Fuel for Thought

Potatoes

A Good Place To Dig Potatoes

By Greg Huggins
Posted Apr 21st 2017 4:41PM

Have you ever wondered where some of the towns and cities get their names? We pass through them so often, even the odd ones start to seem normal.

As Europeans settled in the North American continent, they brought with them the names for the places they settled. English, French, Spanish and many other settlers used names from their homeland for new villages, towns and cities in what is now the U.S.  

Native Americans also had names for places they settled and many of those names are still used today. Some are quite interesting in the translation.

Chattanooga comes from the Creek Indian word for “ rock coming to a point”. Obviously this refers to what we know as Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga started with different names though. It used to be called Ross’s Landing and at one time it was called Lookout City.

Natchez is another one. Natchez is the language of the Natchez people who inhabited Natchez Bluffs in the Lower Mississippi Valley, near present day Natchez, MS,  but now mostly live with Creek and Cherokee people in Oklahoma. The Natchez Trace was a system of trails between American Indian nations.

While not Native American at all, the city of Cut and Shoot, TX has an interesting story behind it. The community built a church and school and agreed that all denominations were welcome to preach, except Mormons and Apostolics. I'm 1912 when an Apostolic preacher came to town to preach, it divided the town into two groups, those for and those against letting him preach. Both sides showed up that day with guns and knives. A scared boy claimed “ I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute. ” After the event, the community became known as Cut and Shoot, TX. In 1969 it became incorporated into a town and in 2006 it was designated as a city, keeping the unusual name.

When you think of potatoes, Idaho, probably comes to mind. Well, here’s a new one to consider.

Topeka, Kansas. In 2010, the Mayor of Topeka announced he would change the name of Topeka, KS to Google, KS. A far cry from the meaning of the word Topeka. Topeka is said to have two different translations. One is Smoky Hill. The other, much more interesting is composed of three words from the Kaw, Omaha, and Iowa Native American tribes. The first, to, means "potato". The second, pe (short for pekae) is an adjective meaning "good". The third, okae, means "to dig". Thus, the name Topeka means "a good place to dig potatoes.

Our country may not be as old as others, but we have a rich, diverse history which shows in the names we give our towns and cities.

See you down the road,

Greg

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