Sir Walter Scott

Moses Taylor

Chinchilla

Tower of Babel 

Hazel bushes

Jay Gould

Horace Greeley

Dan
'King Corrupto' Flood

Philip Hone

"You have the airport named backwards."
- from the NBC series "The Office"


Also check out:
The Lingo of Northeast PA


Introductory note
Most of the towns listed here are located in northeastern Pennsylvania. If warranted and/or interesting, some of the towns, counties and regions listed are from outside of the immediate area. If you notice any inaccuracies, please e-mail the correct information. Also note that this is a 'beta' version of this site. It remains unedited in parts.


The Abingtons
Around 1794, one Colonel Ebbington, a land agent from New England,  granted land titles to settlers arriving from Connecticut and Rhode Island. The titles encompassed an area known informally as Beechwoods, and as these settlers arrived they named the area Ebbington, in honor of the colonel and out of gratitude for the opportunity to own better farmlands. (It's quite possible the region was named Ebbington also to help cement the land-grab that was underway; should any land disputes come to trial with the locals, the area would already sound "New Englandish.")
Over the next few years however, as Pennsylvania authorities increasingly challenged any Connecticut claims, the value of the Yankees' titles diminished, as did Colonel Ebbington's popularity. So in 1806, Ebbington became Abington, the similar-sounding name taken from a small Connecticut settlement. (The Abingtons of northeast Pennsylvania bear no direct relationship to the Abington north of Philadelphia, which was named by settlers from Abington, Massachusetts.) These land conflicts were hardly limited to the Abington region, and eventually led to a series of land showdowns between Pennsylvania and Connecticut settlers. Remember that much of current-day Pennsylvania was deeded to William Penn by King Charles II, who was probably oblivious to much of New World geography, let alone land claims by Connecticut expansionists. A contributing factor to the dicey situation was that following the Revolutionary War, Congress had little or no money. In order to "pay" veterans, authorities would grant them land to settle, land that in some cases was already claimed by someone else. (For instance, Congress granted land in the Carbondale area to the Wurts Brothers of Philadelphia as payment for providing army uniforms in the War of 1812, though this particular land tract appears to have spawned no conflict.) Apparently, Connecticut authorities aggravated matters by believing some divine hand gave them ownership over the entire northern third of Pennsylvania, part of an imaginary swath of ownership that extended clear to the Pacific. (See more at Clarks Summit, below.)

Alba
Meaning "white" and inspired by the pure and clear stream of water flowing through this locality in north-central Pennsylvania.

Allegheny (river/mountains/county)
The word comes from the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Its meaning is not definitively known but is usually translated as "fine river." There is a Lenape legend of an ancient tribe called the "Allegewi" who lived on the river and were defeated by the Lenape. Allegheny is the French spelling, as in the Allegheny River which was once part of New France. Allegany is the English spelling, as in Allegany County in the former British colony of Maryland.

Alsace
A township in the Reading area. Some of the first settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania were French Huguenots from the Alsace region, particularly its cathedral city of Strasburg, the local version of which is pronounced STRAZZ'-burg. As with England's Berwick area (see below), Alsace suffered from a type of schizophrenia induced by alternate claims of ownership either at the hands of Germany or France over the centuries, an ordeal that included a fair amount of religious persecution. In the late 1700s some of these folks struck a deal in London with William Penn, and it wasn't long before yet another batch of settlers was heading across the Atlantic, making a beeline for the port of Philadelphia. Home to several taverns, a type of establishment that often attracted lowlifes no matter where they were located, Strassburg for a short time was known to the locals as "Hell's Hole," though it never developed a reputation as a good place to catch Spinal Tap live in concert.

Altoona
From the Latin altus, meaning 'high,' located high in the Allegheny mountains. Another explanation is that the name comes from the Cherokee word allatoona, meaning "high lands of great worth." What's even more fascinating is the apparent similarity between the Latin and Cherokee words for "high." Another possibility is that the name comes from the German city of Altona, located near Hamburg.

Amity
This name is not an example of mere feel-good comradeship. It denotes something a bit more concrete, namely the friendship established between local Indians and the Swedish settlers introduced into this Berks County township by William Penn. Such Amity among diverse cultures was not a sure deal in colonial times, and when it occurred it deserved to be acknowledged.

Analomink (Monroe county)
Taken from an Indian word meaning "tumbling water."

Apolacon Township (Susquehanna county)
Apparently means "from where the messenger returned." Apalachin, New York is not all that far away, and this word has been translated as "from where the messenger comes."

Appalachia/Appalachian
The word Appalachia derives from Apalachee, the name of a tribe historically associated with northern Florida. After the de Soto expedition around 1540, Spanish cartographers began applying the name of the tribe to the mountains themselves. The name was not commonly applied to the entire mountain range until the late 19th century. A more popular name was the "Allegheny Mountains" and even "Alleghania." In the early 19th century, Washington Irving proposed renaming the United States either Appalachia or Alleghania. Irving may have also played a role in the naming of Carbondale, but fortunately stopped short of proposing 'Carbondale' as a flashy name for the entire country.

Aquashicola (Carbon County)
The community name derives from the Indian term for "where we fish with bush net." (Making the explanation rife with possibilities for those with active imaginations, thank you.)

Ararat Township (Susquehanna county)
The name origin was influenced in an intermediary way, it is said, by Mt. Ararat in Monroe County. Ultimately the name commemorates the final resting place of Noah's Ark.

Archbald
Linking regional coal mines to the New York area, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company played a prominent role in the development of the Lackawanna Valley and in the naming of its towns. Archbald was named in 1846 for James Archbald, a senior mechanical engineer on the D&H and apparently the first mayor of Carbondale. He's widely credited with upgrading the standards of the rail lines between here and the greater New York area. Prior to this time, Archbald was known as White Oak Run. ('Run' refers to any body of water with a current, as in running water.) At some 18 square miles Archbald is the seventh largest borough in Pennsylvania, making it about 72% the size of Scranton in terms of area. One legend holds that a group of Indians, paid by the British to torment local settlers, hid their British gold in an Archbald cave, the location of which is still a matter of question. Side note: it was not uncommon for British authorities to pay Indians to antagonize and terrorize settlers who sought independence. Archbald was also the site of an anti-draft demonstration in 1862. In 1866, the town's Young Men's Institute helped display the true colors of northeast PA by staging a play called "The Drunkard."

Armenia
This township in Bradford county on the New York state line supposedly signifies "heavenly mountain." It was named around 1803.

