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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.

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The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery
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The Mountains of Kong: The Majestic West African Range That Never Existed
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The King of Kong © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

If you look closely at a 19th century map of Africa, you’ll notice one major way that it differs from contemporary maps, one that has nothing to do with changing political or cartographical styles. More likely than not, it features a mountain range that no longer appears on modern maps, as WIRED explains. Because it never existed in the first place.

A 19th century map of West Africa
From Milner's Descriptive Atlas, 1850

The “Mountains of Kong” appeared on almost every major commercial map of Africa in the 1800s, stretching across the western part of the continent between the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger River. This mythical east-west mountain range is now the subject of an art exhibition at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery.

In "Mountains of Kong," stereoscopic images by artist Jim Naughten—the same format that allowed Victorians with wanderlust to feel like they’d seen the world—reveal his view of the world of wildlife that might have existed inside the imagined mountains. As the gallery describes it, “he imagines a fictitious record made for posterity and scientific purposes during an expedition of the mountain range.” We’ve reproduced the images here, but to get the full effect, you’ll have to go to the gallery in person, where you can view them in 3D with a stereoscope (like the ones you no doubt played with as a kid).

Toucans fight a snake in two almost-identical side-by-side images.
The Toucans © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Naughten created the images by taking two photographs for each, and moving the camera over some 3 inches for the second photo to make a stereoscopic scene. The landscapes were created by shooting images of Scottish and Welsh mountains and dioramas in natural history museums, using Photoshop to change the hues of the images to make them seem more otherworldly. His blue-and-pink-hued images depict fearsome apes, toucans sparring with snakes, jagged peaks, and other scenes that seem both plausible and fantastical at the same time.

The Mountains of Kong appeared in several hundred maps up until the 20th century. The first, in 1798, was created by the prominent geographer James Rennell to accompany a book by Scottish explorer Mungo Park about his first journey to West Africa. In it, Park recounts gazing on a distant range, and “people informed me, that these mountains were situated in a large and powerful kingdom called Kong.” Rennell, in turn, took this brief observation and, based on his own theories about the course of the Niger River, drew a map showing the mountain range that he thought was the source of the river. Even explorers who later spent time in the area believed the mountains existed—with some even claiming that they crossed them.

Two colobuses stand in a tree on a mountaintop.
The Colobus © Jim Naughten. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

The authority of the maps wasn’t questioned, even by those who had been to the actual territory where they were depicted as standing. Writers began to describe them as “lofty,” “barren,” and “snow-covered.” Some said they were rugged granite peaks; others described them as limestone terraces. In almost all cases, they were described as “blue.” Their elevation ranged from 2500 feet to 14,000 feet, depending on the source. Over the course of the 19th century, “there was a general southward ‘drift’ in the location,” as one pair of scholars put it.

Though geographers cast some doubt on the range’s existence as time went on, the Mountains of Kong continued to appear on maps until French explorer Louis-Gustave Binger’s Niger River expedition between 1887 and 1889, after which Binger definitively declared their nonexistence.

By 1891, the Mountains of Kong began dropping off of maps, though the name Kong still appeared as the name of the region. By the early 20th century, the mountains were gone for good, fading into the forgotten annals of cartographic history.

[h/t WIRED]

All images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.

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25 Things You Should Know About Barcelona
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With its Catalonian roots and modernist architecture (much of it by the legendary Antoni Gaudí), Barcelona's charm feels timeless. Read on for more about this coastal metropolis, the former home of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.

1. Nobody knows exactly how the city got its name, but two legendary figures are frequently cited. According to one account, Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, named the settlement "Barcino" in the 3rd century BCE after his family's surname. A different tale credits Hercules, whose ninth ship (barca nona) was said to have washed ashore in the area.

2. The Eixample section of the city is a nearly perfect grid, although the corners of each square are cut off, effectively making every block an octagon. In the 19th century, geometry-obsessed architect Ildefons Cerda designed the areas to ease traffic patterns and navigation, but also to build a community within each block, which featured a communal garden in the middle. As a bonus, the setup also maximized sunlight and the ventilation of the surrounding homes.

