What’s in a Name? Part 2

Hi everyone,

Welcome back! Hope you enjoyed last weeks post, Part 1 of What’s in a Name? If you missed it, click here. I’ve had a lot of fun researching and writing these articles. When the occasion arises in the future, I’ll do a few more like this.

No Name, Colorado

After spending the night in the Denver, Colorado area and meeting up with my sister and brother-in-law, we headed west through the Rocky Mountains on 1-70. The day was chilly and overcast. As we climbed higher it began to snow, at times traffic crawled along at twenty miles per hour. After passing through the Eisenhower Tunnel, we have crossed the Continental Divide and begin our slow descent to the Western Slope of Colorado.

As we are driving along, the snow is behind us and the sun appears to warm our faces. We are excited about starting our tour or national parks and monuments. Just before Glenwood Springs, we see the exit sign for No Name. There’s a rest stop so pull off 1-70 and wondered how it got it’s name. Well, here’s the story.

According to Wikipedia, it’s named for No Name Creek, No Name Canyon, and the nearby 1-70 No Name Tunnel. Another source suggests that it got its name during the construction of 1-70. The Department of Transportation official working on the signage for the highway noticed the region didn’t have a name so he/she wrote “No Name” for Exit 119 on the blueprints. The folks making the signs looked at the specs and made the sign we see today. Realizing their mistake, they wanted to change the name. By then, the locals accepted the name, No Name, as their own. Especially as they received national recognition for the unusual name.

No Name is an unincorporated town with a reported population of 29 residents, down from a high of 192 people in 2014. In reality, it’s a suburb of Glenwood Springs that sports a population of nearly 10,000. I like this story and reminds me that sometimes a mistake turns out to be the best answer.

Tropic, Utah

Winding our way through southern Utah, we passed through plenty of towns with interesting names. About ten miles before arriving at Bryce Canyon National Park is the town of Tropic with a population of just over 500 people. I’m thinking, Tropic out in the middle of the Colorado Plateau, “I wonder where that came from.”

Tropic was founded by fifteen Mormon families that settled in the area in the late 1880s. They were industrious bunch. To provide water for gardens, crops, and livestock, they built a ten-mile ditch from the East Fork of the Sevier River to their settlement. This was no small feat, the community continues to thrive because of their ancestors’ foresight.

The name Tropic was suggested by a man who stated: “people will come to this valley where peaches, apples, grapes, and other semi-tropic fruits are found.” Thus, the name Tropic was adopted. It doesn’t hurt that it’s situated in a beautiful part of the world.

Notom, Utah

The sign pointing to Notom was about a mile before we reached the east edge of Capitol Reef National Park. Notom is pronounced “note um.” I pronounce it “No Tom” because that’s my first name and I could hear my mother saying those words when I was a child!

Notom was settled in 1883 by Mormon families. It started off as Pleasant Creek but postal authorities requested a change because that name was already in use. Then it became Pleasant Dale and finally Notom. The origin of this name is unknown, my guess it has a Native American connotation. Or just maybe it was a mom yelling at one of her kids: “No Tom!”

At it’s peak, there were twenty-three families in this unincorporated town. Now a ghost town, Notom is part of a sprawling cattle ranch.

Virgin, Utah

Virgin, population about 700, is about fifteen miles west of Zion National Park. It’s named after the nearby Virgin River. There are a couple of different versions of how Virgin River got its name. To me, the most plausible is that early Spanish explorers named the river after Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. Another version is that a man named Thomas Virgin was badly wounded in an attack by Mojave Indians traveling across the Mojave Desert. He came in contact with explorer Jedediah Smith near what is now Zion National Park. After Virgin was killed, Smith named the river after him. There are a gaping holes in this story, not sure of its authenticity.

Virgin was first settled in 1858 by Mormon families. The then head of the Mormon church, Brigham Young, attempted to set up a “Cotton Mission” along the Virgin River to supply church member cotton needs. This experiment failed in what was deemed “untamable” lands due to extreme flooding in the spring and extreme dry periods in the heat of the summer sun. Click here for more about the history of the settlement of the Virgin River.

During our three days at Zion National Park, we stayed at an AirBnb in Virgin. I described our accommodations in this post. Our hosts and their neighbors had large gardens, fruit trees, and a few head of livestock, cattle and goats. Most residents have some connection to the tourism industry. Virgin doesn’t have a downtown that we found, most of the town borders the busy Highway 9 that takes visitors to and from Zion.

It’s interesting to note that residents are required by ordinance to own and maintain a firearm. It does exclude the mentally ill, convicted felons, and conscientious objectors from the requirement. Whew! Even knowing that doesn’t make me feel safer.

La Verkin, Utah

About seven miles west of Virgin lies the town of La Verkin, population about 4,500. Again, there are a couple of theories of how La Verkin got its name. Some suggest it is a misinterpretation of the Spanish “la virgen” while others think it’s an error in the transcription of the term “beaver skin.” Early on the La Verkin Creek was referred to as “Leiver skin.” Either way, the name is based on an error of some type.

La Verkin is known for its hot springs and surrounding natural beauty. The Davis Food, Drug, Hardware, and Gas Station is the busiest place in town. You can find just about anything you want at their complex at the intersection of Highways 9 and 17. Tourists mingle with locals as they make their last minute purchases before heading to Zion. We made a couple of stops at the Davis complex including one before heading to Death Valley.

La Verkin made national headlines when they declared the city a “United Nations Free-Zone.” I wonder what prompted the city leaders to implement that law. Go figure! Check it out at Laverkin.org.

Browse, Utah

Driving along I-15 towards the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park, we saw the sign for Browse. Hmmm, I wonder how it got a name associated with livestock grazing. Sure enough, that’s the explanation. The unincorporated area was once part of an experimental range to study the use of browse vegetation for summer forage for cattle. Hence, the name Browse. It has no population numbers nor does this little hamlet provide any services. It’s just the source of an interesting name.

This concludes my series of What’s in a Name. Hope you enjoyed my musing. Stay tuned next week for the return of the Dane County Farmers Market.

Until next week, happy travels!