Ashley
At times known as Coalville and Scrabbletown (a nod to the "scrabbling" -- clutching and clawing -- needed to survive in this coal town). Over the years Ashley also went by the names of Peestown, Nanticoke Junction, and worse, Skunktown. In the later 1800s Ashley took its name in honor in the wealthy Herbert Henry Ashley of Wilkes-Borough.

Asylum
Located near Wyalusing, Asylum (alternately referred to on some maps as French Asylum or even Azilum) was established in 1794 as an asylum for French aristocracy and royalty at the time of the French revolution. Reputedly the several members of the French advance team had a tough go of the harsher climate of northeast PA and eventually high-tailed it back to Paris. The original structures from their visit are apparently gone, although a few artifacts do remain, making for a minor tourist attraction. The spot was once visited by Louis Phillipe, later to become king. Another famed visitor was the diplomat -- not to mention land speculator -- Talleyrand, who found a natural spring near what is now State College and appropriately named the spot Bellefonte, where a Talleyrand Park exists today. The French colonists eventually spread outwards from Asylum, leaving behind their influence upon towns that include Laporte and Dushore (see below), as well as Frenchtown and Roulette.

Audubon
Named for the famous ornithologist and great painter of birds, John James Audubon, who lived here as a young adult. Snubbed by the scientific community in Philadelphia, Audubon earned his first fame in Britain. His parentage was not certain, leading some to claim he was the "Lost Dauphin" of France. The town is located in Montgomery county, north of Philly.

Avoca
Once known as Pleasant Valley, Avoca took -- or shall we say received its name, in winding-road fashion, possibly from the valley town of the same name on the southeast coast of Ireland. Further, it's been suggested there was a deliberate irony to the choice. In the 1800s there was a popular poem entitled "Meeting of the Waters" by Thomas Moore. It contained the line "the sweet vale of Avoca" and discussed the wretched lives beneath a facade of happiness in this Irish town. When you consider the role of a disastrous 1888 train wreck (the Mud Run Disaster) that killed 29 Pleasant Valley residents, the appropriate nature of the irony becomes clear. During that year, local temperance societies ran an excursion train to an event in Hazleton. The train wrecked on the return trip, at Mud Run near White Haven. However, it was a couple years earlier, sometime between 1885 and 1887, when the post office picked the name Avoca to reduce the confusion of having four Pleasant Valleys in eastern Pennsylvania alone. At the time, the local volunteer fire crew went by the name Avoca Hose Company, so they're the ones to point the finger at. Regardless, Avoca is one of several Pennsylvania towns whose name came from Europe. These days Avoca carries the dubious distinction of being the home to the only airport in the world named backwards (the so-called "Wilkes-Barre"/Scranton Airport), which may be the reason we lost the local bureau of the National Weather Service because of the loss of credibility involved. Although the "Vale of Tears" story has circulated for years, there are some informed folks who believe the whole thing is a myth, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, Avoca in Gaelic/Irish apparently means "where the waters meet."

Axemann
Oh what a clever bunch the Mann Clan was. If you read further down you'll see how some Manns were instrumental in the naming of Mansfield. But the fun didn't stop there, as in 1828 this place in Centre County was named to commemorate the axe factory of Harvey and William Mann. The Manns had the presence of mind not to get into the donkey business, or else we'd have an early version of the memorable Seinfeld "Ass-man" dialogue in praise of Kramer's favorite proctologist.

Bald Mountain
Curious names in this part of the state are not limited to towns. Take Bald Mountain, for instance. The summit of Bald Mountain, to the west of Scranton, is known for occasional high winds that supposedly have prevented the full growth of trees. As a result, the top of the mountain has a distinct "bald spot."

Bala Cynwyd
Named by Quakers from the lake region of northern Wales who brought over the names of two nearby towns, Bala and Cynwyd.

Balls Mills
Not to be confused with Blue Ball, and certainly not to be confused with the occasional derogatory word for Scranton: Scrotum. Located in the Williamsport area, Balls Mills celebrates the initiative and ingenuity of the Ball family, who actually did have a nerve or two, thank you. It was the unfortunate John Ball who arrived from England in the 1790s and opened up a saw mill, only to drown while getting washed up one day in a nearby stream. Fortunately, his son Bill Ball had the cajones to open up a wool mill. Being rightfully proud of his operation and seeing it as part of the family jewels, so to speak, Bill Ball soon named the operation Balls Mills, though it's not sure if the locals felt he had the nads to pull the venture off successfully. Bill must have replied "nuts to you," because he eventually opened up a couple other mills and attracted clients from across the United States.

Balltown (Forest county)
Nothing terribly exciting about this name origin: A saw mill was built here in 1823 by three gentlemen, including one Isaac Ball. In case the workers at the mill ever worked up an appetite, it's been said the place was always stocked with one barrel of flour -- and two barrels of whiskey.

Bartonsville
Founded in 1831 by Colonel Joseph Barton who opened a hotel and post office here. A former businessman in East Stroudsburg, Barton eventually moved again, this time ending up in Waymart, which he helped found.

Bath
Bath, in the Lehigh Valley, was laid out by the Scotch-Irish prior to the Revolution. It takes its name from Bath, England, birthplace of a Margaret DeLancey who sold tracts of land here to early settlers. Mrs. DeLancey was the daughter of William Allen, for whom Allentown is named. Bath is also known as the "home" of American homeopathy, a distinction that dates to 1824.

Beach Lake
Located in Wayne County, this community probably takes its name from the abundance of nearby beech trees and an overabundance of poor spellers.

Beaver County
Located in western Pennsylvania, this region reflects our early settlers' fascination with all things beaver (and, quite frankly, who can blame them). Home to Beaver College since the 1850s (the small, all-women's state treasure moved to the Philly area in 1925), Beaver County has held steadfast to its heritage and resisted all attempts to "upgrade" its image by choosing a new name. You see, Beaver College over the years got sick and tired of all the "beaver jokes" flung around at its expense. For instance, comedian David Letterman once suggested that Beaver College would make a fine home for the Clinton presidential library. (Howard Stern and Conan O'Brien got in on the act too.) So in 2001, Beaver College became the supposedly satire-proof Arcadia University. Part of the problem had been that when graduates would hang Beaver College diplomas on their walls, people would say "Is that a joke?," according to the college president. He decried the (to him, at least) "vulgar" connection between the old name and a strategic part of the female anatomy. The college's research showed that the school appealed to 30 percent fewer prospective students solely because of the name. And the problems worsened with the rise of the Internet, since some Web filters intended to screen out sexually explicit material blocked access to the Beaver College web site. The word 'beaver' itself has held such lofty connotations at least since the early part of the 20th century, by the way. A collection of limericks and witty poems entitled Immortalia (1927) once contained the playful line "She took off her clothes from her head to her toes and the voice at the keyhole yelled beaver!" Despite the problems of Beaver College, our healthy fascination with this pesky rodent will carry on seemingly forever in towns like New Beaver, North Beaver, Beaver Falls, Beaverdale, and even Tamaqua, an Indian name meaning, what else, "beaver." Someday this site may even discuss the mother of all beaver towns, located in Kentucky and known as Big Beaver Lick (no comment). In literature, the glories of Beaver County have been described by no less than Rudyard Kipling who visited in the 1890s, well after locals stopped calling the town of Beaver simply "The Beaver Reservation," something that Bill Clinton never needed with Monica Lewinsky.

