First, let me say that I am not really a history buff.  In order to be really into history, you have to memorize dates and names and locations of when stuff happened, and I am not very good at memorizing.  BUT, it’s always interesting to me to know the history of the place I am living – who came before me and what life was like in my city/town 20, 50, 100 years ago.

The problem with me wanting to know about my local history, is that my locale changes, seemingly at an abnormal rate, and I have to start over.  We’ve been here in Little Rock for about a year and a half now, and I just recently realized that I haven’t taken the time to learn the story behind how Little Rock got its name.  I find that a city/town’s name is always a good place to start when learning local history.

Impressive, no? (photo cred: LR City Beautiful Commission)

So, Little Rock was essentially named for a small rock outcrop on the Arkansas River that a French explorer came across as he traveled north from New Orleans.  This little rock formation was apparently the first he had seen since he left the Big Easy (probably not called that at the time), and so marked it in his travel log as “la petite roche”.

Pretty straight forward, although funny that this little rock outcrop has become so famous, given the other far more beautiful and obvious geographical features of the area. I have driven right past the “little rock” multiple times and never even knew it was there.

On the other hand, my former home of Springfield, MO has a more colorful story of how it got its name, with several non-confirmed versions of how it really happened (from wikipedia):

“The origin of the name Springfield remains unclear… the editor of the Springfield Express, Mr. J. G. Newbill, who, in the issue of his paper, November 11, 1881, says: ‘It has been stated that this city got its name from the fact of a spring and field being near by just west of town. But such is not a correct version. When the authorized persons met and adopted the title of the “Future Great” of the Southwest, several of the earliest settlers had handed in their favorite names, among whom was Kindred Rose, who presented the winning name, “Springfield,” in honor of his former home town, Springfield, Robertson county, Tennessee.'” The most common view is that the city was named for Springfield, Massachusetts. One account holds that a James Wilson, who lived in the then-unnamed city, offered free whiskey to everyone who would vote for naming it after his home town of Springfield, Massachusetts.”

Indeed.  Whiskey should always be involved in naming the place you live.  (Although, I did spend a few years living in Bourbon, MO, so there are alternatives…)

Do you know the origin of the name of your city/town?

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