From a ghost town to a sagging eyelid, the United States has had some unusual place names. One ghost town was in Arizona and named Nothing. It is uninhabited now and barely habited at its height when 4 people claimed nothing was home to them. There was a gas station there at the time in a desolate location about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix. The closest nothing town to it was Bagdad, which will survive as long as copper is a sought after commodity and the mine doesn’t become depleted.
Bourbon, which Ruth & I go through regularly, is the only town in the USA named after whiskey. Now about 1,500 people, Bourbon was settled by the Irish who drank the local mash when barrels of bourbon became popular there. For whiskey to be considered bourbon, it has to be made with a minimum of 51% corn. Bourbon is a 100% American whiskey. Not surprisingly, there is a Bourbon county in Kentucky and, of course, a Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The word derives from the 3 Bourbon Dynasties in France and Spain that lasted from the 13th to roughly the 19th centuries. At the present time the House of Bourbon continues to exist but probably not in Missouri like the town called Bourbon. Bourbon, however, was declared the “American Native Spirit” in 1964 by an act of Congress, which surely made Jim beam proudly.
Sparks, NV was not named after fireworks. This railroading community is now part of Reno with a population in excess of 100,000. Named for a Nevada governor, John Sparks, its claim to national fame peaked in 1904 when the largest roundhouse in the world opened there. This railroad facility was so big that the largest building west of the Mississippi was in Sparks. It no longer exists except in photos.
Further south in Nevada is another town with an unusual name that we visited for the first time in 2019. Ruth & I had driven through Pahrump before after leaving Death Valley, but it’s not considered the closest town to this natural phenomenon. That would be Beatty (pronounced Bay-dee) Pahrump derives from the Southern Paiute word for water rock, pah-rimpi. There are many natural wells in Pahrump Valley adjacent to a place with no wells. Ash Meadows is also close to Death Valley and well well-watered.
Sleepy Eye, MN is a town of 3 and a half thousand people. It’s named for a local lake that was named for a Native American Chief famous for his drooping eyelids. The town of Sleepy Eye made the national news in the 1990s when it tried to ban MTV. Sleepy Eye is home to award-winning Haala Industries. Look it up.