Bellevue
One of several unofficial sectional nicknames in Scranton such as Bull's Head and Bunker Hill, the Bellevue section of West Side is simply a derivative of the French phrase meaning "beautiful view." Indeed, on a clear day one can get a beautiful view of such elegant landmarks as the Sun Hotel, the Hilltop housing project and the Salvation Army building.

Benton
Benton, in Columbia County, was named in 1838 for Thomas Benton, a nationally popular senator from Missouri. Sen. Benton almost killed Andrew Jackson in an 1813 duel but eventually patched things up to the point where he supported Jackson in his successful 1828 presidential campaign. Benton himself was occasionally encouraged by other politicians and newspapers to run for president, but he never expressed any interest. He served in the Senate for 30 years but was eventually driven out of office in 1850 over the slavery question and the rifts this created within the Democratic party. Note: Benton Township, in Lackawanna County, appears to have the same name origin. Also, note that another Benton is located in Lancaster County.

Berlin Township
Here's an obvious example of a German influence upon Wayne County.

Berwick
Religious persecution in the 18th century did not confine itself to Europe. The Quakers in particular suffered persecution both in England and in the New World (with the notable exception of Rhode Island). "Quaker" itself was once a derogatory word, referring to expressive mannerisms seen during services of the Society of Friends, as they are formally known. Founded in 1786 as a place of religious refuge, Berwick takes its name from Berwick-upon-Tweed, a coastal town on the northeast corner of England. Home to many Quakers, Berwick's location on the English/Scottish border made it the target of frequent border disputes; over the past few hundred years claims to Berwick-upon-Tweed have bounced back and forth between England and Scotland more than a dozen times. Add this to the religious intolerance and you find conditions ripe for a new Berwick, this time on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.

Bethlehem
In 1741, a group of Moravians (priests/missionaries) came to this area near the Lehigh River. Part of the oldest organized Protestant denomination in the world, the Unitas Fratrum, these followers gathered at their Lehigh Valley settlement on Christmas Eve that year for special ceremonies. The occasion was heightened by a visit from the Moravians' patron, Count von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, who was paying an extended visit. During a rousing ceremony filled with emotion, the Count reportedly laid great emphasis on the legend of the original Bethlehem. His followers were so struck by the moment that it appeared more than appropriate to call this settlement Bethlehem as well. Note that Moravian College still exists in this city today. The Moravians can also take credit for naming nearby Nazareth and Emmaus, taken straight from the time of Christ. One of the great chroniclers of town-name origins in our commonwealth was a Penn State professor named Abraham Howry Espenshade. Writing in 1925 in his classic work Pennsylvania Place Names, Espenshade remarked, "It is noteworthy that Bethlehem, whose name commemorates the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, has become famous throughout the world as one of the most important American centers for the manufacture of munitions of war."

Bird-in-Hand
Here is one of several towns named after the many taverns and inns that sprung up along well-travelled routes, in this case the Old Philadelphia Pike as it winded its way toward Lancaster. Since many of the horsemen were either illiterate or unfamiliar with English, taverns needed signs rich in visual content. The "Bird in Hand" tavern supposedly featured a painting of a man holding a bird in his hand, pondering whether the one he already had was worth ditching for the two that were perched in the nearby bush. Other tavern signs in olden days were even more simplistic, featuring images of ships, hats, plows, horses, wagons, and maybe even a beaver or two. The legend behind the bird-in-hand story contends that two surveyors along the future pike from Philly to Lancaster were wondering whether to pack it in for the night at the isolated spot they were at, or whether they should head in toward Lancaster for the evening. This prompted the wiser (and more annoying) one to utter the proverbial "bird in hand" phrase, much to the dismay of his partner who may have expressed a distinct preference for bush over bird.

Black Walnut
Nearby rivers and creeks have often lent their names to towns. Black Walnut, for example, near Meshoppen on Route 6, was once a settlement called Black Walnut Bottom, referring to the black walnut often found covering the bottom of the nearby creek.

Blakely
Named to honor Captain Johnston Blakely, a naval hero in the War of 1812 and a man who probably never stepped foot in the borough. Blakely, an Irishman and the commanding officer of the American sloop Wasp (at least one source refers to it as the Hornet), was lost at sea off the Azores in 1815, probably in a storm. At Lake Erie, Blakely successfully engaged the British ships Avon and Reindeer. (Lake Ariel, below, may also have a War of 1812 connection.) At Blakely Corners today we see the massive anchor from the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, the ninth Wasp commissioned by the U.S. Navy. One of the earliest settlers here was a German from Hamburg named Nicholas Leuchens, who arrived in 1795 (to avoid the German draft) and it's said had a tremendous fear of ghosts. Murphy's History of Lackawanna County (1928) says Leuchens was cultured, "fond of display" (let's not go there!), and a clever linguist. This final point was contested by Mrs. Leuchens, who insisted 'til her dying day that Nick was none less than a cunning linguist, one of the finest that Blakely has ever known.

Bloomsburg
Originally known as Eyersburg, then Eyertown, for Ludwig Eyer who laid out the town in 1802. The town was incorporated in 1870 as Bloomsburg by Samuel Bloom, a county commissioner. Quick question: How many towns are there in Pennsylvania? Just one: Bloomsburg, the only municipality that is classified technically as a "town." Everything else is a city, township, borough, or an embarrassment. Even today, the community of Eyer's Grove still exists near Bloomsburg. Note: As of 1975, the Township of McCandless, located near Pittsburgh, officially became the "town" of McCandless. However, since the boundaries of the town coincide with the boundaries of the township, Bloomsburg still takes the gold medal in a photo finish. If we can put the Samuel Bloom story aside for a moment, there's a belief the name came from bloomeries, or iron furnaces, one of which was located on Bloom Street, which still exists today and took its name before the arrival of Sam Bloom. There's yet one more story that travelers and/or settlers upon reaching the site saw stands of laurel trees in bloom.

