Here to Print Our Order Form
Fax or Mail in Your Order
& Order Books From Our Secure On-Line Bookstore
|A to Z Missouri: The Dictionary of Missouri Place
One To Basket
This Page To a Friend
|By Margot Ford McMillen.
Illustrated by Dennis Murphy. ISBN: 0-9646625-4-X. $14.95.
Place names are, in a sense, a comedy of errors. Though many place
names were the result of careful deliberation, many towns hark back to
chance events, mishaps and stodgy local characters. California, Missouri
is a perfect example. Though it seems this town was named during the
California Gold Rush, it was actually named for California Wilson. At the
raising of the first log buildings, he offered two gallons of whiskey to
the local boys if they’d name the town after him.
In 1886, the postal system ordered that names had to be unique. Of the
many Cross Roads and Stringtowns, there could only officially be one of
each. In 1894, the post office went a step further and ordered "from
this date only short names or names of one word will be accepted…"
When application was made, local names were often thought unflattering
and were changed. Pucky Huddle was changed to the more refined Davisville.
Toad Suck became Millersville and Exist, where people barely got by,
changed to Burch.
Post offices requirements gave people a new way to complain about the
government and as a result we have some of our best place name stories.
The town of Glad became Plad due to a clerical error that was too hard to
get fixed. Enough became a dot on the map after two hundred other post
offices names were rejected.
The requirement that names be distinct helps explain Peculiar, Rat and
Ink. The requirement that names be short was taken to mean three letters.
The result was town names just three letters long—from Abo to Zig.
Reading the stories of Missouri place names and their origins, history
comes alive in vivid detail. The stories within these covers will
definitely turn many a smile and offer insight into the care and comedy
that helped found our state.
Reviews of A to
The Dictionary of
Missouri Place Names:
How interesting! Reading about the pioneer days in Missouri. I’m
seeing our towns and cities in a whole new light… Phillip Ratterman,
Modern day explorer, Kansas City
A to Z, Missouri Table
Native American Names
Robert Ramsay file
Charles Dickens' Eden
German Place Names
How to pronounce the name Missouri
New Madrid handbill
Rural Federal Delivery Mail
U.S. Board of Geographic Names
List of Sources and References
Excerpted from A to Z Missouri
By Margot Ford McMillen.
Copyright © 1996. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved
Zalma [ZAL muh] (Bollinger). This town is named for
Zalma Block, friend of a railroad builder (GS). P.O. 1890-now. Pop. 83.
Zanoni [zan OH nee] (Ozark). This post office was named for an 1843
novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton (GS). P.O. 1898-1927, 1930-now.
Zebra (Camden). Some say this town was named for striped rocks on the
bluffs (LI), but it was probably named after a person named Ziebar (RF).
Today, Zebra lies under the Lake of the Ozarks. P.O. 1886-1935.
Zell (Ste. Genevieve). Before the Civil War, this town was called The
German Settlement and it still has pride in its German heritage. There are
Zells in many parts of Germany and nobody knows which Zell this one refers
to (LI). P.O. 1881-1922. Pop. 100.
Zeta (Stoddard). Named by a classics lover for the sixth letter of the
Greek alphabet, this was the place where a little group of believers went
to wait for Judgment Day on March 1, 1914 (LI). P.O. 1895-1896, 1907-1936.
Zewapeta [zuh WAH puh tuh] (Scott). See Tywappity Bottoms.
Zig (Adair). This was named for a popular citizen, Harrison Ziegler (RF).
Zonker (Douglas). This post office bore the family name of the
Zumwalt's Fort (St. Charles). This early fort provided shelter for
local families in time of attack. It was named for Jacob Zumwalt (RF).
Zwanzig [ZWAN zig] (Morgan). This name, meaning "twenty" in
German, was given for a local man, August Zwanzig (RF). P.O. 1892-1901.
About the Author
Margot Ford McMillen was born
and raised in Chicago and the suburbs, received her B.A. from Northwestern
University in Evanston, Illinois, and moved to Missouri in 1972. She has
lived in Missouri ever since, and has raised two daughters in Callaway
County. She has also devoted herself to learning and writing about the
folklife of the state.
McMillen's earliest articles appeared in the St. Louis and Kansas City
newspapers, and since then she has written for national quilting
magazines, farming magazines and old-time music magazines. She received
her M.A. in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1987.
McMillen's book "The Masters and Their Traditional Arts" and
a series of brochures on Missouri traditions were published by the
Missouri Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia
in 1986. From 1988 to 1994, she published "Our Missouri", a
quarterly journal for elementary students studying Missouri history and
culture. She is a regular contributor to the "Missouri
In 1994, the University of Missouri Press published her book
"Paris, Tightwad, and Peculiar: Missouri Place Names" as part of
its Missouri Heritage Readers Series. In 1995, she was invited by the
Secretary of State Rebecca Cook to write the keynote essay on childhood
for the "Missouri Blue Book", the state manual.
McMillen teaches critical thinking for the English Department at
Westminster College in Fulton and lives on a farm in Callaway County. She
is married to Professor Howard Marshall of the University of
Missouri-Columbia Department of Art and Archaeology. On their farm, they
raise Salers cattle and enjoy a varying selection of dogs, cats, horses,
hogs and chickens.