History of American Towns-part II Baltimore, Winona, Broken Bow and others
Wagon Bridge 1892
Winona is a very attractive city on the Mississippi river, with scenic hills. It’s a college town and has an interesting history.
The melting of the glaciers that covered much of North America the meltwater carved out the river valley from the soft limestone and dolomite bedrock. In the early 1800’s Dakota Indians started to settle there in 1853 the Indians moved to a reservation on the Minnesota River.
It is from the Dakota’s the town got its name. Winona is derived from We-No-Nah, which means, “first born daughter.” There is a legend that We-No-Nah jumped to her death from Maiden Rock, which overlooks Lake Pepin because she could not marry the man she loved. There is a statue of her in Windom Park.
Baltimore Street Scene
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key.
Baltimore, with a population of about 636,919 is the largest city in Maryland. The metropolitan area, of Baltimore-Washington Area has 2.7 million residents.
The Town of Baltimore was founded on July 30, 1729. It is named for Lord Baltimore who was the first Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland.
One of its leading attractions is the Harborplace, a mall for shopping entertainment, tourist, as well as Nationaal Aquarium in Baltimore. The cities largest employers are John Hopkins University and John Hopkins Hospital.
Historically the city was a leader in the resistance to British taxes and merchants signed agreements not to trade with Britain. After the war the Town of Baltimore, Jonestown and Fells Point were incorporated into the City of Baltimore in 1797.
Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer, was on board a British ship and witnessed the bombardment of the city. It inspired him to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” Which became the National Anthem of the United States in 1931.
During the Civil War stayed with the Union but Confederate sympathizers attacked Union soldiers when they came marching through. This led to the Baltimore riot of 1861.
Matewan, West Virginia
If you travel to Matewan, you’ll find the Matewan Historic District, Which is a National Historic Landmark, in the center of town. Noted historical events are the 1920 Battle of Matewan between mine workers and Baldwin-
Felts detectives. It was the result of an attempt to unionize the coal miners and is portrayed in the 1987 movie “Matewan.” The Hatfield-McCoy feud is another famous historical event in this town.
Two things led to the name Matewan, The first was sometime in the 1800’s a man name Richard Ferrell was bear hunting with his dog Mate. The dog chased the bear across the frozen mouth of the creek and both the dog and the bear fell through the ice and drowned. Richard named the creek “Mate Creek.”
A second event in 1890 Erskin Hazard who was a civil engineer working for the Norfolk & western Railway laid out the town and drew up the first map. Hazard wanted to name the town for his own town of Matewan, N.Y. The name was adopted but it was changed to Matewan to go with the name of the creek, which carried the name of Mate.
Portsmouth is a historic town by the sea with a population of 1000,565 persons.
It’s history dates back to 1608, about a yea after Jamestown became the first English settlement in America. Shortly after that John Wood, a shipbuilder petitioned for a grant of the land that later became Portsmouth. However, that never happened. The land was granted to Col. William Crawford, a merchant and ship owner. It was Crawford who set aside 65 acres on the river and called it Portsmouth after his hometown in England.
About two thirds of the lot owners were merchants and ship owners or craftsmen who built and rigged ships.
When the revolutionary war ended in 1781 in Yorktown, the people in Portsmouth were so excited that they cracked the bell in the Portsmouth Parish Church during their celebration.
Winnemucca, Nevada has a population of 7,500 located in Humboldt County.
Many towns in the United States bear Indian names, which is recognition of the heritage the Indians have contributed to the nation. However Winnemucca is the only town in Nevada to be named for and Indian—a famous Northern Paiute Indian Chief Old Winnemucca. The name was chosen by one of President Lincoln’s mapmakers.
When white men first saw the chief he was wearing only one moccasin. They called him Wan-na-mucha, which is a cross between English and Paiute languages meaning “one moccasin. He liked it and became known in his tribe as Winnemucca.
The chief and his daughter worked hard for their people by traveling the country to tell of the plight of his tribe. They finally presented their case in Washington; D.D. in 1882.The area has much in the way of outdoor sports and like so many places today sports a casino.
An interesting ethnic heritage is the Basque community, which originated in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Over a century ago a few Basque sheepherders settled in the area and have become part of the local culture.
Broken Bow, Nebraska
When I looked up Broken Bow I was expecting to find a romantic story of some sort explaining how a bow got broken there and why they chose it for a name. However, the truth is much less romantic.
It appears that the Post Office Department did not like several names that had been offered. A homesteader, Wilson Hewitt, found a broken bow on an old Indian burial ground. He suggested it as a name and it was accepted and it is now the name.
Broken Bow has a population of 3,491 people. It has factories making cigars and brooms, two motels and an airport. It is also a shipping center for livestock, hay and grain.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
A mild climate and easy access to the Mississippi River was an attractive place to Indians and later to white settlers. In the 1730’s Frenchman Jean Baptiste Girardot established a trading post at a rock promontory jutting from the west bank of the river.
The site became known as Cape Rock. Girardoit moved elsewhere by the mid-1700’s. In 1793 the Spanish government gave a land grant to Louis Lorimier, which included the area. He established a trading post at a different location than the previous one. Even though he is the founder, Lorimier did but the name “Giradrot” was already associated with the area. Girardot became Cape Girardeau. did try to name the area after himself.
Pine Ridge, Arkansas
There are several towns in the United States that have been named as publicity for radio or television shows. Pine Ridge was named for a radio show of the 1930’s, the popular show “Lum and Abner” The show took place in a fictional town of pine Ridge, although the show was inspired by a general store in Waters, Arkansas. The name was changed to Pine Ridge because of popular demand
© 2009 Don A. Hoglund
More by this Author
Laramie, Wyoming was named for a fur trapper, started as a railroad town, became a wild west outlaw town, was tamed by vigilantes. It is now a peaceful city and has been recommended as a top retirement community.
- 21History of American Towns & Cities Many Named For American Indian Heroes, Historical Events or Tribe Names
Many towns have foreign names, many bear names of Indians and Indian tribes, and some are named for their founders. Whatever the names, I believe the names of towns all have a story behind them.
African Americans have been conspicuously absent from histories of the west. They are not much represented in fiction either. Many people think they ere not there, but they were.