By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 6/30/15 (Tue)
Do you ever think about place names and how they may have gotten their identity?
There are a lot of them, too many to mention in this space. Some are odd, some are strange, some are vulgar and others are just plain weird.
We have some interesting place names right here in North Dakota. We take them for granted because we see and hear about them every day, but to an outsider, some of these names may appear strange.
At the top of the list is Devils Lake. Indian legend has it there was a monster in the lake, similar to the Loch Ness monster, thus it became known as Devils Lake because of constant rough waters and fright of the monster.
Many of us will remember Zip to Zap in 1969. No, Zap has nothing to do with electricity. It was actually named after a coal mining town in Ireland called Zappe.
We hear and see New Town a lot and that’s exactly what it is. When Elbowoods, Sanish and Van Hook were flooded because of Garrison Dam in the early ‘50s, the displaced people moved to the “new” “town” and that’s how it got its name.
It’s too bad the government bought out Churchs Ferry. It’s the only town in North Dakota that has a “New England” charm about it.
I didn’t know Dunseith had a suburb, did you? Yes, East Dunseith is a bona fide community in North Dakota.
There’s also East Fairview, which makes a lot of sense because of Fairview, Mont., right across the river. Hardly a suburb, it’s basically a place to stage sugar beets.
Have you ever heard of Hove’s Mobile Home Park? Up until at least 2000, it was an incorporated city in North Dakota. Situated between Langdon and Osnabrock, it was established to house many of the workers who built the missile sites around the Grand Forks Air Force Base.
There’s a lot of other interesting place names beyond North Dakota. One of them is Tea, S.D. This is a little town near Yankton and one can only imagine how it must have got its name.
There’s a community in Florida, near Orlando called Kissimmee. It’s pronounced two different ways, but I wonder if newlyweds frequent Kissimmee as much as they do Valentine, Neb?
Do sick people go to Medicine Hat, Alberta? It’s actually a name that comes from a native word that means “Holy bonnet.”
Here are a few others to consider:
• Embarrass, Minn.
• Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
• Hooker, Okla.
• Mosquitoville, Vermont
• Death Vally, Calif.
• Tombstone, Ariz.
• Liberal, Kan.
• Yellowknife, N.W.T.
• Flin Flon, Manitoba
Any one of us who has studied Colonial history will remember the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. There’s actually another town, kind of like Devils Lake, that I don’t think I would want to live there. It’s called Satan’s Kingdom and it’s an unincorporated town on the Vermont border.
I was stationed at Fort McCoy, Wis., for a while and right near the post is LaCrosse, which has its own suburb called Onalaska.
If I had to get supplies, I would often drive over there and sometimes called my friends in Alaska from Onalaska. You know, just like matter and anti-matter or pasta and antipasta.
There are two towns in Canada that I certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with at any time. Not only is Uranium City one of the coldest locations in Saskatchewan, it most likely glows in the dark.
The other one is Asbestos, Quebec. What do you think that name implies?
There’s another community near the Arctic that has changed its name to one that is nearly impossible to pronounce or spell.
It’s Iqaluit, and it became the capital city of the Nunavut Territory when it was created in 1999. For those of you who remember your Canadian history, it was established in 1949 as Frobisher Bay and was renamed in 1987.
Anyone who kept up with the news in the late ‘60s will remember Chappaquiddick, Mass. That is the infamous community in which a woman riding with Sen. Ted Kennedy was killed in a motor vehicle accident.
There’s absolutely no information about the town, only stories about the Kennedy accident. Interesting name, I wish I could find out what it means.
Finally, Dog River is one of my favorites. It’s the site of the Canadian sitcom “Corner Gas” and became a household name in 2007. It’s actually Roleau, Sask., but everyone there prefers Dog River.