Unusual Names of Texas Places

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetI thought it’d be fun today to talk about unusual town names in Texas.  Of course, I selected Texas because that’s where I was born and raised.

That brings me to “born and raised” which is totally off the subject. I always was told I was born and raised here, but when I got a little older I found out I was “born and reared”. Corn is raised, children are reared.  I absolutely hated it to the max, but when I did any type of a talk I’d use reared.  My last copy editor changed my MS from reared to raised and said reared is antiquated. Guess that tells you how old I am.  What’s you thoughts on born and raised vs. born and reared?

Now for how some of our towns got their names.

The community my parents lived in when I was born is Cactus, Texas.  It’s one county over but I was actually born in Amarillo at St. Anthony’s Hospital.

Now for Cactus: The only living thing in sight — cactus — gave New York engineers their inspiration for naming the Cactus Ordinance Works.  Cactus 1When a post office was established, the name was transferred.  Early residents, which my family would fall under, remember how cactus and other prickly plants had to be cleared before the first housing units could be built in Cactus.  From personal experience, although my family, including my grandparents, moved to Amarillo before my second sister was born, one of my aunts and uncles lived in Cactus, Texas, for years. Uncle Durward worked for the petroleum plant until he retired and he and Aunt Martha moved to Dumas, a few miles south-east of Cactus.

The next town we lived in for a very short time was Pantex, which was just east of Amarillo.  The location of this town suggested the abbreviated compound of Panhandle of Texas.  The post office was established to provide service for employees of the Pantex Ordance Plant, which loaded bombs with TNT for the Army from 1942 to 1945, but the town vanished after WWII.  For me personally, it was the best kept non-secret I’ve ever seen.  The workers weren’t allowed to tell anybody what they were working on in the underground bunkers.  Some 75 years later, they are now dismantling the “secret” weapons and it’s on the front page of our newspaper regularly as they make progress.  So, now you all know the non-secret that I grew up with.  As I said, we didn’t live in the Pantex Village very long before moving to Amarillo.

Amarillo’s history is really long and although we are very young for this part of the country … settled in 1887.  We are the largest of the five original towns settled in the Panhandle. We were the last to be officially established and that was due to the railroad and the route they ending up taking thanks to a group of merchants in Colorado City, Texas.

I moved here with my family when I could barely walk, but I had a lot of miles on me already. I plan to be buried here with my husband by my side.

Here’s some fun towns:

Bass Hollow: Sam Bass and his gang, notorious for their daring train and bank holdups during the 1870’s, once made their outlaw camp there.

Black Ankle: The San Augustine County town was so named after a local belle tore her silk stocking at the ankle before a dance and concealed the rip by painting her exposed skin black with soot.  In Caldwell County, the deep, black, waxy soil literally created some black ankles after heavy rains.

My last town is one of my favorites. I’ve been to both towns.  Now that outta make you wonder what I’m up to. El Camino Real de los TejasNacogdoches (nae-ke-‘do-‘cas) Texas: A legend has been composed for those who expected an explanation more romantic than the one that this oldest town in Texas was named for the Nacogdoche Indians, a Caddoan tribe and one of the nine major members of the Hasinai Confederacy.  The tale also accounts for the similarity of the names of Nacogdoche, Texas, and of Natchitoches (nak-ki-tish), Louisiana.  Here comes the answer to why I selected this town … my favorite of the two Natchitoches, Louisiana (notice the spelling difference).  The towns are often mistaken for one another, or in my way of thinking, I thought they were one in the same for years.

Once upon a time, an old Indian chief had two sons: Natchitoches and Nacogdoches.  When they grew to manhood, their father sent them out to make homes and establish tribes of their own. Natchitoches was to travel three days and three nights in the direction of the rising sun, and Nacogdoches was to travel three days and three nights into the setting sun. Thus, the Louisiana and Texas towns were established, linked by a route later followed by the Spaniards and name El Camino Real de los Tejas (the Royal Road but later English translated to the King’s Highway) running through Texas and into Louisiana.

Okay readers, which town would you liked to have lived in? Do you have a favorite town with an odd history behind its name?

To one reader who leaves a comment today, I will send you a gift certificate for your choice of one of my books from Amazon.  To a second commenter, I’ll send you a Bath and Bodyworks Gift Card.

 The Troubled Texan Good

Watch for my next installment of the Kasota Springs Romance series “Out of the Texas Night” by eKensington coming out next spring.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

39 thoughts on “Unusual Names of Texas Places”

  1. Black Ankle is a very unusual name for a town. I never really put any thought into how towns are named. So, this is really interesting to me. I remember when I first heard of the town Nacogdoches. It took me forever to learn how to say it. My mother still says the town Waxahachie wrong and it makes me laugh every time. My ex would have loved to have lived in a town called Bass Hollow (but only if there was good fishing there). This topic prompted me to look up other odd names in Texas. I found the one I would like to live in, Noodle, for my love of pasta. I also found towns named Rice, Raisin and Oatmeal.

