Missouri Place Names Explained

This is great! In a newsletter I received today from the State Historical Society of Missouri, there was a reference to a card file of Missouri place names compiled by the students of a Professor Ramsay compiled in the first half of the 20th Century, including towns, waterways, post offices, schools and railroad stations located anywhere in Missouri.

If you, like me, enjoy the history of Missouri, then here is a resource you can spend hours with. I’ve barely started my browsing, but I’ve already found lots of gems.

Here’s an explanation of how Springfield got its name:

There are conflicting stories of the origin of the name Springfield, but by far the most satisfactory one, it seems to me, is that by Mr. Hubble. It is as follows: “Everybody in the country was invited to come in to vote their choice of a name for the county seat.—”James Wilson (after whom the present Wilson Creek is named) had a jug of white whiskey, and as fast as the people came in he took them over to his tent and said: “I am going to live here and I was born and raised in a beautiful little town in Massachusetts named Springfield, and it would gratify me very much if you would go over and vote to name this county seat after my native town.” Then he produced the jug and told the voter to help himself, which he did, and of course went and voted to name the town Springfield. My informant Captain Lucius A. Rountree, told me this story many years ago, and three years ago he told it to me again.—There is no doubt that this story is true.” (Taken from Captain Martin J. Hubble’s story in FRAGMENTS (19), p. 33)

Closer to home, here is the reported derivation of Knobtown:

A settlement of a few houses, several stores and a filling station in southeastern Brooking Township. The name was attached to the place after a tragic happening there. A former resident of the town writes: “The tale of the hanging at Knobtown is where the name originated. The man’s name Alex Klass or Klaus–the date September, 1897. He was found sitting on the lower basement step with binder twine looped around his neck and on the door knob.” Doubtless the originator of the name had in mind the term which is sometimes applied to a town on a knob, and gave the name to the present place in a semi-facetious mood. (R. Mc. 1935; Kemper; Morrow; Mrs. Fenton)

Here’s an odd anecdote from the history of High Blue Townships in Eastern Jackson county:

The two townships, 49 and 50, in range 30 were not opened for purchase for about fifteen years after the organization of the county. The surveyor reported to the government that he was unable to survey the land on account of the pressure of some powerful magnet and as they were mostly “prairie,” he thought they would not pay the expense of bringing them into the market. The story is told that the surveyor, while drunk, lost his notes, and reported as he did because he did not want to re-survey the land. The townships were referred to as “Lost Townships” and also as “High Blue” Townships. The territory is rolling land east of Little Blue River. (ATLAS JACKSON 1877, 14; EARLY HIST. OF GREATER K.C. Vol. I, 215)

I hope you enjoy searching through this great database as much as I am.

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