What is in a name? As The Bard once wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” Well perhaps, but what about a town named Hogeye, Raisin, or Loco?
There are more than 4,000 cities, towns, and communities in Texas Most of which have perfectly logical and understandable names. Many have names that honor town founders or famous heroes and others describe such things as the area’s main industry or the terrain around the city. But then, there are those Texas town names that seem to defy explanation such as Jot ‘Em Down, DISH, and Blanket. But you know there has to be a reason!
Jot ‘Em Down
The small Delta County community in northeast Texas that became known as Jot ‘Em Down was settled about 1885 and was originally called Mohegan, then Muddig Prairie, and then Bagley, after a local school. In 1936, area residents Dion McDonald and his brother Doug came up with an innovative scheme to build a new general store combined with a washateria. When they asked local residents for name ideas, someone came up with the suggestion of the “Jot ‘Em Down Store,” like the fictional establishment in the Lum and Abner radio show that was popular from about 1931 to 1954. Creators and co-stars Chester Lauck and Norris Goff based the comedy series on life in the small Arkansas town of Waters near where they grew up. In the show, the bumbling hillbillies were co-owners of the Jot ‘Em Down Store where they were always trying to make ends meet. After the McDonalds’ store was built, the state highway department started using Jot ‘Em Down as the unincorporated community’s name on road maps, and it seems citizens happily adopted it as well.
A small Denton County community, formerly named Clark, officially changed its name in November 2005 to DISH (spelled with all capital letters) as part of an agreement with DISH Network, a satellite television company owned by EchoStar Communications Corporation. In exchange for renaming the town, all of the 125 townsfolk (or about 55 homes) received free basic television service and a DVR for 10 years. Through the agreement, the DISH Network hoped to gain a little extra advertising, and the town looked forward to free service and a small claim to fame! This coming year will tell if the residents and company are both satisfied, as the time to withdraw the contract draws near.
A blanket is usually thought of as a fabric bed covering, but it is also the name of a small town of about 400 people located in Brown County, in western central Texas! According to a Texas Historical Commission marker, “Blanket Creek received its name in 1852, when a group of surveyors came upon a band of Tonkawa Indians who had been caught in a rainstorm while hunting buffalo.” According to the story, “the Tonkawa spread their wet blankets on the sumac bushes to dry,” and after the surveyors observed this colorful sight, they decided to name the stream Blanket Creek. In 1873, a permanent settlement called Blanket emerged nearby when Pinkney and Sarah Anderson opened a general store that later became the post office. The town reached a population of about 300 by 1904 and remarkably has stayed about the same size since that time.
In 1858, a two-story Masonic lodge was constructed in a small Hunt County community located 10 miles north of Greenville. The locals were especially taken with the intriguing plaque on the front door of the building illustrating the Masonic symbol of the “all-seeing eye of providence.” Many of the unschooled observers thought the symbol resembled a “hog’s eye” and the community’s name was born. Today, the Masonic lodge is gone, and only a few dilapidated buildings remain in Hogeye. A sizeable settlement also known as Hogeye, or Hogeye Prairie, also existed in Jack County in the early 1800s before it too disappeared.
The “crazy” native plants, and not the character of the townsfolk, were the inspiration for the name of this Childress County town in the Texas Panhandle. Locoweed, the Spanish-derived common name for any plant that produces swainsonine, a phytotoxin that is harmful to livestock, was widespread in the area when settlement began in the 1880s. By the 1930s, Loco boasted a cotton gin, three stores, a post office, and a blacksmith shop. Loco, however, is another of the storied ghost towns of Texas that thrived in the early 20th century and then, after World War II and changing economic conditions, withered and died before the end of the century. Today, only the Loco Cemetery, and probably some locoweed, remain.
Though it may come as a disappointment for some, Bigfoot is not named for a Lone Star brand of Sasquatch! Located northeast of Pearsall in Frio County, the town was settled around 1865 and was originally known as Connally’s Store. In 1883, when the town grew large enough to seek an official post office, storeowner Connally suggested changing the name to Bigfoot to honor local resident and folk hero William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace. Wallace was “bigger than life” in many ways. He was an amiable, 6-foot-2-inch, muscled fellow who served as a soldier and later as a Texas Ranger, and who loved to recount his many exciting adventures to all would listen. It is said that the name “Bigfoot” originally referred to a particularly large Indian who stole livestock from the settlers. One of Wallace’s friends liked to quip that Wallace was big enough to fill in for the Indian when he was not around. The joke, and the name stuck! Wallace died in 1889 at the age of 82 and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Today, a replica of Wallace’s home serves as a Bigfoot Wallace Museum and is open to visitors every morning on the second Sunday of each month and by appointment.
In 1889, a train stop called Lucy was established on the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway line about eight miles southwest of Victoria. When the surrounding town grew large enough to warrant a post office in 1892, the name was changed to Raisin to reflect the efforts of area rancher J.K. Reeves to establish some vineyards. But since the definition of a raisin is “a desiccated grape,” it is probably safe to assume that the vineyards were not a success. That, plus the fact that the population of Raisin combined with that of nearby Coletoville has remained at about 50 from the early 1900s until the latest census.
Isaac Mullins began to settle an area 11 miles east of San Angelo in Tom Green County in about 1875. As might be expected, the settlement became known as Mullins, and by 1926, it had grown large enough to request a post office. The U.S. Postal Service requested that the town change its name since there was already a community in Mills County called Mullin. Local lore has it that the new appellation was selected by a young woman named Sue Rister who happened upon the mayor in a grocery store and was unexpectedly asked to choose a new name for the town right then and there. The story goes that she quickly glanced around the store and spied a jar of Veribest Pickles and thought that the moniker “Veribest” would do just fine. It seems that the mayor and the town’s citizens agreed!
Nemo is a diminutive town five miles east of Glen Rose in Somerville County. Like many other small settlements in Texas, it began in the mid-1800s and was named Johnson Station after one of its earliest settlers, Jimmy Johnson. When the time came to apply for an official post office, the postal authorities requested that the town submit a shorter name. According to legend, when the residents got together to choose a new name, one irritated citizen stood up and suggested “nemo” which he said meant “no one” in Latin. He opined that if Jimmy Johnson’s name was not good enough for the government, “then no one’s was.” A post office with the name Nemo was established in 1893.