3. One of Barcelona's most popular arteries is the three-quarter-mile road called La Rambla. During the Middle Ages, it was the site of a polluted stream outside the city walls affectionately known as Cagalell, or "stream of shit." Today, the road is divided into five sections—Canaletes, Estudis, Sant Josep, Caputxins, and Santa Mònica—which is why it's often referred to in the plural as Las Ramblas.

4. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), more than 1000 underground bomb shelters were built to offer Barcelonians refuge from enemy attack. You can experience the claustrophobic atmosphere of one of the subterranean structures, Shelter 307, a massive bunker with specialized rooms (toilets, a children's room, an infirmary, and more) linked by 400 meters of tunnels. The Museu d'Historia de Barcelona manages the site and offers public tours.

5. The annual Sant Jordi festival (which took place this year on April 23) toasts Catalonia's patron saint, Saint George. As part of the celebration, men traditionally give their loved ones a rose. But it's also the anniversary of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes's deaths, so women give a book in return.

6. A 200-foot-tall monument of Christopher Columbus is located at the end of La Rambla, near the harbor. Completed in 1888 by sculptor Rafael Atche, the towering column honors the explorer who returned to Barcelona from the Americas and reported his findings to his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. In his left hand, he holds a scroll, and with his right, he supposedly points toward the New World.

7. Construction on Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, began in 1882 … and is still going. The Gothic- and Byzantine-influenced design reached its final stage in November 2015, but projections still target 2026 as the completion date. By then, it will have 18 towers and reach a height of 564 feet, making it the tallest religious building in Europe. Despite not being finished, it's still Spain's most-visited monument.

8. A modernist masterpiece, Park Güell is a complex of public parks designed by Gaudí and a local industrialist, Count Eusebi Güell. Originally, in 1900, Güell had envisioned the complex as a housing development interspersed with green spaces, but only two homes were ever built and few buyers showed interest. The residential project was abandoned in 1914 and the city later converted the rest of the area into municipal parks with roads, walkways, a plaza, and gatehouses designed by Gaudí. Today it's one of seven properties in UNESCO's Works of Antoni Gaudí world heritage site.

9. Another site in the UNESCO group is Casa Milà, an apartment building designed by Gaudí and nicknamed La Pedrera, or stone quarry. It took six years to build and was completed in 1912 in the Catalan Art Nouveau style. With 48,438 square feet of space for visitors to explore, its most recognizable feature is the roof terrace with its winding paths of ventilation towers, chimneys, and stairs.

10. Spain's most powerful supercomputer, MareNostrum, is housed in the 19th-century Chapel Torre Girona on the campus of Barcelona's Polytechnic University of Catalonia. A team of researchers uses the MareNostrum for mapping the human genome, detecting complex weather patterns, and other massive projects using huge amounts of data.

11. The first boycott-free Olympics since 1972 was held in Barcelona in 1992. The summer games took place amid global political shifts—South Africa had outlawed Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall had reunited East and West Germany, and 15 former Soviet countries competed as a "unified" team. More than 9000 athletes (6652 men and 2704 women) competed in 257 events—including baseball, badminton, and women's judo, which all made their official Olympic debuts that year.

12. The coastal city's beloved beaches are actually man-made. To prepare for the 1992 Olympics, industrial waterfront buildings were torn down and palm trees were imported from Malaga, resulting in two miles of idyllic waterfront space. Today, there are more than four miles of beach.

13. Singer José Carreras, who was born in Barcelona on December 5, 1946, sang the part of Tony on 1984's West Side Story recording with Leonard Bernstein. He later joined forces with Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo in 1990 to form the powerhouse combo The Three Tenors. Their first live album (recorded at their debut concert in Rome) went multiplatinum that year—and won a Grammy for best classical vocal performance.

14. In 2004, Barcelona-based candy shop Papabubble started making hard candies completely by hand. Today there are more than 40 locations around the globe, in cities including Beirut, Dubai, Lima, New York, Paris, Sao Paolo, Taipei, Toronto, and Zhengzhou.

