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.

Medicine Hat

Photo by ffunyman (flickr)

Finding out the origins of the name Moose Jaw yesterday I started to wonder about the other prairie city with a funny name, Medicine Hat, Alberta so I looked it up.

The name Medicine Hat is an English translation of the Blackfoot word “Saamis.” A saamis is the headdress worn by medicine men, and therefore is a “Medicine Hat.” According to Wikipedia, there are “several” legends associated with Medicine Hat.

One story tells of in incredibly tough winter for the Blackfoot people. The elders chose a young man to try to save his nation, and he set off with his wife and dog to the “breathing hole,” a hole in the ice of the South Saskatchewan River located in modern-day Medicine Hat. The Blackfoot believed that this is where the spirits came to breathe. After they arrived the man and his wife summoned the spirits and a giant serpent came from the water. The serpent said that if the young man sacrificed his wife, he would receive a saamis, which would give him special powers and make him a great hunter. The man tried to sacrifice his dog instead, but the serpent figured out what was going on and required the wife, so, the man threw his wife into the breathing hole and the serpent was satisfied. The serpent told the man to spend the night on a nearby island and in the morning he would find his medicine hat at the base of the nearby cliffs. He did, and with his newfound hunting skills and magical powers was able to keep his people alive through the winter and became a great medicine man.

Another story simply tells of a battle between the Blackfoot and the Cree, and during a retreat a medicine man lost his headdress in the South Saskatchewan River.

So, what is there in Medicine Hat? I’ve eaten at the Greyhound station, but it’s probably best known for having the world’s largest teepee, visible at the side of the Trans-Canada highway as you go through town.

Moose Jaw

Photo by Mafue (flickr)

I’ve driven through Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, several times, and I have even stopped for gas a few times. I always thought that the name Moose Jaw came from the jaw of a moose found there or something along those lines. Boy was I wrong. The name Moose Jaw comes from the Cree moscâstani-sîpiy for “warm place by the river.” The beginning, (moscâ-), sounds like “Moose Jaw” in English.

While I haven’t really spent much time in Moose Jaw, SK, outside of a gas station, there is some pretty interesting stuff there. Besides Mac the Moose, the world’s largest moose, there is a network of tunnels, known as the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, and CFB Moose Jaw, home of the Snowbirds.

Here’s a video of the Snowbirds in Kelowna, BC:


The Mural on Valour Road, in Winnipeg, MB
Photo by AdolfGalland / David (flickr)

During the first world war three men from who grew up on the same block of Pine Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were awarded the Victoria Cross. In their honour Pine Street was renamed Valour Road, (the Victoria Cross is inscribed “for valour”). I saw the heritage minute on TV growing up, and when I moved to Winnipeg I remember seeing Valour road and thinking how normal it was.

To learn more about Corporal Leo Clarke, Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, and Lieutenant Robert Shankland, the Heritage Minute page on is a good place to start.

Here’s the story of Valour Road in Video:


The exit sign for Happy, TX.
Photo by simplerich, (flickr).

Happy, Texas, “The town without a frown” is a town of 647 people in Randall and Swisher counties. So, how did it get it’s name? It was named after Happy Draw, a nearby spring-fed stream which was allegedly named by some cowboys who were really happy to find water.

A post office opened near Happy Draw in 1891 by a fellow named Hugh Currie. There was also a stagecoach changing station, but in 1906 the railroad bypassed happy. How could they do that? The tracks were a whole two miles away. What to do? The town had to be moved. The new town of Happy, TX, was laid out along the railway tracks, where it remains today, and the town continued to grow.

You may or may not be familiar with a movie called Happy, Texas from 1999. It wasn’t shot in Happy, although they did make a replica of the Welcome to Happy sign for a scene in the film.

There’s a bit more info on Happy, TX, on The handbook of Texas Online and I won’t repeat everything they have here. If you like facts & figures from census results, you can read the Happy, TX Wikipedia Page.

I was going to embed part of the movie here, but searching YouTube showed me that they’ve had some pretty fierce tornados near Happy. Here’s one of them:


A Photo of a Mimosa flower
Mimosa Flower by Weaselmcfee (flickr)

I mentioned yesterday that I would write about Mimosa, TN, so here’s what I know, then we’ll leave Tennessee alone for a while.