Blue Ball
Located in the Lancaster area and dating possibly to the 1750s, owners of the famed Blue Ball Inn would place a large blue ball outside to indicate a full house. Apparently "blue ball" was a common inn name in England as well.

Blue Bell (Montgomery county)
At one time large flocks of passenger pigeons would gather here. (See 'Pigeon,' below.) The pigeons are now extinct, as is the old name, Pigeontown. In 1840 the town took its name from the famed Blue Bell Inn which reportedly included pigeon on the menu, a delicacy popular over the years in Europe. Whether or not George Washington enjoyed pigeon sandwiches is undocumented, but he did spend more than a few nights at the joint. For the sake of illiterates, the inn featured a huge blue bell for all to see.

Bolivar
Located in the greater Pittsburgh area and honoring Simon Bolivar, the famed statesman and soldier of South America who also spearheaded several independence movements in the early 1800s.

Bradford County
Originally known as Ontario County and later named for a chief justice of the Pennsylvania supreme court, William Bradford. His chief legacy there was to limit the use of the death penalty to only the most heinous of crimes. At the ripe old age of 39 Bradford became the second attorney general of the United States, only to die a year later. Bradford's father-in-law was Elias Boudinout of New Jersey, who some historians consider the de facto first president of the United States.

Braintrim (Laceyville area)
This name marks the influence of settlers from Braintrim, Connecticut. Laceyville by 1893 had its own newspaper called The Braintrim Messenger.

Brooklyn
Settlers from the eastern coastal region often brought their city's name westward. Brooklyn, near Montrose, is named not for the New York borough, however, but for Brooklyn, Connecticut. Fortunately it seems no one in those days ever travelled from Yonkers or Flushing. As an alternate explanation, local historian E.A. Weston, who wrote his History of Brooklyn in 1889, suggests the name comes from the multitude of brooks, perhaps "dry" brooks formed by glaciers. (Some 22% of Pennsylvania soil is glacial in nature.)

Bryn Mawr
Located in the Philadelphia area, the name is Welsh for "big hill." Bryn Mawr is also one of the lineup of streets in West Scranton that features the names of exclusive colleges. They include Dartmouth, Cornell, and Amherst. English majors at these colleges have most likely read each of the authors whose names appear next to one another on the other end of West Scranton, in Tripp's Park: Hawthorne, Thackerey, and Dickens. Theology majors are not neglected; they can head over to "Apostles Hill" in the Bunker Hill section and check out the streets of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (not to mention Paul and James), which of course bear no special relation to the tribal street names of Mohawk, Capouse, Monsey, Delaware, Pawnee, Cayuga, and Winona, which certainly bear no relation to the German generals on East Mountain such as Blucher, Moltke, and possibly Froud. The names of these military men were proudly commemorated by the large German community of Dutch Hollow, which straddles the Meadow Avenue area and whose viability as a neighborhood was severely strained by the construction of Intersate 81, which runs right through it. Rumor also has it that 17 miles down 81 you can find Wilkes-Barre street names dedicated to brands of chewing tobacco, heros of NASCAR, as well as inductees into the heavyweight wrestling hall of fame. ("Yepper, honey, I got off the wrong exit by the arena and landed at the intersection of Skoal Street and Richard Petty Boulevard, right near the entrance to the Hulk Hogan Memorial Trailer Park. I'll be home in 15 minutes, after I help this guy unload his propane tank from his pickup truck . . . the one with the John Cougar Mellencamp bumper sticker.")

Buckhorn
It's been said that the antlers of a deer were gorged into an oak tree along an Indian trail near this Columbia county town. The antlers remained stuck in place for years, becoming an encouraging landmark to travelers, signifying that civilization was now within easy walking distance.

Bulls Head
This Scranton neighborhood was once known as Church's Corners, after an early settler named Joseph Church. Church Avenue still exists one block west of Main and can be considered part of today's Bulls Head, as of course can adjacent Bullshead Court. Church, a cattle dealer, owned a large red barn with a picture of a bull's head painted on one side. The bull's head was visible at least through the early 1890s, attested to in 1952 by attorney Leigh Morse who grew up in the neighborhood. Church also owned a mine as well as the Bull's Head Hotel, located at 1339 North Main Ave. At least one town in the United States has a similar name that can be traced to bullshead the fish, though a similar tack in Scranton's case leaves little but dead ends.

Bumpville
A section of North Rome in Bradford county, this pristine name honors the illustrious memory of Reuben Bumpus, a noted hunter and Revolutionary soldier, who settled there in 1806 and was never once bumped from a flight from Chicago to Avoca.

Burning Well
Named not after a water well but after an oil field in McKean County, northwest Pennsylvania.

Burnt Cabins (Centre County)
In order to keep peace with the natives (literally), William Penn agreed upon zones or limits to where non-Indian settlers could locate. Some Scotch-Irish settlers, however, began to push the envelope a little too much, in effect squatting upon rugged Indian terrain. To help remedy the situation, Pennsylvania burned some cabins of illegal settlers in 1750, here as well as in a few other parts of the commonwealth.

California
One sometimes does a double-take when they read about "California University of Pennsylvania," one of the former state teachers' colleges that pushed the envelope of word usage when they morphed into so-called "universities." Be that as it may, this town in the Pittsburgh area was laid out around 1849, during the height of the gold rush in what's now the state of California.

Cambria County
A derivation of the historic Celtic word for Wales, known as the "land of compatriots."

Canadensis
This is the Latin word for hemlock.

Canton
Located in Bradford county and takes its name from settlers from Canton, Connecticut. Note that Bradford county, in north-central Pennsylvania, felt a much stronger Connecticut influence than some of the more southern parts of our region. Canton was the site of the famous -- and huge -- Minnequa Springs Hotel, a health spa opened in 1869 that drew clients from hundreds of miles away seeking to cure rheumatism or whatever else ailed them. According to legend, Minnequa was an Indian maiden who was near death until she drank of the healing waters at the spring that later bore her name (others say she met a tragic death and was simply buried near the springs).

