow Creek, which was named from the way the sun shone on it through a break in the clouds. Among the descriptive names are included such pleasing or agreeable names as Golden Valley, N.D., Warm Springs, Mont., Valley City, N.D., Stillwater, Minn., Fruitvale, Wash., Eden, Wash., and Sunnyside, Wash. Trident and Three Forks, Mont., are both towns located near and named after the three forks of the Missouri River. Cowiche, Wash., is named from the fact that the bird, Kildee or Killdeer, were numerous in this district. Cowiche is the Indian name for Killdeer.
The names of towns derived from distant places are thus named principally from the fact that the first postmaster or the owner of the town site in naming the town of post office thought of his former hometown or birthplace. Towns on the Northern Pacific are named after places in Europe as follows: Beroun, Minn., in Bohemia; Attalia, Wash., in Italy; St. Cloud, Minn., in France; Odessa, N.D., in Russia; Belgrade, Mont., in Serbia; Silesia, Mont., and Flensburg, Minn., in Prussia; Groningen, Minn., Friesland, Minn., and Amsterdam, Mont., in Holland; and Kelso, Wash., Aberdeen, Wash., and Carbella, Mont., in Scotland. Glendive, Mont., is named after Glendive Creek which was named after Glendive Creek in Ireland. Towns are named after the following places in eastern states: Geneva, N.D., and Manhattan, Mont., in New York; Franconia, Minn., in New Hampshire; Portland, Ore., in Maine; Royalton, Minn., in Vermont; Wyoming, Minn., after Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania; Ypsilanti, N.D., and Adrian, N.D., in Michigan; and Athol, Ida., and Sudbury, Wash., in Massachusetts. Helena, Mont., is named after Helena in Minnesota; Mendota, Wash., after Mendota in Missouri; Superior, Mont., after Superior in Wisconsin; Farmington, Wash., after Farmington in Minnesota; Kent in Washington which is in a district where hops are grown, is named after Kent in England, also in a hop-growing district. New Brighton, Minn., is named after Brighton, Mass., on account of the meat packing industry at both places. Buffalo, N.D., is named after Buffalo, N.Y., the birthplace of William Wilkeson, former secretary of the Northern Pacific.
The towns and stations which may be classed as having Indian names really have only names derived from Indian names. Probably none of them retain the original Indian spelling, although the words in some cases are not greatly changed. Some names have been changed as follows: Oswego, N.D.—O-Swa-Geh; Mendota, Wash.—Mdota; Towanda, Wash.—Tawandeunk; Chisago City, Minn.—Ki-chi-sago; Genesee, Ida.—Gennis-he-yo; Manhattan, Mont.—Munnchan; Mahtomedi, Minn.—Mato-mde; Tacoma, Wash.—Tahoma; Missoula, Mont.—In-mis-sou-let-ka; Kooskia, Wash.—Koos-hoos-Kie; Moquah, Wis.—Mu-qwn; Cle Elum, Wash.—Kle-Allum; Napavine, Wash.—Napavoon; Amnicon, Wis.—Ah-min-ah-con-ning.
Some Indian names of places have been used but translated into the English language, as for, instance, Gull Lake and Leech Lake, Minn. The name of Pine City, Minn., is translated from Chengwatana. Nothing is more evident that that all Indian local names have or had a signification, and that in most cases those names were given with rare good judgment. A very large majority of their names convey an idea of some quality or characteristic of the place named, or are commemorative of events which took place at or near these places. Of course, the Indians are not responsible for the very free use that has been made of their local nomenclature by European settlers in this country who have been using them without any regard whatever to their signification—rivers taking the names of mountains, and mountains of rivers, and the names of both given to cities, etc. Nor are they responsible for transplanting those names to localities from which they did not originate. Among such names on the Northern Pacific are Manhattan, Mont., named after Manhattan Island, N.Y. Manhattan means “The island,” but there is no island at Manhattan, Mont. Mendota means “Mouth of the river,” but Mendota in Washington is not at the mouth of any river. The name originates in Mendota, Minn., which is the mouth of the Minnesota River.
