Pumpkin Center

A sign for Pumpkin Center, CA
The exit sign on the I-5 for Pumpkin Center, California, (Photo by Raymond Yu)

So, I don’t actually have a story to about why Pumpkin Center is called Pumpkin Center, but I do have some interesting, random, Pumpkin Center facts.

I was looking for information on Pumpkin Center, MO, (where Kay Barnes‘ mother was born), to continue the Missouri theme, and found that since the highway was put in there isn’t much left of that town, except for maybe a couple of buildings and a photo by the road.

However, while looking for Pumpkin Center information, I discovered that there are no less than 23 towns called Pumpkin Center in the USA. There are Pumpkin Centers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia. Some states, such as Oklahoma, have several towns called Pumpkin Center. Also, in Colorado there’s a town called Punkin Center, Population 9.

So, if anyone knows why there are so many places called Pumpkin Center, or has a story about why any of the Pumpkin Centers is called Pumpkin Center, I would love to hear them.

Black Jack

Christ the King Church. Photo by Toby Weiss (flickr)

Black Jack, MO, is not not named after the card game. In the 1840s there was a cluster of three Black Jack oak trees at the intersection of Parker and Old Halls Ferry Roads, which was about 12 miles from the St. Louis County Courthouse. These three trees were not little scrubby trees like Black Jack Oaks usually are, but were tall like a normal oak tree and cast a shadow that provided some real shelter.

The shelter provided by the three Black Jack Oaks, along with their location, made the intersection of Parker & Old Halls Ferry a natural stopping place for people going to and from the courthouse, and for farmers hauling their goods to market in St. Louis. In fact, farmers would bring their goods there, leave them overnight, (or at least stop for the night), then complete the journey the next day.

The first building in Black Jack was a home built by Thomas Fletcher not too far from the trees, and in 1865 the Post Office was opened, with the name Black Jack. A blacksmith was opened, tobacco barns were built, and a community sprang up. By 1877 there were 300 people there living there. Fast forward to 1970 and the town was incorporated with a mayor and 8 city councillors, and in 2000 there were 6,792 people living in Black Jack.


Tightwad, Missouri city limit sign.
Photo by MrChaf (flickr)

I posted about a few places in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago and it looks like this week might be turning into Missouri week.

Today’s name: Tightwad, MO.

So, how does a town get to be called Tightwad? Well, the story is that a postman was making his deliveries and saw a watermelon that he wanted. Instead of carrying it around all day he convinced the grocer to set the watermelon aside until the end of the day. Well, when that postman got back to the grocer’s there was no watermelon. The grocer had sold the melon to someone who agreed to pay 50 cents more than the postman. What a tightwad! (the postman’s word, not mine). And the name stuck.

Today, there are 63 people in Tightwad, Missouri, or at least that’s what the sign says at the city limits. There is also a bank called, of course, the Tightwad Bank. It’s a real, FDIC-insured bank, and if you want to open an account, the Tightwad Bank website has all of the info you need. If, instead, you want a funny shirt, it looks like you can buy one on CafePress, (that’s not my store, I don’t have one – yet).


Photo by Corey Taratuta

Peculiar, MO, was named in 1868 by, of all people, the Postmaster General.

When the post office was being established, the people who lived in the area chose three possible names and sent them to the post office, but all three of them were already in use. Frustrated, they wrote to the Postmaster General and in the letter wrote “We don’t care what name you give us, so long as it is sort of peculiar.” Well, the Postmaster general wrote back “My conclusion is that in all the land it would be difficult to imagine a more distinctive, a more peculiar name than Peculiar.” so Peculiar, Missouri, it was, (the full story from the City of Peculiar.

Of note, Peculiar is the first city that I’ve found to have an official Facebook page.