Category Archives: Town Names

Greek Mythology and American Geography

Greek Mythology has been responsible for the naming of many American towns. Gods and goddesses and Greek heroes are everywhere.

There’s an Achille, Oklahoma, and a town called Achilles in Virginia. Achilles was, of course, a Trojan War hero, a noted warrior, and a star of Homer’s Iliad. Both towns are very small.

There’s a very small town in Missouri named Amazonia. It has been incorporated into the city of St. Joseph. St. Joseph is where Jesse James once lived and is also home to the Glore Psychiatric Museum that is far more interesting than it sounds. An Amazon in the Greece of old was a female warrior who lived on the edge of the known world. Today it’s also the name of a major corporation that delivers almost everything. St Joseph is not too far from Helena, MO. There are a few Helenas around. Several were named for Helen of Troy.

There’s a town named Apollo in Pennsylvania and an Apollo Beach, FL in the Tampa area. The Greek Apollo was a god who loved sun and light. He was the god of prophecy and healing. Reportedly, 21,000 Floridians live in Apollo Beach.

There’s a Cassandra, PA. Cassandra was a mythological woman who was abducted by Ajax. She was a Trojan priestess.

There’s a town named Calypso in North Carolina. Calypso in Greek mythology was the daughter of Atlas. She entertained Odysseus for 7 years but could not overcome his longing for home and Penelope.

There are towns named Clio in at least 7 states. Clio was one of the 9 muses and the Greek goddess of music. There’s a town called Muse in Pennsylvania, but it was named for a coal shipper whose first name was Charles not a female Greek goddess.

There’s a large town of 26,000 people named Daphne across the bay from Mobile, Alabama. Daphne was the daughter of a river god who turned into a laurel tree. This town is often called Jubilee City.

There are towns named Eros in Louisiana and its neighbor Alabama. Eros was the god of love, and he was often depicted like a naked angel with a bow and arrow.

There’s a very tiny town in Washington State named Hades Creek. It is too small to appear on most maps. Hades, called Pluto in Rome, was the god of the underworld and Zeus’ brother.

There’s a Hercules, CA, but the town is more about dynamite than a hero who was Jupiter’s son. Jupiter was the Roman name given to Zeus. Hercules was known for his great strength and many adventures. His Greek name was actually Heracles, and he was the son of Zeus and a divine hero in his own right.

Hesperia is a city of 94,000 in California and the southern terminus of Highway 395 in the Mojave Desert. Hesperia was the goddess of the evening star.

There’s an important town in Alaska named Homer, but it was named for a con man with the surname Pennock and not for the supposed blind Greek writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

There’s a town named Medusa in New York State near Albany, its capital. Also called Gorgo, she was one of the 3 Gorgons who had snakes instead of hair. New York City will soon have a 7-feet statue of her called “Medusa With the Head of Perseus”. She will be imposingly naked like Eros.

Hank


Towns Named Athens

With the Olympics happening in Japan this summer, I decided to do towns name Athens, where the Olympics began.

The so-called town experts will tell you that there are at least 23 towns in the United States named Athens, but a lot of them are just unincorporated bumps in the road. There are really only a few important Athens in the United States, and most of them are college towns with not many tourist attractions other than campuses.
Ruth and I went to the Athens in Georgia not too long ago and toured the campus. The only other place of interest in town was a visitors’ center in a historic home.

One year I took Ruth to the Athens in Greece for her birthday. We had a great time but found dirty streets, a lot of ethnic troubles usually involving Bulgarians, and a very depressed economy. The only crowded places in this city of close to 3 million were the bars and cafes. The citizens of the largest Athens in the world situated among many ancient ruins seemed to have an attitude to enjoy life before things got worse.

What does make towns named Athens different in North America is the fact that there are many of them with populations of about 1000. This tells me that an early inhabitant was Grecian and homesick, so he or she named their new town after the city in Greece where they likely came from. There are Athens of about 1000 people in Illinois, Maine, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and in the only town in Canada with the name Athens in Ontario. We have also found a large Greek community in Melbourne, Australia, but no towns named Athens. Aussie Grecians tend to be city dwellers. The US city with the most Greek citizens seems to be Chicago.

The 2nd largest Athens in the world is the city in Georgia close to Atlanta. Its population now exceeds 125,000. Ruth ran over an object in the road shortly before we arrived in Athens, so we spent a lot of our time at a repair facility having a car part reattached. Other than that, we spent some time on the huge campus of the University of Georgia, where we were often lost. There are other fairly large towns named Athens in Alabama, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Alabama Athens was originally called Athenson before it was decided to name it after the city in Greece. Athens State University is there but not much else for travelers. The Athens in Ohio is home to Ohio University, and I know one of its published professors. He does not rave about his town’s tourist potential. The Tennessee Athens is known for Tennessee Wesleyan University and a couple of colleges. It is understandable that the home of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates would export the name Athens.

The Athens in Nevada has been deserted since 1939. It once produced $20,000 worth of gold. The most interesting artifact I saw in Athens, Greece, which has many fine museums of ancient treasures, was the gold mask of Agamemnon below. It’s considered a national treasure.

Hank


Towns Named Star

After careful research, I have concluded that there are truly only 2 places named Star in the world. Kind of.