    Cute topic today. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Janine, I had so many names that it was hard to decide which ones to use. I remember one, but couldn’t find it this morning, that would fit great with Raisin and Oatmeal. I can see one of our writers out there using the back ankle scene. Sure won’t be me because we have a mixture of clay and plain old red dirt on the Caprock of Texas, where I live. Waxahachie is understandable!!! I forgot how it’s pronounced Wax, Watch, or different? I know it was an odd feeling the first time I was on Houston (house ston) street in NYC. I said Hue stun and everyone laughed. Thanks for stopping by and visiting. Hugs, Phyliss

      • It’s pronounced as “wox like chicken “pox” I can’t even put it into words how my mom says it. I like Oatmeal and raisin. I think I want that for dinner tonight. 🙂 I would have called it Houston street too.

  2. These are good too and great names for a western book:

    There was a recent movie called Happy, Texas, and indeed there is one. The movie was shot in some other state, though. Speaking of shooting, there are towns of Gun Sight, Gun Barrel City, Point Blank and Cut and Shoot.

    I’ve been to Gun Barrel City once.

    • Hi Janine, actually Happy, Texas, was one of my choices. It’s about 30 miles or so south of us and there is a big sign as you go into town (although I27 bypasses the town now but you can still read the sign)that has their motto on it “A Town without a Frown”. You gave me some good ideas. I saw Cut and Shoot and almost used it! Hugs P

  3. HI Phyliss, great post! It’s fascinating to learn how towns got their names. I once spent a delightful day in York, England walking from village to village with a guidebook explaining how each got its name. I’m currently writing a new series set in the fictitious town of Two-Time, Texas. And, yes, there’s a story behind that name.

    As for born and reared. You don’t hear it much anymore, but I know this much; Rearing children is a whole lot harder than raising corn.

    • Hi Margaret, my husband is having eyesight problems, same as his mother did, so I asked him the other day where he’d like to go while he has fairly good vision and he said England. I can see us walking along with a guide book of names. Great idea. Oh, Margaret, now my mind is running wild about a town named Two-Time, Texas and the story behind it! WOW, can hardly wait to read it.

      Totally agree that raising corn is easier than rearing kids. And, especially grand-children. Have a great day, fellow filly. Hugs, Phyliss

  4. Loved this, Phyliss. Being a fellow Texan, I always get a kick out of some of our state’s more…uh…unusual names. Sometimes you have to wonder what kind of cactus juice the founders were drinking. 😀

    Like Janine, I’ve always admired the name Cut and Shoot. Another of my favorites is Muleshoe, which is out in northwest Texas in the middle of the Caprock, where I suppose towns use odd names as a self-defense mechanism. When I was a kid, I was tickled by Anarene, which never made sense. Orange nearly put me off fruit forever, since it’s the site of the scariest bridge in the entire world.

    • Let me be one of the first to welcome you, Kathleen, as our newest Filly! We do have a lot of really odd names, but then we’re a big state. LOL I almost used Cut and Shoot. It’s really interesting. I love Muleshoe, which isn’t too far from us. It was originally the Muleshoe Ranch and their brand was an inverted U over a bar. Thus the look of a mule shoe. When the town came around, Muleshoe seemed a perfect name. Again, welcome to P&P and dropping by the corral for a visit and glass of iced tea. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Thanks, Cathy. I’m working on the second (or third depending on whether you consider The Texas Tycoon part if the series) of the Kasota Spring Romance Series. It has a lot more suspense, a few twists, and lots and lots of kisses. I’m enjoying writing it, so I hope you enjoy reading it when it comes out. Thanks for stopping by, Cathy. I always enjoy your input. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. I was raised in a small town Called Etowah,TN..was always told that was Indian for “Muddy Waters” because back in time they didn’t have good streets it was a dirt road and was muddy,,another smaller town called Delano ,was named for a president that stopped by via train to visit and thus they named it after FDR,,middle name was Delano

    • Vickie, how interesting. I always learn from you all. I didn’t think about the spelling of FDR’s middle name. I always thought it was kinda like Eleanor but with a D. Duh, me! DH just said Eleanor was his wife … of course, I knew that. Double DUH! Whenever I think of Tennessee, I think about a vacation we took with our girls when they were preteen. I’d been asleep for a while and guess I was kinda in and out of it because they said I raised up and almost shouted “Buck Snort, Tennessee”. Sure enough there was an exit for Buck Snort … a memory, I’ll never forget. Thanks for stopping by. (I apologize for anybody living in Buck Snort, if it’s one work instead of two. My other laptop is in the hospital!) Hugs, Phyliss

  6. Hi Phyliss, what a great informative post. I just adore Black Ankle! I love the repetition of the A sound…it wouldn’t be the same e.g. Black Shoulder, Black Hip LOL.

    I think it’s interesting that Amarillo is pronounced AmariLLo (with L’s) yet a town in my county, Camarillo, is CamaraEEoh.