The following names will be noted as conveying in Indian language a characteristic of the place named: Muskoda, Minn.—A prairie; Anoka, Minn.—On both sides (town on both sides of river); Missoula, Mont.—River of awe (Missoula River); Kennewick, Wash.—Grassy place; Tacoma, Wash.—Nourishing breast; Hoquiam, Wash.—Hungry for wood (refers to driftwood in river); Chisago City, Minn.—Large and lovely (Chisago Lake); Minnewaukan, N.D., Walla Walla, Wash., and Wallula, Wash.—Running water; Ah Gwa Ching, Minn.—Out of doors (refers to tuberculosis sanitarium here); Cocolalla, Ida.—Cold water (Cocolalla Lake); Enumclaw, Wash.—Home of evil spirits (refers to a thunderstorm in the mountains); Genesee, Ida.—Beautiful valley; Sumas, Wash.—Land without trees; Amnicon, Wis.—Where the fish spawn (Amnicon River); Napavine, Wash.—A small prairie; Lapwai, Ida.—Place of the butterflies; Puyallup, Wash.—Generous people; Spokane, Wash.—Child of the sun; Yakima, Wash.—Black bear.
The following towns were named after Indian chiefs: Copalis, [Kanaskat], Seattle, Shoskin and Wynaco, Wash., Kamish, Ida., Victor, Moieses, Arlee and Charlo, Mont., and Bemidji, Minn.
A number of the class designated as composite or coined names of towns are interesting and unusual. Occasionally these composite names are formed from the names of individuals, for instance: Patcum, Mont., from Pat Cummings, a roadmaster; Harsha, Wash., from Harvey Shaw, from whom the right-of-way was acquired; Marmac, Wash., from Mary MacDonald, an old settler; Misko, Mont., from Mike Skones, a roadmaster. other names are formed from the names of tow persons such as Temvik, N.D., from Temple and Larvik, prominent citizens of that place; Wilsall, Mont., from Will and Sally Jordan, children of the man from whom [the] right-of-way was acquired; Juliaetta, Ida., from the daughters of an early settler of that place; Halmar, Wash., from Hal and Marion, children of T.R. Brew, and Lewark, Mont., from Lewis and Clark, the explorers. Bucoda in Washington is named after three of its prominent men by using the first two letters of their names—Buckley, Coulter and Davis. Lebam, Wash., is named after Mabel, the daughter of J.W. Goodell, from whom [the] property was acquired. The world Mabel is written backward. Nagrom, Wash., is also a word written backward, being in honor of Mr. [Elmer G.] Morgan of the Morgan Lumber Company at that place. Jaype, Ida., is from the initials of [John Philip] Weyerhaeuser, the lumberman. Golva, N.D., is from Golden Valley, the name of the county. Adco, Wash., is a name formed from the names of two towns in that vicinity—Adrian and Connell, as is also Rittell, Wash., from Ritzville and Ellensburg. Minneapolis is a composite of the word derived from the Indian “Minnehaha” meaning “laughing water” and the Greek word “Polis” meaning “city.” Nallpee is a name derived from the name of [William C.] Albee, former [superintendent], and the initials “NP” of the Northern Pacific Railway. Norpak is also derived from the name Northern Pacific. Eltopia, Wash., was formerly Eltopai, derived from the phrase “Hell-to-pay” on account of [a] cloudburst and washout during construction days.
Among the towns whose names are of miscellaneous origin are a few that are named from names in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. These are Ceres, Wash., the goddess of grain; Dryad, Wash., a wood nymph; Hesper, Mont., the evening star; Pomona, Wash., the goddess of the fruit trees; and Athena, Ore., the goddess of wisdom. Bacon, Wash., was named as a joke by the railroad builders, who perhaps, were thinking more about their breakfasts than of town names. Rider, N.D., is an abbreviation of Riders, the original name of this place. The name is derived from “Rough Riders,” Colonel [Theodore] Roosevelt’s regiment in the [Spanish-American War.] St. Paul, Minn., is named after the small log chapel erected here and dedicated by Father Gaultier on November 1, 1841, to the apostle St. Paul. He expressed a wish at that time that the settlement might be known by the same name.
Author: Northern Pacific Railway. Title:Names of Northern Pacific Stations
© December 23, 2004