There are several towns that have attached the word city to their star. There are Star Cities in Arkansas, Indiana, and West Virginia, for example. The Star City in Illinois is unincorporated so very small. There are 2 Star Cities that have become ghost towns in Michigan and Nevada. So the largest stand alone Star City is the town of 2,274 people in Arkansas. The Star City in West Virginia is a town of almost 2,000, but it has mostly been absorbed into much larger Morgantown over time. A second source says that Star City, AR’s population is about 1,600. Take your pick.

Here’s where the star game goes. Several towns like Lafayette, IN, Presque Isle, ME, large Lincoln, NB, and Miamisburg, OH call themselves Star Cities but have not officially changed their names. That leaves Roanoke, VA, which has called itself “The Star City of the South” for more than 50 years the only legitimate claimant to a starring name, in my opinion.

There are some Stars supposedly in Russia, but neither the city of Novogorod nor the city called Bryansk has officially changed their name to reflect this. The Russian word for star is zvezda. There are said to be Stars in Morocco, The United Kingdom, Egypt, Belarus, and Belgium too, but there is no way to prove this without learning several languages.

There’s a town called Star Valley in Arizona, a Star Lake in New York, and a Star Valley Ranch in Wyoming. About 5,000 people live under these 3 stars. That leaves only 2 towns with the actual name Star in the world. They are in Idaho and North Carolina, so the largest town named Star is now in the process of becoming a suburb of Boise but is still a separate community, for now. The same goes for the much smaller Star in central North Carolina.

The Stars reportedly in Missouri and Montana have attached the words “union” and “silver” to their names. Both will have to grow much larger to truly become towns named Star. This is unlikely so there are actually not many pure Stars in the world. This surprises me because the firmament is full of stars over towns and you would think that town namers would have acted on this. For some reason, this has not happened.

Hank

The starry photo above is from Pexels Stock Photos


Superior Hazards?

People once thought it was wise to name their towns either Superior or Hazard. There are only 7 towns that consider themselves Superior in the world. Four towns consider themselves Hazards.

There are towns named Hazard in Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Washington; but 3 of them are very small. Only Hazard, Kentucky, is large enough to count. There are 5,000 people living there in hazardous conditions. The Hazzard in Georgia is a purely fictional town name used for a popular TV show long ago. It is not considered life-threatening to live in Hazard, KY because it was named for Oliver Hazard Perry, a naval hero and not a disastrous condition.

You would think that there would be more towns named Superior than 7, but there are not. The towns that think they are better than others are in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and 2 other states. Superior, AZ is a mining town that began its existence as Queen. About 3,000 people now live there. Superior, CO is far larger because it’s just south of Boulder and north of Denver. About 12,500 superior people live there. The Superior in Montana is a town of fewer than 1,000 on Interstate 90. Superior, NB is near the Kansas border and home to almost 2,000. The largest Superior is the city of more than 27,000 across the bridge from the western end of Lake Superior. It has a tourable ship called the Meteor, is a lake port across from Duluth, MN, which has lots of fun tourist attractions, was the last port-of-call for the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ship that sank in Lake Superior almost 50 years ago, and is close to Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall in a nearby state park. Surprising no one, this city was named after the Great Lake. There are very small Superiors in Iowa and Wyoming. Their combined population is less than 500.

I have never visited a Hazard or a Superior, but Ruth and I have driven through Superior, WI and seen the Superior Entry Lighthouse.

Hank


Towns Named Broadway

This idea came from Ruth, who vividly remembers Broadway, England, one of our favorite places. The trouble with Broadway as a town name is that there aren’t many of them. The largest Broadway in the world is part of the city of Newark, New Jersey. Its population is 14,000. Most of the Broadways in the world are streets.

The most famous street named Broadway is, of course, in New York City. It is almost 33 miles long and traverses the Island of Manhattan. There is also a much used Broadway Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and an actual town named Broadway in little Nova Scotia. Its population is said to be tiny.

England is the champion for having Broadways. There are 4 of them if you include the London area called Ealing. Ealing’s 2nd name is Broadway. There is a village of about 740 people in Somerset, England, named Broadway. There is a town with 2 names in Wales. One of its names is Broadway. The other is The Havens. With either name its population is around 1,175. The Broadway that we have been to and love is in Worcestershire and has a permanent population of about 2,540. Its main business is tourism so it is best visited in a season other than summer.

The Broadway in Missouri that Ruth knew about is extinct. It used to be in Maries County between Rolla and Jefferson City and was named in jest. The other New Jersey Broadway is reportedly a village of 186 people in Warren County. There are only 3 other Broadways in the USA. The North Carolina Broadway has more than 1000 residents, the Ohio Broadway is unincorporated but large enough to have a zip code, and the Virginia Broadway is a town of about 4,000 near the Shenandoah Mountains.

There is said to be a town in Australia’s New South Wales with the name Broadway but it’s extremely small. There’s a village named Broadway in Ireland big enough to have a school and a pub and a residential area of Durban, South Africa, with this name and a lot of restaurants. If you’re interested, there are at least 4 houses for sale in Durban via a company in Spain called Mitula. Mitula is said to be a leader in the online classified Industry.

That’s it for Broadway place names!

Hank