    Before I go, Vickie, I love the muddy waters connection!

    A fun start to my day! xoxo

    • Hi Sister Filly, Tanya,I’m glad you had time to read my post and comment. Oh yes, the Black Ankle could really be a great name for a story … black something, depending on what you want to write! Yes, there originally was a lot of controversy on naming us Amarillo. We were originally Oneida and they changed us eventually to Amarillo; however, everyone was worried that we’d forget the o at the end and say Amarillo-a. Actually, I did it for years until I realized the emphases is on the “O”. Ama rill O! Big hugs, P

  7. I never lived in a place that had a strange name but there was one time when a friend and I where driving and got lost in the dark and pouring rain… of course right. Anyway when we finally found some place to stop the name on the sign said diablo mountain! We laughed at the irony and a little fear. So we just kept driving in the other direction hahha.

    • Cori, that’s too funny! I think I’d turned around and ran the opposite direction, too. Our land is so flat that if you get lost here you can either look for the closes bunch of lights and just begin driving in the direction nearest your town. If you drive too far west and get over the Rockies you know you’ve driven too far. Since we have numerous Interstates running east and west, you can hit one. Since I40 runs through Amarillo, if I can get that far, I can find home. Funny, funny story Cori. Good to hear from you. Phyliss

  8. Black Ankle definitely stands out as unusual… I have always been curious as to how certain places get their names…

    • Hi Colleen, I’m with you on being curious. Guess that’s why I’m a writer. I’ve been to a couple of workshops and have done a few here on the backstory of a town or a town as a character. That’s so much fun. I like Black Ankle, too. Big hugs and glad to see you today. Phyliss

  9. Fun post, Phyllis, I love it! How some towns got their names is sometimes a better story than anyone has who lives there. 🙂 The poor lady from Black Ankle, her attempt to hide the tear in her hose obviously failed if they named the town after it.

    • Hi Kirsten, you made me laugh. She was a local belle, so you’d think she could have gone home and changed into another pair of stockings! Good to hear from you, Phyliss

  10. I live in Pittsburgh and I think it would have been fascinating to have lived there at it’s beginning – I hear it was a booming town!

  11. Hi catslady, when you find out more about Pittsburg, let me know. My daddy was from Ohio, so anything in that part of the USA interests me. Good to hear from you. Hugs, Phyliss

  12. I love your post, Phyliss! It is so interesting to learn the history behind the unique names of Texas places. I live in the northeast corner of Texas, not too far from a place called Cuthand. Cuthand and a nearby creek in Red River County got its names from a Deleware Indian chief who was instrumental in arranging a treaty with unfriendly Indian tribes. The chief had lost three fingers from a sabor’s slash in his younger days and because of his disfigurement, he was thereafter known as Cut Hand.

    • Britney, how cool. We must live pretty close together. I found you over in the far east of corner of Texas. I’m in the Panhandle, so we’re pretty far apart. Thanks for the information on Cut Hand. Loved it. Have a great evening, Phyliss

  13. Now I’m throwing out something I heard earlier today on TV. I know it’s late but I’ll give a gift certificate to the first person who gives me the reason we hold elections on Tuesdays? I’ll give the answer along with the winners notice later this evening. Big hugs, Phyliss

  14. I believe it was because of the time needed to travel to the county seat to vote. Tuesday allowed enough time to travel without interfering with worship on Sunday.

  15. I love your interesting post, Phyliss! Always living in Texas, there are many Texas towns with different names. I grew up in a town called Ferris. Though not so odd, I always loved that the local newspaper was called The Ferris Wheel!

  16. Melanie, that is too funny. The Ferris Wheel. Where is the heck is Ferris? Thanks for dropping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  17. I’ve always been interested in how towns, streets, etc. get named! My hometown in Calif. (very small town) where I grew up in called Ojai which is a Chumash Indians word for “the nest” – it is an amazing place!

  18. Hm, I didn’t see anyone else question your Nacogdoches (nae-ke-‘do-‘cas)spelling for pronunciation. People who live there call it nack-a-dochez. My son went to SFA. and I spent many summers there at Student Council Camp with my students. Cut and Shoot is another odd named town, and I laugh when people say Mex-ia instead of Me-hay-a Texas for Mexia. We’ve traveled all over Texas and have found some really odd names for towns. Some of the ones you mentioned are familiar, but Black Ankle was a completely new one on me.

  19. I grew up near a town called RISE AND SHINE. I think it got it’s name from the sun rising up over the hills.

  20. I grew up in a then small town of Manteca in California. The town was originally named Monteca, but the name was mistyped as Manteca and so, from then on, the town has been known as Manteca.

    As for which town I would have liked to grown up in, I would have to choose Cactus.

  21. In Oklahoma we have a little community called IXL. You just pronounce the letters, I..X..L.. There is also the township of Non. The news did a story about the Non Baptist Church, the Non cemetery, the Non Public School.

    I would love to win, win, win…!

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