How 50 Texas Cities Got Their Names

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1. HOUSTON

The state’s largest city takes its name from Sam Houston, who led the army that defeated Mexican troops during the Texas Revolution in 1836. That year, the Allen brothers decided to establish a town on the site of a beautiful bayou and name it after him.  

2. SAN ANTONIO

In 1691, a group of Spanish settlers—including Domingo Terán de los Ríos, the first governor of Spanish Texas—entered the territory to establish missions and regain control of the area from the French, Apache, and Comanche. On June 13, 1691, the party camped next to a stream. It happened to be the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, and so they renamed the river San Antonio, which later lent its name to the city.

3. DALLAS

Likely the surname of a historic figure, the precise origin of Dallas’s name is unknown. It could come from George Mifflin Dallas, vice president of the United States under James K. Polk, or his brother, Commodore Alexander J. Dallas of the United States Navy, or Joseph Dallas, who settled near the new town in 1843.

4. AUSTIN

Austin’s namesake is Stephen F. Austin, the “founder of Anglo-American Texas.” The city was established as the capital in 1839, when the Republic of Texas was just three years old.

5. FORT WORTH

General William Jenkins Worth was a military hero in the Mexican War who was serving as the Commander of the Department of Texas when he died of cholera in May 1849, about a month before Major Ripley Arnold established the fort.

6. EL PASO

Paso comes from “El Paso del Norte,” or “Pass of the North.” Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate gave the location that name in 1598 because it sits in the pass between two mountain ranges, the Sierra de Juárez and the Franklin Mountains.

7. ARLINGTON

Founded in 1876, Arlington was renamed in 1877 after Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House in Arlington, Virginia. 

8. CORPUS CHRISTI

Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda is responsible for naming this southern Texas city. The name, which means “body of Christ,” comes from the Catholic feast day on which he explored and claimed the area in 1519.

9. LAREDO

A Spanish military officer named José de Escandón was commissioned to settle the area and named it Laredo, after a town in the Santander province of Spain. 

10. LUBBOCK

Thomas Saltus Lubbock was a soldier in the Texas Revolution and served as a Texas Ranger in support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. He was also the brother of the ninth governor of Texas, Francis R. Lubbock, who served from 1857 to 1859. 

11. GARLAND

Former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator Augustus H. Garland was the sitting attorney general when the city was established in 1887. He served under President Grover Cleveland.

12. IRVING

The city of Irving is most likely named for a Yankee—Washington Irving. Irving was the favorite author of Onetta Barcus Brown, the wife of the town’s co-founder, Otis Brown.

13. AMARILLO

The Spanish word for “yellow” suits this city well thanks to the yellow wildflowers and yellow soil along the banks of the creek of the same name. Charles F. Rudolph, editor of the Tascosa Pioneer, shamed the Forth Worth and Denver Railway employees for their incorrect pronunciation for the Spanish word. In 1888, he correctly predicted the future when he said, "Never again will it be Ah-mah-ree-yoh."

14. GRAND PRAIRIE

This name reflects the land on which the city was built—glorious, expansive grasslands. It was originally called Dechman after its founder, but the town’s name was later changed to match that of the local railroad station.

15. BROWNSVILLE

Major Jacob Brown was a soldier in the Mexican-American War. He served as commander of Fort Texas, where died during a Mexican attack, and posthumously gave this city its name. 

16. PASADENA

It’s no coincidence that Pasadena, Texas shares a name with a town in California. Founder John H. Burnett wanted to depict his area as lush with vegetation and fertile for agriculture, just like the SoCal region.

17. McKINNEY

Collin McKinney was among the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He also served as a land surveyor, legislator, and religious leader.

18. MESQUITE

A nearby creek of the same name was dubbed before the city was founded in 1873, presumably after the mesquite trees native to the area. 

19. KILLEEN

Settled in 1872, Killeen was established by the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway, which named the settlement for Frank P. Killeen, assistant general manager of the railroad. Before taking on Killeen’s name, the area was called Palo Alto.

20. FRISCO

Originally named Emerson, the city was renamed in 1904 for the St. Louis, San Francisco & Texas Railway, referred to as the “Frisco system,” which ran through the area.

21. McALLEN

John McAllen was an early settler in the area who joined with his son, James McAllen, to donate land for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway to cross in order to establish a town along the rail line. 

22. WACO

Waco is named for the Waco tribe, whose village once rested on the land that now bears its name.

23. CARROLLTON

The name most likely comes from Carrollton, Illinois, the previous hometown of many of the city’s early residents. It is also possible that the name comes from Daniel Joseph Carroll, a settler from the 1841 William S. Peters colony.

