Weird Texas Town Names: Who Named These Places?

“Are there really bees in this cave?”

In early 2021, under that skeptical headline, I wrote a “Think Texas” column about how cities in Texas got their name. I started with places – including Alice, Brownwood, and Waxahachie – whose local newspapers make up our USA Today Network.

It was a success.

So I continued with a column of stories collected by readers about the origins of their municipal nicknames. We learned, for example, more about Nameless, Old Dime Box, Coble Switch, Denison, Anna and Melissa.

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The original column was inspired and informed by Edward Callary’s “Texas Place Names” with Jean K. Callary, a new book published by University of Texas Press.

It’s time to dive back into this fascinating pool of learning and fun. This time, I have chosen some of the most unusual and intriguing city names. I have included slightly modified and expanded entries from the new book.

Gun cannon city (Henderson County): When Cedar Creek Reservoir was built in the 1960s, the community took the name of Texas 198, known as Gun Barrel Lane, straight as a gun barrel – almost – between Mabank and Payne Spring. The city’s slogan: “We shoot directly with you”. (The town of 6,000 is home to a famous gay bar, Garlow’s.)

The Gun Barrel City, Texas tagline is "We shoot directly with you."

Quicksands (Newton County): Named after Quicksand Creek and Little Quicksand Creek, themselves named for the actual or perceived presence of moist loose sand that traps heavy objects. (While tracing the rivers of Texas, I was warned of the quicksand along the banks of the Red River. It terrified me.)

Zipperlandville (Falls County): This small community takes its name from the Zipperlen store, opened by Otto Wilhelm Zipperlen in the 1920s. (Not a very interesting origin story, but what a cool name. I hope someone ‘one will open a clothing store using the city name.)

Write them down (Delta County): In 1936, Dion McDonald opened a general store known as the Jot ‘Em Down Store, named after the fictitious establishment co-owned by Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody on the comedy show Very Hillbilly’s popular “Lum and Abner” in the 1930s and 1940s. The name took hold and Jot ‘Em Down became the name of a local ginning company, then the community.

Helotes, the city of Texas in Bexar County, was named after the Aztec word associated with corn on the cob.  Here, Belinda Dimas cooks helote asado (hot grilled corn on the cob) at the Austin Country flea market.

Same (Atascosa County): Ephraim Forest opened the Mottamosa Post Office in July 1866. The office was discontinued in 1875 and reopened by William Gates as Gates Valley in 1876. This office was discontinued in 1880 and the following year, George F. Atkins requested its reopening. the Gates Valley office, but instead of writing “Gates Valley” as the intended name, he simply wrote the mark meaning “ditto”, thinking it would be interpreted by the Post Office as “what happened before “. Instead, postal officials, being very literary people – and very literal people, took it as Atkin’s shorthand for “ditto.” Rather than resubmitting the request, Atkins chose to become a master of Idem Post Office.

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Switch off (County of Blanco): Blowout was founded in the mid-1850s; named from Blowout Spring and Blowout Cave. According to local accounts, the cave was home to thousands of bats and was named Blowout when a lightning strike struck the cave entrance, causing the gases that had accumulated after years of guano buildup to explode. bat. (The lesson in life, I guess, is not to retreat to a bat cave for shelter during a thunderstorm.)

Mott long (Calhoun County): “Mott” is a common term in Texas for an isolated grove, especially a grove of live oaks or elms, on an otherwise open prairie. The settlers of the 1850s named two of these groves Upper Mott and Lower Mott. The post office opened by George De Cloudt in 1887 took the name of Upper Mott, more elongated. (Once you learn the term “mott,” you will identify these typically tall groves throughout the Texas countryside.)

In Texas, a "word" is an isolated grove of trees, usually oaks or elms, located in a meadow.  Long Mott, Texas, is named after one of two motts in Calhoun County.

Rockne (Bastrop County): First known as Walnut Creek and later as Lehman or Lehmanville for John and Rosina Lehman, who settled in the area in the 1870s. In 1931, after a vote schoolchildren in the area, Lehmanville was renamed to Knute Rockne, after the legendary Notre Dame football coach who was killed in a plane crash in 1931.

(I wrote about this name change when describing the Callahan family from the Callahan General Store on US 183. Rockne is still home to the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, which primarily served German and Irish Catholic immigrants. who were the ancestors of the Callahans.It turns out that Rockne, the man, had conducted football workshops in Austin at St. Edward’s University, a sister school to the University of Notre Dame, and was therefore considered a local hero as well as a national figure.)

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Helots (County of Bexar): The Nuhuatl (Aztec) “elotl” or “roasting cobs, corn cobs” was taken in American Spanish as “elotes” or “olotes” with the extended meaning “cornfields”. Helotes had referred to a general area of ​​Bexar County since at least the early 1700s and was granted official status when Charles (Carl) Mueller established the Helotes Post Office in 1873. As a place name, Helotes is unique to Texas.

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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