If you founded a Texas town, what would you call it? You could name it after yourself or a loved one, or perhaps you would honor a Texas hero like Sam Houston or Stephen F. Austin. Possibly you might pick a name that described the terrain or an interesting nearby feature around your town such as Round Rock, Dripping Springs, or Three Rivers. Maybe, you would honor your favorite foreign destination such as Athens, Moscow, or Paris. These approaches make sense and were actually used to christen many of the more than 4,000 cities and towns in the Lone Star State. However, if you have ever driven through some of the back roads in Texas, you know that there are also many inexplicably strange town names. Why would anyone name a town Frognot, Bug Tussle, or Oatmeal? What about Ding Dong, Dime Box, or Hoot and Holler? Ah, as Shakespeare once wrote, “therein hangs a tale!”
Today, a sign and a water tower painted with a big green frog are almost all that remains of the town of Frognot in Collin County. Old timers say the story of its name goes back many years to when a one-room, log schoolhouse was still standing. According to local legend, there was once a terrible torrential rainstorm. During the school day, when the rain slowed, the teacher opened the door of the schoolhouse to check the level of flooding and was surprised to see a large collection of frogs huddled on the front steps. Always in search of new learning experiences for her students, the teacher asked the class if anyone knew the name for a “group of frogs.” No one had the answer, so the teacher explained that it was called a “knot.” From then on, according to the tale, the town was called “Frognot” with no explanation for the missing “k” in the name.
Originally called Truss, the reason behind the town’s eventual name of Bug Tussle has several possible origins. The most popular version involves a church ice cream social that was besieged by swarms of insects. Folks claimed that the attack was so overwhelming, all they could do at the gathering was “watch bugs tussle.” More than 70 Bug Tussle highway signs have been stolen over the years, and the Fannin County Highway Department has stopped replacing them.
Oatmeal, Texas, the second oldest city in Burnet County, was founded by a German family named Habermill. It is thought that the name of the town probably came from a translation of this name since “haber” in one German dialect means the same as “hafer” or oats. The residents of the town seem to have embraced the name since they still celebrate with an annual Oatmeal Festival.
The town of Nameless, located near Lago Vista in Travis County was settled in 1869. When the settlers applied to Washington for a post office, their suggestions for a town name were turned down six different times. In frustration, the residents reportedly wrote back saying “Let the post office be nameless and be damned!” Obviously the department concurred, and a Nameless post office opened in 1880.
Ding Dong is located eight miles south of Killeen and just happens to be in Bell County. The name, however, is not county related, but rather traces its origin to two of the town’s earliest residents, Zulis Bell and his nephew Bert Bell, who opened a general store in the early 1930s. The Bells asked a talented artist of the time, Cohn Cohen Hoover, to paint a sign for the store. Hoover painted two bells surrounding the owners’ initials and underneath painted the words, “ding dong.” Apparently, the effect of advertising was powerful because the community soon adopted the slogan as its name!
Hoot and Holler
Located in Liberty County, some believe the name Hoot and Holler refers to the term “whoop-and-holler man,” which in old oilfield parlance, referred to a telephone repairman in a refinery. Early telephone reception was so poor due to uninsulated wires strung along barbed wire fences, that conversations were often characterized by “whoops” and “hollers!” The town does have an oilfield connection, but no one seems to be sure why this obscure reference would be chosen for a town name. Another, and perhaps simpler, theory is that “hoot and holler” simply refers to the boisterous and rowdy cowboys in old East Texas. Similarly, there is also a Hoop and Holler Crossing In Wilbarger County.
Originally called Brown’s Mill for the town’s dominant sawmill industry, the residents grew tired of being confused with Brownsville and decided to adopt a new name. It is said that the new moniker was derived from a large wooden box at the mill where early residents customarily to dropped off their mail with a dime for postage. In 1913, Southern Pacific Railroad built a line three miles to the southeast of the town, and most of the residents and businesses moved to a site near the tracks. From then on, the original settlement was known as Old Dime Box, and the new community was referred to as Dime Box or New Dime Box. Today an oversized vintage dime standing in a transparent case in downtown Dime Box.
William E. Halsell founded Earth, Texas in Lamb County in 1924, and there are several competing versions of the origin of its name. One suggests that the area postmaster, C.H. Reeves, submitted the name of the farming community to federal postal authorities while a sandstorm was blowing. Another, slightly different version, states that Reeves wrote a letter to Washington describing the storm. He received the reply: “The earth seems to move in your country. You will call the post office Earth.” Yet another version of the story tells that Halsell was proud of the fertile soil in this region, so he wanted to name it Good Earth. The postal authority shortened to just Earth.
Cut and Shoot
According to one local legend, Cut and Shoot in Montgomery County was named for a 1912 community dispute about a church matter that almost led to violence. Depending on the various iterations of the story, the argument stemmed from the building of a new church steeple, a guest preacher, or conflicting land claims among the congregants. A nervous young boy at the scene was so scared that he reportedly said, “I’m going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute!” His statement must have resonated with the populace since they adopted it as the name of the town.
Sometimes, the simplest explanation is usually correct. One perfect example is the town of Looneyville in Nacogdoches County that was quite simply named for John Looney, who founded a store there about 1870. One does wonder, however, whether the connotation of “looney” was the same in the 1800s!