Wyoming, More Than Just a State

On July 10, 2014 · 3 Comments

A visitor arrived on Twelve Mile Circle the other day from Wyoming, Iowa. Certainly I was acutely aware of the State of Wyoming as well as the predecessor Wyoming in Pennsylvania, although the Iowa rendition was a new one for me. I conducted a quick frequency check of "populated places" designated Wyoming in the USGS Geographic Names Information, and discovered numerous occurrences. That didn’t even consider counties, townships, and all manner of other features with the same name. GNIS included 288 entries for Wyoming.


20140308 31 near Wyoming, Iowa
20140308 31 near Wyoming, Iowa by David Wilson, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

First, a little bit about the hometown of 12MC’s nameless one-time visitor. It wasn’t a large town. It had only 515 residents during the 2010 Census so I feel privileged to have attracted even one of them. Wyoming was incorporated in 1873 so it had longevity. At least one source noted that it was named for Wyoming County, New York. It remained unstated in the sources I consulted although I’d guess that an original pioneer or town founder must have arrived in Iowa from that other Wyoming.


Etymology

I’ve become a fan of William Bright’s Native American Placenames of the United States recently. I’ve relied upon it a couple of times as an instrumental resource as I delve into the history of various US placenames. Many of them traced back to English, French or Spanish mangling of Native words overheard by early explorers as they encountered territories previously unknown to them. The book also offered an explanation for Wyoming.

WYOMING (Pa., Luzerne Co.)… from Munsee Delaware (Algonquian), probably ‘at the big river flat’… The placename was made popular by an 1809 poem "Gertrude of Wyoming," commemorating a conflict between Indians and whites at the Indian site; during the nineteenth century, the name was assigned not only to the state but also to many other locations.

The Wyoming Valley runs through the place known today as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Area. Wilkes-Barre serves as the county seat of government in Luzerne County, and an actual town of Wyoming exists there as well. The various Wyoming places invariably traced back to this source ultimately, a place based upon a word in an Algonquian language called Unami, in its Munsee dialect. This was a language of the Lenape people who the European settlers called the Delaware Indians. The phrase didn’t spread through the forced migrations endured by the Lenape in the manner of the word Delaware itself (discussed previously in 12MC). Rather it traced to an unrelated event in the American Revolutionary War.


The Battle of Wyoming


Battle of Wyoming Monument
Battle of Wyoming Monument by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

British Loyalists and allied Native American warriors from the Iroquois tribe descended upon the Wyoming Valley and the town of Wyoming in 1778. They numbered several hundred and greatly outmatched those living in the valley who supporting independence. Sources described it as resembling a massacre more than a battle, with greater than two hundred people killed including many in gruesome ways. Revolutionaries couldn’t return to the area to bury their dead for several months. When they finally did, they interred their scattered dead in a mass grave. These events were commemorated by the Battle of Wyoming monument (map).


Gertrude of Wyoming

However it wasn’t until the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell wrote, "Gertrude of Wyoming; A Pennsylvanian Tale" in 1809 did Wyoming take-off in popularity in the culture of the time.



Campbell wrote Gertrude of Wyoming in Spenserian stanza and the plot revolved around Gertrude growing up in the lovely Wyoming valley, marrying the love of her life, and then perishing with her newlywed husband at the hands of the Loyalists and their Native warriors. It became wildly popular soon after its publication, fueled by romantic themes and a tragic ending.

More than anything the poem launched just about everything Wyoming, directly or indirectly, other than the original valley and the town in the vicinity of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.


Populated Places



View Towns of Wyoming in a larger map

I discovered an impressive number of populated places named Wyoming. They are noted with blue markers in the map, with a red marker at the original Wyoming in Pennsylvania. I even discovered a Wyoming in Wyoming (map).

It didn’t stop there. Imagine Wyoming in Australia.



Wyoming, New South Wales, Australia

Gertrude of Wyoming could have contributed to the Australian place name too, according to the Gosford City Library: "Campbell’s popular work may have influenced the Hely family to name their grant "Wyoming". The local suburb and the North American State share the same name origin. The use of the term “Wyoming” locally pre-dates the American State by many years."

Gertrude certainly got around.

More Weird Placenames

On June 12, 2014 · 6 Comments

This isn’t one of those lists passed around the Intertubes. You’ve all seen them and I’m certain you know what I mean. No Monkey’s Eyebrow or Turkey Scratch here. These are placenames that I’ve encountered as I’ve conducted the daily task of keeping Twelve Mile Circle current. They came from various sources as I researched articles or as I obsessed over reader statistics. As usual, I attempted to peer behind the curtain to understand the reasons for these names.

