Often times, we drive past a sign for a town and think, “Hmm, that’s an interesting name. I wonder where it came from.” Well fear not, my fellow Texans. I’m here to satisfy your curiosity with this list of 15 towns that got their names in ways you would never have imagined.
This hill country town was originally named Montana because of its beautiful scenery. When George Barker came in the late 1800s, he was sick with tuberculosis. He brought his strange habit of swimming in the Sabinal River every morning, whatever the weather, with him. Only when he did it in Montana, he was completely cured one morning after stepping out of the water. This miracle had such an impact on him that he changed the name of the town because it was "a perfect place to be." Hollywood thought so too, filming the movie "Seven Days in Utopia," starring Robert Duval, in the hill country town.
Comfort got its name from pure irony. The first settlers of the town were a group of free-thinking, educated Germans who left home to escape strict rule and govern themselves. Their plan was to secede from Texas and create the free German state of West Texas. Obviously this didn't happen, and the settlers got off to a bad start when they had to engage in manual labor, a huge change from their urban, academic background. They named the town Comfort in a satirical fit of rage because they were so miserable.
The town of Alanreed has seen many different names before one was finally settled on. First was Spring Tank after a dirt tank of water in the area fed by springs. Next came Prairie Dog Town because there was a large colony of the creatures nearby. After a brutal fight in a local saloon, the name was changed to Gouge Eye. Finally, it became Alanreed, named after two contractors building the railroad at the time.
This little East Texas town supposedly got its name when a group of newcomers arrived late for dinner and found that all the food had been consumed. The residents told them to "lick the skillet" if they wanted any supper in their bellies.
Athens has a rather neat story. Residents wanted the town to be a center of learning like its counterpart in Greece. After this, they realized the area resided on seven hills, the exact amount as Athens, Greece. Coincidence?
6) Von Ormy
Von Ormy has a story that could be the basis of a novel. Count Norbert Von Ormy, an Austrian-Hungarian nobleman, discovered his status as a count after his mother's passing. He used his fortune to travel the United States, deciding he wanted to first move to Texas and be a cattle rancher. He stayed in San Antonio at the St. Anthony hotel and placed an ad in the newspaper offering to buy a nearby ranch and cattle to go with it. He stayed on the property for 18 months before moving to Brazil, but the town was so captivated with the story that the postmaster changed its name from Garza's Crossing to Von Ormy.
The home of the famed Garner State Park and Frio River has an interesting backstory. The rumor is that its name was born from a card game called 'Coon-Can', or 'Conquian' to Mexicans. Early settlers of the town played it and the name stuck.
You won't find many inhabitants in this small town, but you will find plenty of German history. It was originally named Wohlfahrt, which was deemed "too humorous" when pronounced phonetically. Alas, it was changed to Welfare, the English translation of Wohlfahrt that means "welcome." That sounds much more inviting, don't you think?
The pretty hill country town of Mico is an acronym for Medina Irrigation Company which constructed the Medina Dam in 1910. The families working on its construction lived in a nearby camp set up by the company that eventually grew into the town that exists today. The story goes that people were tired of the long-winded description of the place and started saying "Mico" instead.
Think this South Texas town is named after the mythical creature? WRONG! Its namesake is the well known historical figure William "Bigfoot" Wallace, who was given his nickname after his friends mistook him for an Indian named Bigfoot because he was so tall. One morning, a young girl bought him tobacco for 5 cents at the corner store and the owner put up an IOU sign to be sure everyone knew he owed the little girl her money. Later that day, the postal inspector comes by and asks what the name of the town is, so the storekeeper says "We call it Bigfoot." The name has stayed the same ever since.
11) Panna Maria
There's a reason why I could only find pictures of a church when researching this town, which also happens to be the oldest Polish settlement in the country - it has holy origins. Immigrants traveled here in 1854 to find farmland. They arrived on Christmas Eve, and after midnight mass, they named their land Panna Maria, which means "young girl, Mary" in Polish.
12) Cut and Shoot
Leave it to Texas to name a town after violence. Nobody is quite sure exactly what happened, but the tales all converge at one point - the argument in 1912 that nearly ended in bloodshed was definitely over church-related issues. Apparently, a young boy eavesdropping on the altercation said "I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute" to get away from the scene.
13) Bug Tussle
While I couldn't find a picture of the town itself but one of the courthouse of the county in which it resides, its story is one to be reckoned with. There are two rumors of its origin: the old folk say it was named for the extreme effort put in to fight off bugs at a church picnic, while the youth claim the only entertainment in the town is watching the tumble-bugs hard at work.
This Travis County town is so obscure I couldn't even find a picture of it - this is a surrounding area. You can probably give a good guess as to how its name came about. Six names were submitted to the Postal Service, but evidently none were suitable because they were all turned down. Nameless was decided to be more fitting, and so the town was born.
15) Punkin Center
Believe it or not, this town in Wichita County didn't get its name because a lot of pumpkins are grown there. One day, the local blacksmith told his apprentice to build a city sign to make them seem like welcoming folk. The only thing the apprentice knew how to draw was a pumpkin, and only had orange paint on hand, so the town became known as Punkin Center to match the drawing. The town's official name is Haynesville, but to locals it'll always be Punkin Center.
As you can see, Texas has a rich history that extends even into the very names of our towns. Did you learn something new today? What other Texas towns do you know of whose names have interesting backstories? Tell me in the comments below!