24. MIDLAND

Midland began in 1881 as Midway Station, a section house located halfway between two stations on the Texas and Pacific Railway. Because Texas already had towns called Midway, the name was changed in 1884—as many do—to facilitate establishing a post office.

25. DENTON

John B. Denton was a lawyer, Methodist minister, and captain in the Republic of Texas army. The city was founded in 1857.

26. ABILENE

When the town was founded in 1881, C.W. Merchant took the name from Abilene, Kans. in the hope that its Texas counterpart could become as important as its sister in the cattle ranching business.

27. BEAUMONT

Henry Millard and his partners purchased fifty acres to establish a town in 1835. The Beaumont moniker likely came from Millard’s wife’s maiden name.

28. ODESSA

Russian railroad workers likely named this city for its resemblance to the landscape of Odessa, Ukraine. 

29. ROUND ROCK

Two fishing buddies and early residents found inspiration in the large limestone rock in Brushy Creek where the pair liked to drop their lines.

30. THE WOODLANDS

While not technically an incorporated city (it’s a census designated place), The Woodlands boasts a robust population (around 108,000) that earns it a spot on this list. George P. Mitchell founded the planned community in 1974, and the name was likely picked as a way to market the development as a pastoral, nature-filled alternative to nearby Houston.

31. WICHITA FALLS

Wichita County and the Wichita River both existed before the city and were named for the local Wichita tribe, though that word wasn’t the tribe’s name for themselves, but rather a Choctaw word meaning “big arbor,” a reference to their thatched huts. The “falls” was a five-foot-high waterfall that washed away in the late 1800s. 

32. RICHARDSON

A couple of Richardsons could have given their name to this city. The name most likely comes from E. H. Richardson, a contractor who built the Houston and Texas Central Railroad from Dallas to Denton, but it could also be a reference to A. S. Richardson, a secretary for the railroad. The town of Richardson was intentionally founded on the railroad tracks, which makes both sensible candidates.

33. LEWISVILLE

Lewisville was once known as Holford Prairie after its previous owners, but in the 1850s, B.W. Lewis bought the land and renamed it after himself.

34. TYLER

The city was named for President John Tyler as a show of gratitude for his supporting Texas’s admission to the union.

35. PEARLAND

The city was aptly named for the abundance of pear trees in the area, with the moniker also helping attract settlers by advertising the fertile land. The area was originally called Mark Belt, so a change of any kind of was probably a good idea.

36. COLLEGE STATION

You need only know that College Station is home to Texas A&M to understand this name. The city began as a railroad stop for the university. 

37. SAN ANGELO

The town’s founder, Bart J. DeWitt, decided on the name Santa Angela to honor either his deceased wife, Caroline Angela, or his sister-in-law, Angelina, who was a nun. By the time the town applied for a post office in 1883, the name had transformed into San Angela, which is grammatically nonsensical in Spanish. The postal service rejected that construction but approved the grammatically consistent San Angelo. 

38. ALLEN

Ebenezer Allen, a native of Maine who moved to Texas in the 1830s, served as attorney general and secretary of state of the Republic of Texas and was later a promoter for the Houston and Texas Central Railway. In 1880, Denton outlaw Sam Bass committed what is said to be Texas’s first train robbery in Allen.

39. LEAGUE CITY

When John C. League acquired the land that is now League City in 1893, it was called Butler’s Ranch. League bought the land from a man named Muldoon who gave up the property rights upon entering the priesthood.

40. SUGAR LAND

Sugar Land was once home to a large sugarcane plantation, a raw-sugar mill, and a sugar refinery, as well as the Sugar Land Railroad. In other words, the name was as sure as sugar.  

41. LONGVIEW

The impressive views of the area surrounding the town inspired this name. The view from the house of Ossamus Hitch Methvin, from whom the land was purchased in order to extend the Southern Pacific Railroad track, was particularly breathtaking. 

42. MISSION

Mission was founded on 17,000 acres of land purchased from priests of the French Catholic order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who maintained the nearby La Lomita Mission. Founders John J. Conway and James W. Holt took a cue from the former owners when naming the city in 1907.

43. EDINBURG

Only an “h” separates this city and the Scottish one for which it was named. The name is an homage to John Young, a 19th century landowner of the Rio Grande Valley who was born in Edinburgh. 

44. BRYAN

William Joel Bryan donated the land for the townsite, enabling the expansion of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. He was also a nephew of Stephen F. Austin.

45. BAYTOWN

The city grew up around a refinery that was built in 1919 in order to process oil from the Goose Creek Oil Field, which sits on Tabbs Bay.