Mimosa hasn’t always been called Mimosa. It used to be called Bucksnort. There was a fellow in town named William (“Buck”) Pamplin. We’ll let his grand-niece, Lily May Pamplin, take over the story:

It was like this: William loved whiskey. He would get soused to the ears with the sweet, smelly stuff, and when he did, he would roar and snort till everyone around heard him. They would say: “Just listen to Buck snort.” His snorting became so frequent and the comment was made so often, that the neighbors soon found themselves running the last two words together, thus the place was called Bucksnort.

In the course of time, a post office was needed. The Government wanted to know what name the community wished to be known by. Since William still owned and lived on the site, and since he still kept up his snorting, the neighbors and near-by farmers decided on Bucksnort. It was approved by the Government and the first post office and surrounding community became Bucksnort.

So, that’s how the original Bucksnort, Tennessee got its name, but then in 1898 the town changed its name to Mimosa. The story of how the name Mimosa was chosen must not be as colourful though because it is difficult to find.


Bucksnort Market & Deli
Image by (flickr)

Bucksnort, TN, is a small, unincorporated town in Tennessee. It is close to Spot, TN, (actually, we should probably say that Spot is close to Bucksnort, since Bucksnort is larger and better known).

So, why is Bucksnort called Bucksnort? According to a legend on the back of a T-shirt that’s apparently sold at the gas station, (which may have good sandwiches), in Bucksnort, (I-40, exit 152), there was a trader named Buck who lived in the area, and locals would say they were going to “Buck’s to get a snort.” It looks like this may not be true – see Tyler’s comment below. Update again: There seems to be some debate between the two stories. Check the comments from Tyler and westtenguy below. However, I’m not too sure, as there’s a very, very, similar story about Mimosa, TN, (to be featured later).

After hearing the name Bucksnort, some people have gone to great lengths to see the town. I found a forum post, (scroll down), about a fellow from the Netherlands who went to find Bucksnort. When he got there he didn’t find much, but did find out that where the interstate is now is where the town used to be, and it was actually moved a bit to make space for the highway. Now all that’s left of the original townsite is a dirt road, (although all that’s there at all is a gas station, motel, and maybe a garage or adult store).

Bucksnort, Tennessee is also the hometown of wrestlers Bunkhouse Buck and “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony. Tony Anthony even had a signature move called the Bucksnort Blaster.

Oh yeah, that guy from the Netherlands? He’s a member of a band called the Trailer Trash Tremblers. Here’s a video of their song, Bucksnort, Tennessee:


Spot is very near Bucksnort, (Coming soon to Fascinating Names: Bucksnort). Image by (flickr)

I saw somewhere that that there’s a town called Spot in Tennessee and thought it would be fun to write about, but from what I can tell there’s very little to write. There is indeed a place called Spot, TN, in Hickman county. Apparently it’s at 564 feet elevation, and that’s about all I can find.

According to Google Maps, it’s at the intersection of Only Road and Old Richmond Road, a couple of miles from the I-40. In the street view there’s a house there. If anyone knows more about Spot, Tennessee, please let me know.

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Photo by Patricia Drury

Hell is not only a biblical place, it is also an unincorporated town in Michigan.

There are a couple of stories about how Hell, MI, came to be named hell, the first is that some German travellers got out of their wagon and said So schön hell!, which means “So Beautifully Bright” and the name stuck. The second is that after Michigan became a state George Reeves, the founder of Hell, was asked what he thought the town should be named, and his answer was “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.”

Although the mailing address of hell is actually Pinckney, MI, (three miles away), there is a post office in the back of the general store where you can send stuff from Hell each year from May through September.

There are some other towns called Hell in the world. One was Hell, California, but it only had one family of residents and now there is a highway where it used to be. Another is Hell, Norway, and while the name is interesting in English, in Norwegian the name stems from the word for “overhang” or “cliff cave” and can also mean “luck.”



Joseph with the baby Jesus
St Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635

Since profiling Joe, Montana, it’s only appropriate to get to the root of the name Joe: Joseph.

As many other names are, Joseph is a biblical name. The original Hebrew is יוֹסֵף, (Yosef), meaning “The Lord will increase” or “The Lord will add.” There were several Josephs in the bible, the first being Joseph, son of Jacob. According to Joseph was a fairly common Jewish name and didn’t become a popular Christian name until after the protestant reformation.