Sunday, 2 October 2011

Etymologies of the Capital Cities of the US states. Part II

Following on from last week here are the remaining twenty-five states with the names of their capital cities defined.

Missouri - Jefferson City is named after the 3rd President of the USA, Thomas Jefferson.

Montana - Helena is a name transferred from Helena, Minnesota and brought here by a gold prospector on his arrival in 1864.

Nebraska - Lincoln remembers the 16th president of the USA, Abraham Lincoln remains one of the best known holders of the office.

Nevada - Carson City took the name of the famous frontiersman Christopher 'Kit' Carson.

New Hampshire - Concord was named such by those who settled here from Concord in Massachusetts. Previously it had been known as Pennycook, from Native American Algonquian word meaning 'descent'.

New Jersey - Trenton was named after the man who laid out the present town in the early eighteenth century, William Trent.

New Mexico - Santa Fe was founded by Spanish missionaries, the name is Spanish meaning 'holy faith'. English speakers will be glad they no longer have to address the envelope by the original name of Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis - 'royal city of the holy faith of St Francis of Assisi'.

New York - Albany was named from the future King James II who also held the title Duke of Albany.

North Carolina - Raleigh was named in 1792 to honour Sir Walter Raleigh who strived to colonise the area he knew as Virgina.

North Dakota - Bismarck was the name of the German chancellor in the late nineteenth century, Otton von Bismarck having financed the building of the railway.

Ohio - Columbus holds no surprises in being named after Christopher Columbus, although he never saw Ohio nor did he ever learn of this honour for died three centuries before the place was named.

Oklahoma - Oklahoma City was transferred from the name of the state, itself of Native American Choctaw origin where okla homa described this as the '(territory of) the red people'.

Oregon - Salem was transferred from that in Massachussets, made famous by the infamous witch trials. Indeed these events make the meaning of the place name rather ironic as it comes from the Hebrew for 'peace'.

Pennsylvania - Harrisburg shares an origin with the state in that both are named after English Quakers. William Penn gave his name to the state and John Harris to the city with the addition of the German burg or 'town'.

Rhode Island - Providence was named by the Englishman Roger Williams in 1636, apparently acknowledging the sanctuary afforded from the hostile Native Americans by 'God's merciful providence'.

South Carolina - Columbia shares the origin of Columbus, Ohio in being named after Christopher Columbus.

South Dakota - Pierre was influenced by, but not named after, fur trader Pierre Choteau. The original name was Mahto, the Sioux word for 'bear' and mispronounced by the French.

Tennessee - Nashville adds the French ville or 'town' to the surname of the American general Francis Nash, hero of the War of Independence.

Texas - Austin takes a surname, that of the man who did much to colonise Texas, Stephen F. Austin.

Utah - Salt Lake City was named after the Great Salt Lake in 1868.

Vermont - Montpelier has French origins, as does Vermont, and was transferred from Montpellier in southern France. The French version is derived from the Latin name of Mons pestellarius or 'the woad mountain' and a clear indication this blue dye was an important product hereabouts.

Virginia - Richmond is another transferred name, this time from the town of Richmond in Surrey.

Washington - Olympia was first named Smithfield but later took the name of the nearby Olympic Mountains, the tallest of which eighteenth century Englishman John Meares had likened to Mount Olympus in Greece.

West Virginia - Charleston is really self-explanatory, all that remains is dicover who 'Charles' was. It transpires he never saw the place named after him, it was a tribute by the city's founder George Clendenin to his father.

Wisconsin - Madison is another named after a former US president, this being the 4th holder of that office, James Madison.

Wyoming - Cheyenne is a city named after the earlier Native American residents, the name of the tribe meaning 'red talkers'. Interestingly it was originally proposed as the name of the state only to be rejected as it was mistakenly believed to mean 'snakes' and deemed inappropriate. One wonders why any name thought to be unsuitable for a state would be quite acceptable for the city and state capital.

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