Full



Full-Reuenthal, Switzerland

I noticed Full through Google Analytics. Somebody from Full landed upon 12MC and left behind a little digital footprint for me. Nothing more. Sure, whatever "Full" referenced in any one of Switzerland’s four official languages, whether German, French, Italian or Romansh, probably didn’t mean the same thing as English. Nonetheless the thought of a Full town made me smile. It could spark a lot of entertaining jokes.

A little digging determined that Google Analytics shortened Full and the actual name was Full-Reuenthal. German Wikipedia mentioned that Full began as Wulna circa 1303-1307 and merged with Reuenthal in 1798 to form Full-Reuenthal. It then explained, "Dieser Ortsname ist von (ze) follinun abgeleitet, was auf Althochdeutsch «beim aufgeschütteten Boden» bedeutet." Google Translate deciphered that as, "This place name is derived from (ze) follinun, which means to Old High German ‘during backfill soil’."

During backfill soil? That didn’t make sense. I ran the identical phrase through several different translation websites and generated other possibilities.

  • “with heaped upon the ground”
  • “with heaped up the ground”
  • “with the piled up ground”
  • “at the bottom heaped-up”
  • “for the deposited ground”

I think that provided sufficient context to understand to the Full meaning. Do we have any native German speakers in the 12MC audience who might be able to offer further clarity?


Hurlstone


Cooks River Cycleway
Cooks River Cycleway by Brian Yap, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
This scenic cycleway is an amenity of Hurlstone Park

Once again, Google Analytics hurled an interesting placename towards my direction. A reader arrived from a spot identified as Hurlstone, in suburban Sydney, Australia. I could imagine residents dodging rocks as an unidentified malcontent hurled missiles in their direction.

The name had been truncated in the reader log just as I’d observed with Full. The complete name was Hurlstone Park (map). I found an explanation of the name in the Dictionary of Sydney.

In 1910 a new post office was approved for Fernhill, but the Postmaster General’s Department insisted that the name of the locality would need to be changed as there were already two post offices with that name, one in Victoria and one in Queensland. A local referendum was held in conjunction with a municipal election, the choice being between Hurlstone, Fernboro or Garnett Hill. Hurlstone was selected. This was the name of a college that had been founded by John Kinloch (on the site of today’s Yeo Park, south Ashfield) and given his mother’s maiden name.

The surname Hurlstone "derived from a geographical locality. ‘of Hurlston,’ a township in the parish of Acton, Cheshire," somewhere right about here. The original Hurlston placename seemed to have derived from "’fenced farm’ from the pre 7th century Olde English ‘hurdl-tun’"

Fenced farm. That was lame. It had nothing to do with hurling stones.


Tippity Wichity



Tippity Wichity Island, Maryland, Maryland, USA

I found Tippity Wichity Island while researching Saint Marys River. It was right there in the river channel outside of St. Marys City in Maryland. Tippity Wichity wasn’t a large parcel so I figured I wouldn’t find any meaningful information about it, and frankly was quite satisfied simply to discover an image even if I couldn’t embed it because it was copyright protected. The island was rather modest.

Then I ran across an article in ChesapeakeBoating.net, Ghosting Past Tippity Wichity which provided an explanation for the unusual name.

There, according to noted Potomac River historian Frederick Tilp, Howgate established "a gambling, drinking, and girlie place known as Happie Land and then altered the place name to a short version of Tippling-house and Witchery-house"-Tippity-Witchity. Eventually, the island itself took on the name, accommodating a lively trade with crews from schooners and cargo vessels who would visit for a little entertainment.

Tippling houses specialized in liquor by the glass. Witchery House was an unfamiliar phrase to me although I could read between the lines, and assumed witchery probably referred to its alternate definition, "Compelling power exercised by beauty, eloquence, or other attractive or fascinating qualities." rather than the actual practice of witchcraft. There was drinking and um, not witchcraft, happening on Tippity Wichity Island. Happie Land, indeed.


Walkaway



Walkaway Railway Station Museum, Walkaway, Western Australia

Walkaway. Why would someone walk away? That didn’t sound like an attractive endorsement for a town. I noticed Walkaway in Western Australia while working on Make Tracks to Midland. This was a station on a line operated by the Midland Railway Company a century ago, and the station later became a museum with "railway artifacts, military relics, local history."

I couldn’t find a definitive source for its name. Every website seemed to copy directly from its Wikipedia page and that site didn’t offer attribution either. Let me join the masses and spread the same statement in an entirely irresponsible manner: "Its name is a corruption of the native ‘Wagga wah’, referring to the bend in the nearby Greenough River." It must be true because the Internet said so. Right?