Carbondale
In the early 1800s Carbondale was the remote site of several rather unsuccessful mining attempts. By 1820, however, officials of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company took a new interest in the abandoned shafts, and apparently an internal memo directed workers to carry tools and supplies to the "dale (valley) where carbon was found." (Washington Irving, the famous author, and his buddy Philip Hone, a founder of Honesdale, have also been credited by many with choosing the name Carbondale, hence the old Irving Theatre where comedian Milton Berle once performed. He was asked to leave when the management found his routine a bit too risque.) This area was first known as "Ragged Island," later as Barrendale, and finally as the name we use today. Carbondale is Pennsylvania's fourth-oldest city, preceded only by Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York. It was also in contention once for county seat of Lackawanna. One of the most exciting moments in Carbondale history, possibly topping the Milton Berle Affair, was the 1974 crash of a supposed UFO into a silt pond. A local cop apparently shot at it (perhaps enamored by anything shaped like a donut), and federal authorities possibly planted a railroad lantern at the spot so as to throw cold water on the matter and stifle the imaginations of the curious and open-minded. Based on personal interviews at the hands of this humble town-names detective, yes, a "saucer" did light up the sky and crash into a pond, as was seen by several people on Salem Mountain. The saucer, pulsating with light, was sticking partly out of the small pond after it landed. City police arrived first, who called in state police, who called in the FBI, who called in higher authorities who worked without identifying themselves but spoke to each other by walkie-talkie. The area was eventually cordoned off from the public, and a large item -- covered with a tarp -- was transported out on a flatbed truck. At least one of the trucks in the convoy was marked "U.S. Air Force."

Catasauqua
Formed in 1854 in Lehigh county, the name is taken from a Delaware Indian word meaning "dry ground" or "thirsty ground."

Catawissa (Columbia County)
The word 'catawese' occurs in different dialects of the Shawanese and Delaware Indians, and always with the same meaning: "pure water."

Centralia
Located in Columbia county, God-forsaken Centralia is now the least populous borough in the state. It was known as Centreville before it took its current name in 1865. At one time home to some 2000 residents, including some Molly Maguires who murdered the town's founding father, the population is now about 4, except if you also include the cemeteries. The underground mine fire that forced the town's evacuation is predicted to burn for another two centuries if left unattended.

Cetronia
Once known as East Macungie in the Lehigh Valley, this village later became Cedarville because of the preponderance of trees, as pointed out by nearby Cedar Creek. But back in 1888 the Post Office once again pointed the Fickle Finger of Fate, saying another Cedarville already existed in Pennsylvania. One of the old wise men of Cedarville saved the day, apparently, possibly remembering his Latin vocabulary drills from high school. You see, the Latin word for cedar is cedrus, from which it's a hop, skip and a jump to Cedronia and hence Cetronia.

Cherry Tree
This one had nothing to do with George Washington and much to do with the Penn family. The west branch of the Susquehanna River meanders further than many of us would realize, remaining navigable in colonial times well into the western third of Pennsylvania. At the point where canoes could no longer travel, they would be carried over land to water routes connected with the Ohio valleys. For this reason the spot was known for many years as Canoe Place, though the locals later called it Cherry Tree prior to its official designation in 1907. At or near this spot was a huge cherry tree that helped set an important boundary -- called the "purchase line" between Iroquois land and territy acquired by the Penns. The tree was also used to help set the boundaries of three local counties.

Chinchilla
Once known as Leach's Flats, this town was originally named for Ephraim Leach who settled here around the year 1801. Sometime between 1880 and 1890, however, the female postmaster of Leach's Flats felt the need to rename the joint. She chose the name Chinchilla, ostensibly proud of her fashionable chinchilla shawl. To this day you can still find Leach Street in Chinchilla and Leach Creek in North Scranton. Some people say it was the wife of Chinchilla's first postmaster, George Tanner, who came up with the name, but the heart of the matter stays the same. A variation on the story says someone opened a dictionary at random with the intention of naming Leach's Flats after the first suitable name that appeared. During World War I, Chinchilla endured a brief stint as the town of Pershing in honor of the hero general. But by war's end the popularity of the squirrel-like rodent proved stronger than the good general's, and our furry friend reclaimed his post as the namesake of this village between Scranton and the Abingtons.

Choconut (Susquehanna county)
Some say this word comes from the Nanticoke Indian tschochnot, which local settlers pronounced "chugnut." One translation is given as "place of tamaracks" (a type of larch tree). Others say Chugnut was the name of a small tribe. In 1927 the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh landed here.

Clarion
Around 1817, surveyors remarked that the sound of the local river resembled the notes from a distant clarion, and so the name of the river and town were thus born.

Clarks Summit
In 1799, deacon William Clark(s) cleared a triangular piece of land at the now familiar summit. The cleared parcel was referred to as a "green," hence Clarks Summit and Clarks Green. One of the first of the settler/soldiers in the Abington area, Clark(s) had fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and served under George Washington at the Battle of Trenton. In payment for his service in the war, Clark was probably handed the deed to the land scot-free (this point needs verification). However, when Clarks went to verify his deed at the land grant office in Luzerne County, he was told that his claim was worthless, and if he wanted to settle on the land he'd have to pay for it. One could speculate that if Clarks visited the land office on another day, he would have received a different answer, given the possible divided loyalties at the time between those officals leaning toward the Pennsylvania side of the case and those more loyal to Connecticut. (Much of Luzerne County was originally considered a "county" of Connecticut, named Westmoreland. Ben Franklin once suggested forming a state of Westmoreland that would take in much of the land we now know as northeast Pennsylvania. On maps we still see Centermoreland and Northmoreland in Wyoming County, as well as the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Borough.) Historical records show that William Clark and his three sons built their log cabin on the hill where the Clarks Green Cemetery is now located.

Clearfield (west-central Pennsylvania)
This area of the state is known for rugged and dense timberlands, so imagine the surprised looks on the faces of settlers to the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s as they found a substantial tract of land -- fully cleared, with soft and workable soil -- amidst the forest. Apparently this led the settlers to conclude that the cleared field was of fairly recent origin and was used by local Indians primarily to grow corn. Another explanation is that buffaloes had trampled down and cleared large tracts of undergrowth, giving the topography the appearance of cleared fields.

Clifton (township)
This was formed from Covington township in 1875 and was named for Clifton Drinker, son of the prominent landowner Henry Drinker (see other citations on this page for Henry Drinker). Another suggestion that's been floated is that the area's name was influenced by the presence of several cliffs in the region, but this explanation doesn't hold up as well.

Clinton Township
Found in Wayne County and named for Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, one of the instrumental forces behind the construction of the Erie Canal, a catalyst for development in upstate New York.

