In an earlier blog post, I wrote about Robert E. Gard’s book The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, originally published in 1968 but now available in a new edition. Here are some more origin stories about the places where we live and work.
William McFarland was a railroad man who mapped out the village in 1854. For a few years in the early 20th century, the town was known as MacFarland until it changed back to McFarland in 1924.
Mt. Horeb was originally a crossroads known in Norwegian as Staangji. The name Mt. Horeb was chosen from the Bible by the town’s first postmaster, George Wright, in 1861. The first post office was in his house, which was not uncommon in the days when Wisconsin was being settled.
Cross Plains was named by its first postmaster, Berry Haney, for his hometown in Tennessee.
Sometime around 1840, William Wells named Cottage Grove for a stand of burr oak trees that surrounded his house, a house that also served as the village tavern and post office.
Black Earth started off as a settlement called Farmersville but changed its name to Ray for a few months in 1858. When it was incorporated as a village the same year, its first president changed the name to Black Earth.
Windsor was named by its early settlers for the town of Windsor, Vermont.
The site on which Marshall stands was originally known as Bird’s Ruins, after a lumberyard built by a man named Bird burned down in the early 1840s. It was later known as Hanchettville and then Howard City, but when the land on which the settlement stood was sold to a man named Marshall, the town got the name it has today.
Jefferson County was organized by a group of men who had come from Jefferson County, New York. Another group petitioned the federal government to put the county seat on land they owned. When their petition was granted, they named the town Jefferson.
Henry Janes petitioned the federal government to establish a post office near where he ran a ferry across the Rock River. He wanted to call the town Black Hawk, but was told there was already a post office called Black Hawk elsewhere. The feds named the place Janesville instead.
Beloit was first known as Turtle Creek and New Albany. A group of settlers came from New Hampshire in 1837, and one of the members wanted a more attractive name. He argued that it should resemble Detroit, and suggested Beloit.
If I’ve left out your town, go to the public library and get The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, or better yet, go buy it.
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