46. PHARR

Henry N. Pharr was a Louisiana sugarcane grower who purchased the land that would become the town in 1909 along with John C. Kelly, who generously named the town for his partner.

47. TEMPLE

Established by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway as a construction camp, Temple was named for their chief engineer, Bernard Moore Temple.

48. MISSOURI CITY

Named in 1893 by W.R. McElroy, a land developer who hoped it would attract people from the St. Louis area to settle in Texas.

49. FLOWER MOUND

The name comes from the 50-foot, 12-acre hill located at what is now the southeast side of the city, which was covered in a local wildflower called Indian paintbrush. 

50. NORTH RICHLAND HILLS

Clarence Jones developed his 268-acre dairy farm in 1952 and named it North Richland Hills in imitation of Richland Hills, a nearby development into which North Richland hoped to be annexed.

How Google Maps Typos Grow Into Real Neighborhood Names

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The borders and names of city neighborhoods have long been a source of contention. But for most of history, the bickering has been limited to the residents, real estate agents, and shop owners working and living in the actual areas in question. Now, there's a much less personal—and more powerful—force that's revising urban landscapes around the world: Google Maps.

If you've recently come across a neighborhood you've never heard of in the city you've lived in for years, Google may be to blame. According to The New York Times, the digital navigation service is responsible for popularizing names like the East Cut, the now-default title of the San Francisco neighborhood previously known as Rincon Hill, South Beach, or South of Market.

The app is also responsible for the neighborhoods Midtown South Central, Vinegar Hill Heights, and Rambo—names which would likely get you stares if you said them to a life-long New Yorker. Los Angeles is now home to Silver Lake Heights, a name that first appeared on real estate listings as a joke, and in Detroit there's Fishkorn, Google's misspelled version of the neighborhood once known as Fiskhorn.

The engineers at Google Maps don't make up new neighborhood names on a whim. According to the company, the maps are based on third-party data, public sources, satellites, and user submissions. But sometimes these sources contain typos or are just plain wrong. And the information is usually reviewed by someone with no connection to the cities whose maps they're programming, making it easy for glaring errors to slip into the code.

Even the most seasoned cartographers make mistakes, but when Google messes up, the impact reaches far. More than 63 percent of people who opened a navigation app on their phone or tablet in May 2018 used Google Maps. And even if people don't use Google Maps directly, they've likely seen information from the app secondhand on real-estate listings, food-delivery websites, and elsewhere.

If you spot a neighborhood in Google's app that you feel is totally made up, you can tell them about it. Just head over to Google Support to report the error.

[h/t The New York Times]

13 Things You Should Know About Ferdinand Magellan

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In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) set sail in search of a westward route to the Maluku Islands of modern Indonesia, which brimmed with nutmeg, cloves, and mace. His trip to these “Spice Islands” would lead to the first successful round-the-world voyage and turn Magellan into a larger-than-life figure. Get reacquainted with the world’s most famous (almost) circumnavigator.

1. BEFORE HE WAS A SEA CAPTAIN, HE FOUGHT IN THE MILITARY.

Magellan got his first taste of sea life when he joined a Portuguese military fleet headed for India at the age of 25. At the time, Portugal was hungry to control global trade, and that meant taking strategic points along the Indian Ocean. Magellan fought in a number of pivotal naval conflicts and learned the ropes of navigation. (He also fought in Morocco, where he suffered a leg injury that caused a permanent limp.)

2. PORTUGAL REGARDED HIM AS A TRAITOR.

Magellan’s military stint in Morocco was unsuccessful: Not only was he wounded, he was later accused of illegally trading with the Moors, a charge that tarnished his reputation in his home country of Portugal. Afterwards, he had trouble landing a job. He bickered with the king. In 1517, Magellan became so fed up that he left Portugal and soon pledged allegiance to his country’s most bitter rival—Spain. Portugal considered it an act of treason.

3. PORTUGAL TRIED TO STOP HIS VOYAGE TO THE SPICE ISLANDS.

By 1517, Portugal controlled access to the Spice Routes, the trade routes from Europe eastward to what is now Indonesia around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. (This was a big deal: Spices at the time were worth their weight in gold.) Magellan told Spain’s king, Charles I, that he knew a possible workaround: Sail west. Charles approved, and Portuguese officials were livid. When Magellan left Spain in 1519 with a fleet of five ships, destined for the Spice Islands via the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Portuguese tried—and failed—to chase him down.

4. MAGELLAN WAS GUARANTEED HIS OWN ISLAND AS PART OF THE DEAL.

When Spain’s king approved Magellan’s plan, he reportedly offered the explorer a number of perks: Magellan, along with his partner Rui Faleiro, would automatically become governor of the lands they found. They would gain the right to levy fees for any upcoming trips. And, most interestingly, they would get their very own islands.