Coffeetown
Located in North Whitehall Township in the Lehigh Valley, the name appears to be derived from a slang, derogatory word applied to residents of darker skin, whether they were black or Caribbean or from Latin America. A tone of derision was also applied to the "undesirable" inhabitants of the Lehigh Valley's Hawktown. In the Scranton area, Providence was once known as "Razorville," apparently because outsiders thought the locals would slit your throat, at least when it came to business, if you gave them half a chance.

Columbia County
The county was first organized in 1813 and its name was taken from Joseph Hopkinson's song, Hail Columbia, popular during the War of 1812. The song has been referred to as America's first unofficial national anthem and was first performed at Philadelphia's New Theatre in 1798. Ticket sales for a show at the time were poor, and management needed a showstopper. They got it with Hail Columbia, which was a thinly-veiled "screw you" to a French envoy named Citizen Adet who some felt cast aside all propriety in his criticisms of the Washington Administration. In fact, the song went over so well at its debut that the audience called for twelve encores and started singing themselves. The buzz around town was so great that President Adams had to catch the show a few nights later (the federal capital was located in Philadelphia at the time). A few decades later, Abraham Lincoln commented that he had to stand up and remove his hat when Hail Columbia was sung. Across Europe, many people thought it actually was America's national anthem, and they would play it when American dignitaries made official appearances. In 1889, Thomas Edison visited the Paris Opera House, and you can guess what song the orchestra revved up.

Colver
Located in western Pennsylvania and formed around 1909, the name is a hybrid of two business partners in the mining business: Coleman and Weaver. Not to be outdone by their own word-tinkering, the two gentlemen later formed a town a few miles away spelled Revloc, which is simply Colver spelled backwards. They must have thought, "When it comes to naming things backwards, we're not going to let that redneck slimeball Dan Flood have all the fun!"

Conshokocken
The name comes from a difficult-to-pronounce Leni-Lenape (Delaware) Indian word meaning "Pleasant Valley." It's located north of Philadelphia, which is not a Lenape word meaning "almost as exciting as Camden."

Conyngham
Here's an instance where the location in question was possibly named not just for an individual but for an entire family, the Conynghams, who were mainly from Philadelphia, at least originally. The most noteworthy of the bunch was navy Captain Gustavus Conyngham, born in Ireland, who helped defend Philly in the War of 1812. Conyngham was technically a privateer (a hired hand or mercenary) whose freewheeling ways at sea earned him the reputation of somewhat of a renegade. During Revolutionary times he was the first to sail the English Channel under the banner of the United States flag, and it was off the coast of Britain where he cemented his reputation as a captain who would taunt and capture ships of other countries just for the sport of it. Such was his success that back in London, insurance rates for shipping began to skyrocket, perhaps causing the behind-the-scenes power mongers on both sides of the Atlantic to reevaluate how privateers were to be deployed in the future. In the wake of his legacy, three Navy ships have been named the USS Conyngham.

Coon Hunter
Apparently this is the tiniest of villages located near Middleburg in the central region of the state, and if you're a raccoon, this is one place you don't want to live.

Coplay
Chief Kolapechka would probably have a conniption fit as his name was gradually anglicized to Kolapecha then Copelin then Coplay, but he probably wouldn't mind the honor of having this town in the northern Lehigh Valley named for him.

Coraopolis
Located northwest of Pittsburgh, the name probably comes from the Greek for "maiden city." Others say it is named for Cora Watson, daughter of a settler/developer, a suggestion that appears stronger.

Cornplanter
A township in northwest Pennsylvania. Indian chief Cornplanter (1740-1836) helped bring peace to the then-frontier of the colonies. Son of a Seneca mother and a Dutch father, Cornplanter played a role in the slaughter at the Wyoming Massacre. The larger picture remembers Cornplanter as an intermediary between Indians and the government bigwigs in Philadelphia, particular the Quakers who, like him, had strong reservations regarding the use of alcohol.

Covington
Covington was once part of the vast stretch of beech trees, extending eastward from the Scranton/Dunmore area, known as Drinker's Beeches. It takes its name from Brigadier General Leonard Covington of Maryland, a distinguished cavalry officer who fought and died in the War of 1812. If you take Dunmore's East Drinker street all the way to the end, you'd end up right at the edge of the old Drinker's Beeches. (Once again we see a War of 1812 connection, supporting the suggestion made below that despite printed claims otherwise, Lake Ariel's name stems from that war as well.)

Crackersport
Was a large supply of crackers once stolen from a old tavern in this Lehigh Valley village? So says the story behind this name.

Creamton
The cleverness behind this town name continues to astonish wordsmiths the world over. What happens if you establish a creamery in a township named Clinton (Wayne County)? You get a Cream-ton, of course.

Cresco
Whether intended or not, Cresco in the Poconos is Latin for "I am growing." It was a stop on the old rail line from Scranton to New York, and more than one confused passenger thought the train was stopping in "Crisco." Once known as Frogtown, a Frog Town Inn still exists in Canadensis, located a few hops away from Cresco.

Cumbola (Schuylkill county)
Take this one with a big grain of salt: Apparently a foreign-born woman was once searching for her stray cow named Bola. Logically she searched high and low, yelling, "Come, Bola." Rest assured that another explanation says Cumbola is taken from Cumburla county in Wales.

Cumru (Reading area)
Probably from Cymru, the welsh name for Wales.

Daleville
Through the end of the Revolutionary War, thousands of pristine acres of beech trees stood to the east of the Moosic Mountains. One early landowner here was Henry Drinker, a major figure in the development of the Lackawanna valley. Daleville (as well as the above-mentioned Covington Township) is part of this stretch known as Drinker's Beeches, a name that originated around 1805. It takes its name from David Dale who came from England in 1819 and bought land from Drinker at $5 per acre.

Dallas
Named after a popular Philadelphia lawyer (apparently the last one), Alexander James Dallas, secretary of the treasury under James Madison and also a magazine editor in Philadelphia. Prior to his stint in Washington, Dallas was the federal district attorney for eastern Pennsylvania. Dallas also once served as the de facto governor of Pennsylvania for a time, since the actually governor (Thomas Mifflin) was an alcoholic. Mifflin was the first governor of the state, and Mifflin Avenue is the "first street" in downtown Scranton, for whatever that's worth. Dallas' son later served as vice president under James Polk (which is one of the few presidential last names not featured as a Scranton street name). Dallas is widely credited with putting the nation back on a firm financial footing after the near bankruptcy brought upon by the War of 1812. In perhaps one of the more accurate assessments of politicians ever publicly made, Dallas once referred in writing to Pennsylvania House members as "rats," and perhaps that's the true source of his popularity :-)
Dallas is home to College Misericordia, which some students affectionately call "Misery."

