What do Muleshoe, Salty, Bobo, Noodle, and Lazbuddie have in common? They are all peculiar names of towns around the state! The reasons for the unusual appellations are sometimes simple, sometimes obscure, but usually explainable. Each town was once a thriving community that picked their name to reflect monumental qualities for which they were once known! Here are explanations for the unusual names of ten towns that you might have come across in your travels.
The symbol of a mule shoe has been used for the cattle brand of at least seven Texas ranches since 1844. The most famous ranch using this brand was the YL in Bailey County, which was started in 1903 by Edward K. Warren and his son, Charles. The pair later renamed their operation Muleshoe Ranch. There is a local tale that Charles Warren was wandering through his property and pondering an appropriate name for the spread when was he was inspired by an old rusty mule shoe that he stumbled upon. In 1913, the Pecos and Northern Texas Railroad laid tracks through the county, which spawned a town that adopted the name of the nearby Muleshoe Ranch. Over the years, the town has embraced its name and proudly displays the statue of a fiberglass mule named Old Pete on its main street. Muleshoe also hosts the World Championship Muleshow Pitching Contest each Fourth of July.
Two different towns in Texas have been named after the Biblical Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, who was described as a mighty king and great hunter. One was located deep in the East Texas forests where it became a rail stop and temporary logging camp in the early 1900s, but is now a ghost town. The other is a tiny town in west central Eastland County founded in 1876. Perhaps a better Biblical name for this settlement would have been Job, since an unlikely series of disasters befell the emerging town including a fire in 1907 that destroyed most of the buildings, followed by a tornado two years later that only spared a couple downtown structures and a handful of homes. Perhaps the final blow came with the Great Depression, which decimated the population to under a hundred. Both towns probably picked the name Nimrod because of the hunting association, but unfortunately, the word has since come to describe a person with little sense! While the true meaning remains “a great hunter,” Bugs Bunny’s sarcastic name-calling of the inept hunter Elmer Fudd in the 1930s forever solidified its association with one who is a moron or klutz.
The small agricultural community of Salty was founded in the 1860s a few miles southwest of Rockdale on U.S. 79 in southern Milam County. According to a historical marker in front of the Salty Methodist Church, the town was named after the nearby Salty Creek, which deposited salt on its banks each time it overflowed. The accumulated minerals came in handy as salt licks for the resident cattle.
Noodle, a tiny unincorporated community founded in 1882 in Jones County, was named for the nearby Noodle Creek. Because the creek was dry most of the time, the name was apropos as the word “noodle” meant “nothing” in local parlance during the late 1800s. According to another account, the name was inspired by an Indian scout who was searching for water north of what would become the town of Noodle and came across a dry riverbed. He referred to the area as “noodle” since a similar word in his language meant dry.
At first glance, one of the most cryptic town names in Texas is Lazbuddie. The unincorporated agricultural and ranching community emerged in 1902 from parts of the Star Ranch in southeastern Parmer County. The origin of the name becomes clear however, when one hears the name of the town’s first store – the Lazbuddie Commissary, established in 1926 by D. Luther (Laz) Green and his partner Andrew (Buddie) Sherley. A post office was added to the store two years later and the town naturally grew up all around the establishment. For many years, the store was the heart of the community and claimed its only telephone. Today the post office is still housed in the original Lazbuddie Commissary building.
Bobo is one of the many Texas towns named after its founder. In this case, the northwest Shelby County community in the Piney Woods was named for John Henry Bobo, who opened a sawmill in the area and became its first settler. Bobo emerged as a stop along the Houston, East, and West Texas Railway in the mid-1880s. The town was never large and may have passed into quiet anonymity like so many others, were it not for a popular song called “Tenaha (pronounced tenny-haw), Timpson, Bobo and Blair,” recorded by Tex Ritter. The names in the song were four consecutive stops along the rail line from Shelby County to Shreveport that, when announced by the conductor, had a singsong, alliterative cadence that passengers came to enjoy and repeat. In fact, the story goes that the local National Guard troop adopted the phrase as a marching song and later as a chant in dice games when players wanted to throw a ten. When World War I began and soldiers from all over the country got to know each other, the four-word dice chant spread and became familiar to soldiers who had never ever been to Texas. The Tex Ritter song simply took advantage of a popular phrase and memorialized it for posterity!
Weeping Mary is one of the most poignant town names in East Texas. Located in Cherokee County on County Road 2907 just off Highway 21, the small, unincorporated town was settled by freed slaves from nearby plantations just after the Civil War. The first activity of the new settlers was to erect the Weeping Mary Baptist Church, which still exists. One possible source for the name of the town is the Biblical account describing how Mary Magdalene wept at the tomb of the crucified Jesus. Another tale though, seems to have more local credence. According to the Texas State Historical Association, other legends evolve around a black woman named Mary. By some accounts, this freedwoman “wept from the devastating loss of her land to a white man.” A slightly different version says that the matriarch made an agreement with other local freedman, that they would never sell their lands to white settlers. When she learned that one man had sold his land to Anglos, it is said she wept with anguish throughout her life at the loss of their unified community.
Trophy Club is an affluent suburban community north of Fort Worth straddling Tarrant and Denton Counties. In 1847, two-dozen families came to settle the area; however, the vision of the Trophy Club community of today did not emerge until the 1970s. Fort Worth lawyer John McMackin helped convince famous Texas golfer Ben Hogan to design a golf course and two-story club building that would also house his championship trophies. In 1972, the partners began acquiring land in what is now Trophy Club and by 1977, the residential community boasted an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, and a clubhouse. Unfortunately, financing for the elaborate two-story clubhouse that Hogan has envisioned was not forthcoming and he withdrew his support for the project. However, the town continued to grow and prosper. The community retained the name Trophy Club, which was inspired by the original, though unfulfilled idea of housing Ben Hogan’s trophies within the club.
The town of Whiteface, located on Highway 114 west of Lubbock in Cochran County, was named for rancher C.C. Slaughter’s nearby Whiteface Camp and Pasture. His ranch was in turn named for the whiteface cattle that he raised. Whiteface is a hardy English breed of Hereford dairy cattle with red coats and white faces raised extensively in the U.S. The original town was founded in 1924 near Pettit in Hockley County, but was moved a year later to its present location as a stop on the South Plains and Santa Fe rail line which was being built from Lubbock to Bledsoe.
In 2015, Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most famous astrophysicists (who also happens to have a masters degree from the University of Texas at Austin) was sarcastically asked if he thought Texas was the center of the universe. According to a story in UT’s Texas Standard he answered, “Texas is indeed at the center, he said, “just as a ship at sea looking in every direction will conclude that it is at the exact center of its own horizon.” So, it is probably not that surprising that some settlers decades earlier in 1861 decided to call their new community Universe. Located on State Highway 64 in central Smith County, the exact reason for the name Universe is lost to history, but the townsfolk may have been following an emerging astronomical naming trend since there were also other Texas towns founded about the same time called Pluto, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and of course Earth!