5. HIS VOYAGE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN APPROVED WERE IT NOT FOR HIS INTERPRETER—AND SLAVE—ENRIQUE.

Years earlier, in 1511, Magellan helped invade the port city of Malacca and came home with a Malay-speaking man known now as Enrique de Malacca. Enrique would become Magellan’s most vital resource. Not only did he join Magellan on his 1519 voyage, but his fluency in the Malay language—and his skills as an interpreter—were a major reason why Spain’s king agreed to fund Magellan’s search for a westward spice route.

6. HIS SHIPS WERE STUFFED WITH BOOZE ...

Magellan traveled with large amounts of sherry on board—more than 253 butts and 417 wineskins—and reportedly spent more money supplying his ship with booze than he did on weapons. As we'll see, this might not have been his greatest idea.

7. ... AND CRIMINALS.

An engraving of the Victoria, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Santiago, and Victoria set sail in September 1519 with a crew of about 270 sailors. Few of them had extensive seafaring experience. In fact, many of them were criminals loaned from prisons. Others joined because they were avoiding creditors. (Many experienced Spanish sailors refused to join Magellan, possibly because he was Portuguese.)

8. WHEN HIS CAPTAINS STARTED A MUTINY, MAGELLAN SHOWED NO MERCY.

In March 1520, Magellan’s ships reached what is now Port San Julián in southern Argentina. Here, three of his captains—all Spaniards who were reportedly jealous that the position of commander had been bestowed to a Portuguese man—vowed to kill Magellan. Long story short, Magellan killed them instead. To show he wasn’t to be messed with, Magellan had their bodies drawn, quartered, and impaled on stakes on shore.

9. HE CLAIMED PATAGONIA WAS THE HOME OF 10-FOOT-TALL GIANTS.

Patagonia
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According to Antonio Pigafetta, a member of Magellan’s voyage who recounted his adventure in a book, Magellan discovered giants in South America “so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist.” (They were most likely Tehuelche people who, while tall by 16th century European standards, were definitely not giants.) Regardless, Magellan kidnapped two of them and named them Patagons. To this day, we still call their home Patagonia.

10. HE NAMED THE PACIFIC—BUT HE WASN’T THE FIRST EUROPEAN TO REACH IT.

Ferdinand Magellan's fleet discovers the path to the Pacific
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In October 1520, Magellan reached Cape Virgenes at the southeastern tip of present-day Argentina and concluded that he had found a passage that could cut across South America. His ships traveled 373 miles and reached the other side in late November, and Magellan named the new ocean Mar Pacifico for its peacefulness. (He wasn’t the first European to set eyes on it, though. That accolade belonged to Vasco Núñez de Balboa, who crossed the Isthmus of Panama seven years earlier. He had called it the “South Sea.”) Today, the passage across the continent is called the Strait of Magellan.

11. HE DIED A PRETTY GORY DEATH.

The subsequent events in the Pacific were, to say the least, not peaceful. In March 1521, Magellan reached the Philippines and gently converted some of the chieftains to Christianity. Magellan then moved to convert the ruler of Mactan, Datu Lapu-Lapu. When Lapu-Lapu refused, Magellan decided to kill him. Magellan’s men rushed the shore. Mactan soldiers attacked and quickly recognized Magellan as their leader. They charged him. A Mactan warrior thrust a spear into Magellan’s face. Magellan thrust a lance into his attacker’s body. Magellan then tried pulling his sword, but the spear prevented him from extracting it. At this moment, the Mactan soldiers jumped him.

12. ENRIQUE, NOT MAGELLAN, MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST PERSON TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE THE GLOBE.

A lot of history books say that Magellan was the first person to lead a circumnavigation around the globe. The words to lead do a lot of heavy lifting: Magellan, of course, died before the voyage was complete. His slave, however, might have completed an around-the-world circuit. Shortly after Magellan’s death, Enrique escaped. If he succeeded in returning home (and it’s unclear if he did or not), that would mean that the first human to accomplish the feat was not some European explorer, but a Southeast Asian ex-slave sailing to freedom.

13. DESPITE EVERYTHING THAT WENT WRONG, MAGELLAN’S VOYAGE WAS STILL PROFITABLE.

After Magellan died, the voyage was led by Juan Sebastian Elcano. In the coming months, much of the remaining crew starved, and only one ship managed to make the full trip back to Spain. But that was OK: When Elcano had visited the Spice Islands, he had secured 381 sacks of cloves. Those spices were worth more than all five ships combined.

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