15. Built for the 1929 International Exhibition by Carles Buigas, the Montjuïc Magic Fountain features a dancing water show with more than 50 shades of colors coordinated to music. Located at the end of Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina, it was restored for the 1992 Olympics and also hosts an annual Piromusical show, synchronized with fireworks, for the city's La Mercè festival.

16. For a panoramic view of Barcelona, hop on the scenic Montjuïc cable car, which travels up a hillside for 277 feet, with stops at Parc Montjuïc, Montjuïc castle (built in 1640), and the Mirador de l'Alcalde. From the upper terminal, board the Montjuïc funicular to ascend to more cultural attractions, including the Fundacio Joan Miro and Barcelona’s ethnological museum.

17. Barcelona's local cuisine combines the hallmarks of the coastal Mediterranean palate—fish and shellfish, legumes, tomatoes, peppers, other fresh vegetables, fruits, and wheat—with the rustic fare of the mountainous interior. Pork (especially Serrano ham) and wild boar, sausages called botifarras, wild mushrooms, cheeses, and wines add heartiness to the Catalan table.

18. Pablo Picasso's family moved to Barcelona in 1895, and he lived there on and off through 1904. "There is where it all began … there is where I understood how far I could go," he said of the city. Barcelona’s Museu Picasso, founded in 1963, houses 4251 of his works in its permanent collection, including early self-portraits in the figurative style, Cubist works, studies of harlequins and horses, and later sculptures.

19. Catalonia’s artistic legacy wouldn’t be complete without Surrealist master Salvador Dalí, who was born in Figueres, a small town about an hour northeast of Barcelona. He spent the last decades of his life creating a museum in his hometown to preserve his work. "I want my museum to be like a single block, a maze, a great surrealist object. It will be an absolutely theatrical museum. People who come to see it will leave with the feeling of having had a theatrical dream,” Dalí once said. The Dalí Theatre-Museum’s collection includes more than 4000 Dalí works, 11,300 photographs, and 537 manuscripts.

20. Barcelona’s most visited museum is dedicated to the city’s beloved football (that is, soccer) team, FC Barcelona. Within the team’s stadium, dubbed Camp Nou, is a collection of multimedia exhibits, memorabilia, and trophies from the team’s 22 league titles, four Champions League victories, and many more. Visitors can also take a tour of the locker rooms, the players’ tunnel leading to the field, and other hallowed spaces. In 2013, more than 1,530,400 fans passed through the doors, more than the Dalí Theatre Museum in nearby Figueres and the Museu Picasso.

21. The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria is the city’s main market for food and drink. The current market was established in 1840, but the site has been a well-trodden spot for farmers to trade their produce and city dwellers to buy fresh food since the 13th century. Today third- and fourth-generation sellers offer fresh and salted fish, poultry and eggs, meats of every description, breads, pasta, wine, fruits and vegetables, and even frozen foods.

22. The old Sant Agustí monastery now houses the Museu de la Xocolata ("Museum of Chocolate” in the Catalan language), showcasing a sweet part of Barcelona's history. In the 15th century, shipments of chocolate from far-flung regions arrived in Barcelona and were distributed throughout Europe. Exhibits focus on the chocolate-making process, historical roots of the product, and even chocolate-themed works of art.

23. Barcelona’s Avinguda del Portal de L'Angel is Spain’s most expensive retail street. As of 2015, commercial real estate on the street sold for $335 per square foot.

24. The au courant clothing chain Mango was founded in Barcelona in 1984. Now, the brand has 2415 stores in 107 countries and operates Europe’s largest fashion design hub, the Hangar Design Centre.

25. The Royal Institute of British Architecture's highest honor, the Royal Gold Medal, has always be awarded to a person—except in 1999, when it was given to the city of Barcelona. Citing the city’s widespread revitalization after the 1992 Olympics, the organization announced, "Barcelona is now more whole in every way, its fabric healed yet threaded through with new open spaces, its historic buildings refurbished, yet its facilities expanded and brought up-to-the-minute.”

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