Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What's your name, little town?


Art Modell was the longtime owner of the Cleveland Browns who later moved them to Baltimore where they became the Ravens. The Browns name resurfaced later in Cleveland. Modell, I think, had a healthy attitude about history, and names, and understatement.
"I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move."
Folks in Cleveland hated him for the moving the team, especially considering that he said on several occasions he would never do such a thing. As a result, he will forever be considered "persona non grata" in that town. So far, it has probably kept him out of the NFL Hall of Fame.
In news this week (February 2015), an Ohio man who urinated on the grave of Art Modell won’t be going to jail, after all.
According to Alison Knezevich of the Baltimore Sun, charges have been dropped against 62-year-old Paul Serbu, who videotaped himself appearing to empty a catheter from the bottom of his pants leg with a tube onto Modell’s grave. When you are a kid, you don't always think about where a names come from. As you grow older, you begin to wonder.
When I was growing up in southwestern Colorado, I might have heard once or twice that Egnar was really RANGE spelled backwards. I do remember they weren't that strong in basketball. The story is that they were named that way to avoid conflict with a post office somewhere that was already designated "Range." But of course, I didn't remember.
According to George R. Eicher's 1977 book, "Colorado Place Names," Montezuma County, which served as my old stomping grounds, was named when it was established in 1889 for the famous chief of the Aztecs whom Cortez conquered.
"The prehistoric dwellings in Montezuma County were thought to have been built by the Aztecs," then according to Eicher. And the county was carved out of a portion of La Plata County. Cortez, with its similar naming theme, is the county seat established about 1886, and was named by homesteader James W. Hanna, who sold the the site to the Montezuma Land & Development Company.
La Plata County, by contrast is Spanish for "silver." and it was carved out of portions of Conejos and Lake Counties. The Spaniards who arrived there in the 1700's and pulled a fair amount of said material out the mountains, labeled those mountains and the river La Plata and the county later reflected that legacy.
Other Spanish names pop up here and there in that country, but they are not always linked to the early Spanish visitors. Cahone, for example, is derivative of the Spanish word cajon and means 'little box.' Bert Ballenger, the first postmaster, allegedly came up with that one in reference to a nearby box canyon. And Arriola is said to have been named for an early Spanish military man, but the details of that have been difficult to trace.
Mancos, in Spanish means roughly "one-handed," "faulty" or "crippled" and we used to have a lot of fun with that back in high school when we played football against those yahoos. To add insult to injury, their mascot was the "bluejays."
Dove Creek, another local rival, apparently got its label from an early freighter in the area that noticed an uncommon amount of the wild birds in the area. They had enough awareness to choose a more robust mascot in the form of 'bulldogs,' but we often argued that was descriptive of their cheerleaders. They said the same, or worse, about us, I am sure.
Bayfield, of the other hand, was little larger town, and picked up its name from founder W.A. Bay. It was established in 1886, and it was originally called Los Pinos. Too bad that didn't survive. We could have had some fun with a name such as that. Instead, we were stuck wondering about the wolverines, that, as far as I know, have never been documented as being in Colorado.
Pagosa Springs, is Ute derived, and means "healing waters." How they came up with "pirates" for a mascot, beats the heck out of me.
Rico, of course, means "rich." In 1879, when Col. J.C. Haggerty discovered extremely rich silver ore there, they called the place Carbon City, Carbonville, Lead City, Dolores City and a few other cuss words. A meeting called to settle the issue resulted in William Weston's suggestion of the Spanish word for rich and the name stuck.
Other names, not of Spanish origin, cropped up here in there in that area. Lewis, for example, was named for the original owner, W.R. Lewis, who bought the property in 1909. And Lebanon, which was built in dense grove of cedar trees, as was the Biblical Lebanon, got its moniker from the Railway Building and Loan Co. of Pueblo when it was established in 1908. Stoner, named for the creek that dumps into Dolores River there, had much to do with the rocks up stream, but has been called that at least since 1888.
Which brings me to the town of Dolores, home of the bears. Originally down river about a mile and half, and called "Big Bend" for the river's turn to the north -- the town was relocated, and renamed, when the Rio Grande Southern Railroad arrived in 1890s.
Dolores seemed to be a natural choice for a river town. The town, the county upriver, and several other local landmarks owe their names to group of Franciscan Padres. In 1776, the same year of the founding of the United States, Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante, on his way from Santa Fe to Monterey, came upon the river close to where the town is now. He named the stream Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores or "River of Our Lady of Sorrows." Poetic, I think.
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