Dalton
The Bailey family settled in this part of Abington township around 1801, and the area took on the name Bailey Hollow. (Hollow means "small valley.") In their book Clarks Summit: A Narrative, Helen and John Villaume recall the story behind the name change: In the late 1860s, Dr. J.C. Miles of Bailey Hollow, among other locals, felt the Bailey Hollow name sounded a bit unbecoming for a town of increasing prominence. The railroad would soon choose whether to run through Bailey Hollow or Waverly, and the town fathers felt the "hollow" name might chase the rail line away. Dr. Miles chose the new name in 1871 after a visit from Dr. Edward Dalton, superintendent of the New York City board of health and a Civil War surgeon. The Scranton press praised the name change, taking the opportunity to encourage Tunkhannock to consider a similar move.

Danville
Once called Dan's Town and/or Dan's Village, Danville originally sprung up as a settlement around General Dan Montgomery's store and his father's grist mill (for grinding grain) in the early 1800s.

Dauphin County
'Dauphin' was the hereditary title of the oldest son of the French king (thus making him heir to the throne, which is hopefully not where you're reading this page). During the Revolutionary War, the dauphin of the time helped arrange French assistance for the American colonies. For similar reasons, Harrisburg was once called Louisburg.

Delano
When one drives south on Interstate 81 through the Schuylkill county area and sees the roadsign for this town, you can't help but think of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and whether there's any connection. And yes, there is. The town is named for Warren Delano, a New York investor drawn to the coal region in search of lining his pockets, much as he had once done in China. It turns out that Delano was FDR's grandfather and made a killing by importing opium into Chinese ports, producing thousands of addicts and becoming a thorn in China's side for many years, as evidenced by the Opium Wars.

Delaware
The river and state take their name from Lord de la Warre, governor of the English colony of Virginia. The Delaware Indians, originally the Leni or Leni-Lenape, were first met along the Delaware River, and thus the name. The influence of the Delaware Indian language is still felt today. Its word hanna, meaning "river," is seen when you break down the words Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Tobyhanna, Tunkhannock, and even Pocono (pocohanna), but not the Wilkes-Barre word "hayna."

Devil's Pulpit
Here's the name of a rock formation located in Washington Township in the northern Lehigh Valley, on the west side of the Lehigh River. It's said the high sandstone rocks resemble a pulpit, but how the devil figures into the equation is anyone's guess. An even more famous rock formation of course is the spooky Indian head at the Delaware Water Gap.

Dickson City
Once known as Priceburg and the site of some Molly Maguire activities in the 1870s, the town is named for the wealthy and popular Thomas Dickson, president of the D&H from 1869 to 1884. He was also the dude who nominated the name for the town of Olyphant. A Scotsman, Dickson started out his career as a mule driver in Carbondale. The town started out as simply Dickson, with no pretensions of being a city. However it was the postal service that tacked on 'city' in order to differentiate the local Dickson from several other post offices. Many locals still call their town 'Dickson,' not out of any throwback to the past but simply as a type of verbal shorthand. To this day, Scranton features street names of Dickson as well as other midvalley locations such as Throop, Archbald and Olyphant.

Dickville
You'll still see this tiny place, a former miners' patch, listed on modern maps of northeastern Pennsylvania. Like the town of Swoyerville/Swoyersville that it's near, Dickville can't make up its mind whether to insert an 's' in the middle. Given the illustrious nature of the name, the missing 's' is the least of its problems. And despite an extensive search of town-name records, Dickville bears no connection to the Elk County town of Johnsonburg.

Dimock
Named for an early judge in Susquehanna county, Davis Dimock Jr. He was the first Baptist minister in the region and developed a reputation as a powerful preacher. Dimock was also a U.S. congressman who died in office in 1842 at the age of 40.

Dorrance Township
Named for Colonel George Dorrance, who fell in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778.

Drums
Several Pennsylvania towns take their names from taverns, which in their day served more as full-fledged restaurants with sleeping accommodations and thus were the focal point of local activity, legitimate or otherwise. Drums today sits near the site of Abram Drum's tavern, which opened north of Hazleton in 1790. For its first few years the town was spelled Drum's. Another tavern town is Bird-in-Hand, between Philadelphia and Lancaster. A swinging wooden sign on an old tavern there reminded patrons that "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush." An early tavern near what is now King of Prussia originally was run by a Prussian settler, and its wooden sign featured the image of King Frederick I. Frederick ruled Prussia from 1701 to 1713, taking it from a province into a kingdom. Other "tavern towns" include Red Lion and Blue Ball (whose name origin shall remain under wraps, considering the family nature of this web page). Note: some taverns of the day were called "ordinaries," where one could purchase a simple (ordinary) meal, usually a mid-afternoon dinner, for a standard price.

Dundaff
Located north of Carbondale in Susquehanna county. An early settler claimed his ancestors once lived in Dundaff/Dunduff Castle in Scotland. A Dundaff street still exists in Carbondale, Forest City, Dickson City, Clifford, and Fell Township.

Dunmore
This is the story of a bribe run amok. The year was 1838, and Dunmore was then known as Bucktown, named for its abundant herds of deer. (The high school teams are still called the Bucks.) A young Englishman, Charles Augustus Murray, had spent several weeks that year fishing and hunting around old Bucktown. During this time, several local railroad men befriended Murray and learned of his father, a wealthy English nobleman -- the Fifth Earl of Dunmore. The railmen, one of whom was Henry Drinker, persuaded Charles to return home to borrow $1.5 million from dear old dad; the money would finance a rail link from here to New York. Every pure in their motives, the railmen discarded the name Bucktown in favor of Dunmore, out of deference, no doubt, to the earl's inherent beneficence. Unfortunately it appears the Earl was less than impressed, for Charles never returned. He was sent off instead to diplomatic chores in Persia while the name Bucktown slowly faded from memory. Charles later wrote a popular book entitled Travels in North America, and he helped arrange the transfer of a hippopotamus from Egypt to the London Zoo. This epic feat earned him the enviable nickname of "Hippopotamus Murray."

