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8 U.S. City Names That Might Have Been

It’s well known that New York was originally a Dutch colony named New Amsterdam. Less well known is the fact that, at the height of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, a fleet of two dozen Dutch ships sailed into the harbor and briefly retook control of the city from the British—so that for a short time starting in 1673, it was officially named New Orange.

But New York isn’t alone in changing its name (or rather, having its name forcibly changed), as these stories from all across the country prove. While some of these monikers were actually in use for a short time, none—fortunately—became permanent.

1. LAST CHANCE, MONTANA

In 1864, a group of prospectors known as the “Four Georgians” discovered gold in a remote gulch in Montana Territory. The discovery led to the establishment of a small mining camp in the area, which became informally known as "Last Chance." Within a year, the camp had become home to several hundred people, a handful of representatives of whom met in September 1864 to formalize the town’s name and administration. Given that the meeting took place in the fall, one of the names under consideration was “Squashtown”—but luckily for the citizens of what is now Helena, the state capital of Montana, a name honoring Helena in Arkansas (or Helena in Minnesota, depending on whose side of the story you’re on) was chosen instead.

2. PIG’S EYE, MINNESOTA

A defensive fort named Fort Saint Anthony, and later Fort Snelling, was established at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1819. Attracted by the safety and protection that the fort provided, an impromptu village soon emerged around it—including a local tavern run by and named after a retired fur-trader named Pierre “Pig’s-Eye” Parrant. The settlement itself soon took on the Pig’s-Eye nickname too, but luckily that name wasn’t to last. In 1841, a French Catholic minister named Father Lucien Galtier established a chapel dedicated to Paul the Apostle on the banks of the Mississippi nearby, and by the time the capital of Minnesota Territory was appointed in 1849, the town too had been given the name of St. Paul.

3. SWILLING’S MILL, ARIZONA

In 1867, a man named Jack Swilling noticed the potential for farming a vast dry plain at the foot of the White Tank Mountains in central Arizona. Having founded his own irrigation company, Swilling returned to the area some months later to begin digging a canal to divert water from the Salt River into the White Tank valley; the following year, the handful of farms and homesteads that had emerged in the informal town of “Swilling’s Mill” successfully produced their first few meager crops. As the town continued to grow, one of its settlers, Darrell Duppa, suggested naming it after the legendary phoenix bird, representing a settlement springing from the ruins of a former civilization—and Phoenix, Arizona, was born.

4. CLEAVELAND, OHIO

Andy B via Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

Cleveland, Ohio, was named after Connecticut-born lawyer and surveyor Moses Cleaveland, who founded the city while surveying the great Connecticut Western Reserve in 1796. According to local legend, the a was dropped from “Cleaveland” in the early 1800s so that the name of the town could fit on the front page of the local newspaper.

5. ALLIGATOR, FLORIDA

Lake City, Florida, was originally a Seminole settlement named Alpata Telophka, or “Alligator Village,” and that name remained in place after the area was colonized by European-American settlers in the early 1800s. The town name was changed in 1859—reportedly when the wife of a local politician, James McNair Baker, refused to hang her lace curtains unless the town changed its name to anything but Alligator.

6. WATERLOO, TEXAS

In the 1830s, a village was established at the confluence of the Colorado River and Shoal Creek in what is now Texas, and was—for reasons unknown—given the name Waterloo. In 1839, after Texas had gained its independence from Mexico, President of the Republic of Texas Mirabeau B. Lamar decreed that the capital should be relocated to Waterloo because of its visually pleasing location and abundant natural resources. The land was purchased by the state and the capital was officially relocated—and in the process Waterloo was renamed in honor of the “Founder of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin.

7. ALBURQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

Wikimedia // Public Domain

New Mexico’s most populous city was named after Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, the 8th Duke of Alburquerque, a town in Spain on the Portuguese border. Quite where the name’s first letter r disappeared to is a mystery—although local legend would have you believe it all began when the name was misspelled on a local railway sign in 1880.

8. CROSS KEYS, PENNSYLVANIA

The town of Cross Keys was founded in 1754 and reportedly took its name from that of a local tavern. In 1814, the village—which stands in the heart of Amish territory in southern Pennsylvania—was perhaps looking to distance itself from its association with liquor when it chose a much less controversial name: Intercourse. Quite why the town chose this new name is unclear, with different explanations pointing to everything from the nearby entrance to a local race course to the former use of the word intercourse to mean “community” or “togetherness.” Either way, the name helped to make the town sign one of America’s most frequently stolen.

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euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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geography
Mount Jackson Loses Spot as UK's Tallest Mountain After Satellite Reveals Measurement Error
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Geography textbook writers, take note: The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has just made a major correction to its old data. As Independent reports, satellite imagery reveals that Mount Hope in the British Atlantic Territory is 1236 feet taller than previously believed, unseating Mount Jackson as the UK’s tallest peak.

BAS realized the old height was incorrect after surveying mountains in Britain’s Antarctic territory using satellite technology. Inaccurate measurements pose a threat to planes flying over the mountains, and with the mapping project BAS intended to make the route safer for aircraft.

Prior to the survey, Mount Jackson was thought to be the tallest mountain in the British Atlantic Territory and the greater UK at 10,446 feet, the BBC reports. But after reviewing the new elevation data, BAS found that Mount Hope bests it by just 180 feet. Reaching 10,627 feet at its summit, Mount Hope is officially Britain’s tallest mountain.

Historically, mountains were measured on the ground using basic math equations. By measuring the distance between two points at the base of a mountain and calculating the angle between the top of the mountain and each point, researchers could estimate its height. But this method leaves a lot of room for error, and today surveyors use satellites circling the globe to come up with more precise numbers.

Because they’re both located in Antarctica, neither of the two tallest mountains in the UK is a popular climbing destination. British thrill-seekers usually choose Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, as their bucket-list mountain of choice—but at just 4413 at its highest point, climbing it would be a breeze compared to conquering Mount Hope.

[h/t Independent]

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Courtesy of Sotheby's
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History
Found: A Rare Map of Australia, Created During the 17th Century
Courtesy of Sotheby's
Courtesy of Sotheby's

More than 40 years before Captain James Cook landed on Australia’s eastern coast in 1770, renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu created an early map of the Land Down Under. Using geographical information gleaned from Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in the 1640s, it was the first map to include the island state of Tasmania and name New Zealand, and the only one to call Australia “Nova Hollandia.”

Very few copies—if any—of the 1659 map, titled Archipelagus Orientalis (Eastern Archipelago), were thought to have survived. But in 2010, a printing was discovered in a Swedish attic. After being restored, the artifact is newly on display at the National Library of Australia, in the capital city of Canberra, according to news.com.au.

The seller’s identity has been kept under wraps, but it’s thought that the map belonged to an antiquarian bookseller who closed his or her business in the 1950s. For decades, the map sat amidst other papers and books until it was unearthed in 2010 and put up for auction.

The National Library acquired the 17th century wall map in 2013 for approximately $460,000. After a lengthy restoration process, it recently went on display in its Treasures Gallery, where it will hang until mid-2018.

As for other surviving copies of the map: a second version was discovered in a private Italian home and announced in May 2017, according to Australian Geographic. It ended up selling for more than $320,000.

[h/t news.com.au]

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