William Shakespeare pondered, “What’s in a name?” We do, too, when looking at the names of some places across America. You really have to wonder how much there is to do in Boring (Maryland, Oregon and Tennessee). In the winter, does Hell (Michigan) freeze over? And do you need Love (Arizona) and Romance (West Virginia) before heading to Intercourse (Alabama and Pennsylvania)? There are the places in which you just have to wonder Why (Arizona)? The answer, of course, is Whynot (Mississippi and North Carolina). There are many strange names in the Land of the Free. Below are 10:
Nothing, Arizona, was established in 1977 about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. It has been said that the locals used to tell travelers that the town "got named by a bunch of drunks." At its peak, Nothing had four inhabitants who ran a gas station and garage. About its only claim to fame is that Anais and Billy Yeager's 2011 film "Jesus of Malibu" was partially filmed there. Nothing was abandonded by May 2005. In August 2008, Nothing was purchased by Mike Jenson, and within a year, he had opened a pizza business run from a portable oven and said he had hopes of reopening the local mini-mart and creating accomodations for RVs. That, however, never came to fruition, and as of April 2011, Nothing once again was abandoned. Similar dull-sounding places across the U.S. include: Boring (Maryland, Oregon and Tenessee), Nameless (Tennessee and Texas), Uncertain (Texas) and Nowhere (Oklahoma).
No, the founding fathers of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, were not going for the obvious modern-day double entendre. The village website tells the story: "[A] theory concerns two famous roads that crossed here. The Old King's highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh ... ran east and west through the center of the town. The road from Wilmington to Erie intersected in the middle. The joining of these two roads is claimed by some to be the basis for the town 'Cross Keys' or eventually 'Intercourse'. A final idea comes from the use of language during the early days of the Village. The word 'intercourse' was commonly used to describe the 'fellowship' and 'social interaction and support' shared in the community of faith, which was much a part of a rural village like this one." Other places that could conjur coital thoughts include: Climax (Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania), Nipple (Utah), Virginville (Pennsylvania) and Threeway (Virginia).
Several theories exist as to the founding of Hell, Michigan, which even has an official website, www.gotohellmi.com. One is that soon after Michigan gained statehood, George Reeves was asked what he thought the town he helped settle should be called and replied, "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care." The name became official on October 13, 1841. Another theory is tied to the "hell-like" conditions encountered by early explorers, including mosquitos, thick forest cover and extensive wetlands. The town advertises that you can go kayaking, get married and even play putt-putt golf there. That sounds like one hell of a weekend.
The town name wan't meant to make travelers ponder a rhetorical question. Why, Aizona, is a small rural community on the western border of the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation, 30 miles north of the Mexican Border. It gets its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y-intersection. At the time of its naming, Arizona law required all city names to have at least three letters, so the town's founders named the town Why as opposed to simply calling it Y. The Arizona Department of Transportation later removed the old Y-intersection and built the two highways in a conventional T-intersection. To answer the question, however, is Whynot (Mississippi and North Carolina).
The jolly old elf is the namesake for Santa Claus in Arizona, Georgia and Indiana. The Georgia city is in Toombs County, and the population was just 165 at the 2010 census. The city has several Christmas-theme street names: Candy Cane Road, December Drive, Rudolph Way, Dancer Street, Prancer Street, and Sleigh Street. In Arizona, Santa Claus is an uninhabited desert town. Santa Claus, Indiana, however, had almost 2,500 residents as of the 2010 Census. The town has the world's only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus.
Did Unalaska not want to be a part of the 49th state? No, it seems that the Aleut or Unangan people have lived on Unalaska Island for thousands of years and named the village "Ounalashka", meaning "near the peninsula." Over time, the name was Americanized to Unalaska. By 1978, it was the largest fishing port in the United States. A 1982 crash in king crab harvests decimated the industry, and the mid-1980s saw a transition to bottom fishing. The Discovery Channel's documentary show "Deadliest Catch" focused on fishermen based in the area.
One usually pictures cowboys in the Old West yelling, "Yeehaw," which is why it might come as a surprise that Yeehaw Junction is in Florida. Even more surprising is that Yeehaw Junction used to be named Jackass Crossing. The unincorporated rural community in southern Osceola County does include one of Florida's iconic roadside attractions, the Desert Inn, which remains Yeehaw Junction's lone landmark. Through the years, the Desert Inn has been a barroom and brothel, a trading post, a gas station and a dance hall. In 1994, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and unused rooms above the restaurant were converted into a museum that features a bordello suite with red carpet, lace pillows and a swing. If you're giving a shout out to places with strange names, don't forget Hoop and Holler, Texas, and Wahoo, Nebraska.
The small Maryland town did come into being as sort of an accident. Accident, in Garrett County, was one of the early settlements in the far west of the state. According to the book "Labels for Locals" by Paul Dickson, a person from Accident is called an "Accidental". The history of the area says that George Deakins was to receive 600 acres of land in Western Maryland in the late 1700s as a payment of a debt from King George II of England. Deakins sent out two engineers, each without knowledge of the other, to survey the best land in this area. Both crews returned, and to their surprise, they had both marked the same oak tree as their starting and returning points. Deakins chose this plot of ground and had it patented "The Accident Tract"—now called the Town of Accident. It was incorporated in 1916.
Unfortunately, currency does not grow on trees in tiny Money, Mississippi, an unincorporated Delta community in Leflore County. It has a population of less than 100 and a single-wide mobile home as a post office. Money became infamous in the U.S. civil rights movement after Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old, visited his uncle Moses Wright there in August 1955. Till reportedly made suggestive remarks or whistled at (accounts differ) Carolyn Bryant, a white woman working alone at a local grocery store she owned with husband Roy Bryant. As a result, Roy and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, later were charged with abducting, torturing and murdering Till. The pair were arrested and tried for the murder, but were acquitted by the all-white jury. They later confessed to the killing in an interview in the January 1956 issue of Look magazine. A bridge crossing the Tallahatchie River at Money was the focus of Bobbie Gentry's 1967 hit song "Ode to Billie Joe". That bridge collapsed in June 1972 and has since been replaced. The November 10, 1967, issue of Life contained a photo of Gentry crossing the original bridge.
Poor equine. Actually, Hungry Horse is a small (about 900 people in the 2000 census) census-designated place in Flathead County, Montana. In the television series "Twin Peaks," a giant told Special Agent Dale Cooper that Leo Johnson was once "locked inside a hungry horse." Cooper later found out that Johnson had been in jail in Hungry Horse, Montana. A few minutes from Glacier National Park, the community sits on the edge of Hungry Horse Reservoir, just below its other namesake—Hungry Horse Dam. According to one story, in the severe winter of 1900, two draft horses employed in the logging business wandered away and were lost. The horses were found in chest-high snow a month later, scrawny and famished. Their owners nursed them back to health, and they were rewarded with their namesake town.