Upstart Eclipses Namesake

On January 9, 2014 · 10 Comments

When I think of "New" places I tend to fuse together the full placenames mentally into a single phrase and begin to overlook the separate elements. I don’t forget completely that earlier entities inspired newer ones, although I mostly overlook the original namesake within the larger string. For example, if I considered Orléans in France it would have meaning to me and conjure a specific image, as would the city of New Orleans in Louisiana. However, France’s Orléans wouldn’t come to mind particularly when I thought of New Orleans USA, even it it provided the bulk of the latter’s placename.

Oftentimes settlers tacked New onto very significant placenames, bestowing a little piece from their homeland onto frontier backwaters. London was and continues to be an extremely important city. Nobody would try to argue rationally that London in the UK doesn’t dwarf in size, reputation and importance the city of New London in Connecticut, USA. That’s not intended to disparage New London, of course. It merely points out the obvious, that New London, well, it doesn’t have the worldwide recognition or relevance of London. Other times, however, the New location managed to grow in significance over decades or centuries to a point where it actually began to overshadow and eventually surpassed its namesake.

I recognize that this so-called eclipsing might be culturally, geographically or individually bound. Going back to the New Orleans example I mentioned a moment ago, in my mind New Orleans has eclipsed Orléans. However I’ve spent a lifetime in the United States, I’ve been to New Orleans numerous times both for family and business reasons, and Hurricane Katrina had a direct impact on some of my immediate family. Thus, New Orleans figures quite prominently in my consciousness. Would a Frenchman concede that La Nouvelle-Orléans had eclipsed Orléans? Probably not. Let’s bear that in mind as I offer a few examples. All of them are subjective. Some may even seem ridiculous to those with different perspectives.


New Zealand



Zeeland, The Netherlands

New Zealand derived its name from Zeeland in the Netherlands. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman received credit as the first European to spot the islands in the 1640′s. Dutch cartographers later applied the name Nova Zeelandia / Nieuw Zeeland. This was later anglicized to New Zealand and became the name of a nation to its English-speaking inhabitants.

Zeeland is a province in the southwest corner of The Netherlands with fewer than four hundred thousand residents. New Zealand, on the other hand, became a well-known sovereign state with more than ten times that population. This, to me, seemed to fit the definition of an upstart eclipsing its namesake.

As an aside, sometimes Zeeland in The Netherlands gets confused with Zealand in Denmark, which is the well-populated island that includes Copenhagen. New Zealand was named for the former, not the latter.


New South Wales



South Wales, UK

One should credit Captain James Cook with naming what eventually became the Australian state of New South Wales. That seemed only fair since 12MC discussed places that were named for Capt. Cook previously. The Preface to "Captain Cook’s Journal during his first voyage round the world made in H.M. Bark ‘Endeavour’ 1768-71," which was a literal transcription of his original journal, noted:

The name, “New South Wales,” was not bestowed without much consideration, and apparently at one stage New Wales was the appellation fixed upon, for in Mr. Corner’s copy it is so called throughout, whereas the Admiralty copy has “New South Wales.”

Had the New Wales label stuck instead of New South Wales, I’d have a hard time concluding that it had eclipsed Wales, even with Sydney included as part of the upstart state. I think I’d probably give the nod to Wales in that instance. However, because the upstart referenced only one portion of Wales (albeit the one including Cardiff, Swansea and Newport) I’d have to say in my mind that New South Wales had trumped South Wales.

Nobody was quite sure why Cook recognized South Wales specifically from what I could find in my limited research.


New Guinea



Gulf of Guinea

This one will take some explanation. I began with the original Guinea, that derived "directly from the Portuguese word Guiné, which emerged in the mid-15th century to refer to the lands inhabited by the Guineus, a generic term for the black African peoples below the Senegal River." New Guinea on the other hand is the second largest island after Greenland, shared by the nation of Papua New Guinea and a portion of Indonesia.

Certainly there are many other places and things named for ancient Guinea: the African nations of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea came to mind, along with the Bay of Guinea and all of them within proximity of the original Guinea. There are even Guineafowl and Guinea Pigs named for the same place (even though Guinea Pigs were native to South America). I wouldn’t suggest that New Guinea should eclipse the collective set of current Guineas, only that it eclipsed ancient Guinea since the original place was a general, amorphous 15th Century geographic construct anyway. Many of the other Guineas mentioned may have eclipsed that older place as well. Well, maybe not Guineafowl. Guinea Pig probably has, though.


How about going back to the USA for some other examples?

Sure. Here are my thoughts:

  • New York has eclipsed York
  • New Jersey has eclipsed Jersey
  • New Hampshire and Hampshire are probably a toss-up with people on respective sides of the Atlantic likely viewing it differently
  • New Mexico has NOT eclipsed Mexico
  • New England has NOT eclipsed England

Agreements, dissenting opinions and additional examples are all welcome.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Subscribe
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Categories
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
July 2014
S M T W T F S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031