Dupont
One story goes that the wealthy du Pont family of Wilmington, Delaware owned a gunpowder plant here toward the end of the 1800s. This is the same family whose company grew into today's giant Du Pont Chemical interests and whose descendants include former presidential candidate Pierre du Pont. Another story says a local prominent resident named Dupont lent his name. Whatever the case, the Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania once told an amazing little tale of one semi-famous Dupont resident, Faustin Wirkus, who joined the Marines in 1915 so he could quit his job as a breaker boy. He was first sent to Haiti and later to the neighboring island of La Gonave. Toward the island's interior lived some 10,000 natives who practiced voodoo and polygamy (though not necessarily in that order). Years earlier, a deposed tribal ruler named Faustin predicted the future coming of a second Faustin who would someday rule the land. Young Faustin Wirkus soon became king, and the loyal natives now honored this breaker boy from Dupont. The Marines, however, failed to share the same degree of enthusiasm and quickly yanked young Faustin out of there.

Duryea
Home to immigrants from a mixture of European countries, Duryea was at times referred to as Babylon, for its "babel" of languages. It was named in 1902 for Abram Duryea, a mine speculator from New York. (Other sources list Duryea's first name as Hiram.) Prior to this time the town was known as Marcy, for Zebulon Marcy who arrived around 1790. Even today, Marcy Street still exists right off of Main Avenue. (It is said that Larksville was also once referred to as Babylon for similar reasons.)

Dushore
Named around 1859 for an original settler from the 1790s, a Frenchman named Aristide Dupetit-Thouars (last name pronounced 'Twors'). The locals modified his name to "Dushore" so the older German settlers could pronounce it better. A French navy captain, Thouars had walked from Philadelphia to Asylum (see above) and built a farmstead of his own, though he was only one-handed. In 1798 Thouars was shot and killed by the British in the Battle of the Nile. Today Dushore is reportedly the home to the only traffic light in Sullivan County, located between Lycoming and Wyoming counties.

Eagles Mere
A mere is merely a small pond of standing water, so here we have an Eagles Lake in miniature. The town is located about midway as the crow flies from Scranton to Williamsport.

Easton
Named by Thomas Penn in honor of his father-in-law, Lord Pomfret, whose estate in England was called Easton-Neston, which was located in Northamptonshire, which resolves any mystery regarding the name of Northampton County. Easton was chosen as the county seat partly so the Penns could establish a buffer zone between their Quaker settlement and the community of Moravians over in Bethlehem.

Eaton township (Wyoming county)
Named for General William Eaton who gained fame for his victories over and diplomatic tactfulness toward city-states of the Barbary Coast of northern Africa, which had been demanding "tributes" (protection money and kickbacks) from American ships passing through that area of the Mediterranean. Eaton later enhanced his stature (and probably his bank account) by going on the lecture circuit in the northeast. As a result of the Barbary connection, Eaton township thus boasts a similar name-heritage as New Tripoli.

Eau Claire
Located in west-central PA and not to be confused with eclair, the town name is French for "clear water."

Eckley
Now a state museum called Eckley Miners' Village, the place was once referred to as Shingletown, for that was one of the prime means of earning of living here -- taking advantage of the adequate nearby lumber to make shingles for more developed areas. By 1854 the settlement was known as Fillmore, in honor of the president who some people claim was about as exciting as Calvin Coolidge. Once the post office objected because Pennsylvania already had a Fillmore (apparently we couldn't handle the double excitement of two such joints), a Philadelphia judge and landowner named Charles Coxe took advantage of the situation and called the place after his teenage son, Eckley Coxe. Whether young Eckley was dashing and suave is a matter for professional historians to determine, but that hasn't stopped the locals from calling Eckley "the ugliest town in America," an expression that probably alludes to the shady dealings of the Molly Maguires, whose namesake film was shot right here near Hazleton. The legacy of the Mollies will always be framed around the question of how a group of oppressed people can resolve their issues without resorting to murder and intimidation themselves.

Edwardsville
Named after Daniel Edwards, a superintendent with the Kingston Coal Company. Until 1884 the town was known as Edwardsdale.

Egypt
The banks of the Nile River are known for fertile soil, as were the banks of Egypt along the Lehigh River north of Allentown. And just as Jacob's sons once traveled to Egypt to buy corn, Lehigh Valley residents in olden times would likewise travel to this village to buy provisions.

Eidenau
Located in west-central Pennsylvania, the name is German for "garden of eden." If you travel to the other end of the state you'll find a little eidenau in Allentown, site of Adam's Island in the Lehigh River, practically a stone's throw from Eve's Island.

84
The story goes that 84 refers to the number of residents living there at one point in time, another that the name was chosen in the year 1884. There is some dispute even among local residents regarding the origin, though one plausible explanation is that Eighty Four commemorates the election of Grover Cleveland as president in 1884. (Though this seems hardly a sufficient reason to generate universal excitement. Even today, Cleveland is about as exciting as Detroit, minus the glitter.) The state historical marker near the 84 post office offers this explanation, by the way. Another plausible story is that Eighty Four was mail drop #84 on the Railway Mail Service, or that its post office opened in 1884.

Elmhurst
Gilbert Dunning bought land here from Henry Drinker in 1847 and the area became known as Dunning through the 1880s. Its name was then changed to the pastoral sounding Elmhurst in hopes of stimulating land sales. "Hurst" comes from the German for forest, so Elmhurst simply means "Elm Forest." Elmhurst must confuse mapmakers because it forms a municipal rarity: a township completely enclosed within another township, Roaring Brook.

Emporium
One source says the name is an example of prophecy, but reality says it was more the product of wishful thinking or else a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Well before anyone lived here, a surveyor (who may have functioned like the member of an advance team or a baseball scout) was camping here in north-central Pennsylvania. The year was 1785, and it appears our scout's work ended up on maps by 1790, well before the first settlers arrived some 20 years later. On a tree at his encampment it's said the surveyor carved the word "Emporium." His reasoning may have been that since four streams converged here, and possibly an Indian path or two near this westernmost point of the Susquehanna River, the future looked pretty bright for this isolated spot on the map. Whether the surveyor's prophecy has ever come true is really a matter for residents of Cameron County to decide.

Endeavor
The community was founded by members of the Christian Endeavor Society, formed in Portland, Maine in 1881 with an emphasis on encouraging youth to participate in church activities. Located in northwest PA in Forest County, Pennsylvania's smallest in terms of populaton. It's so rural, in fact, at last report there was not a single traffic light within its boundaries. The original inhabitants of Endeavor would probably be aghast to learn their settlement would someday sit on the edge of state route 666.

Endless Mountains
This name may trace its roots to the mid 1700s as explorers realized these mountains extended much further than they ever imagined.

Enola
Enola sprang into existence as a result of the rail lines that run through this town near Harrisburg. The name comes from a farm owner's 4-year-old daughter, Enola Frances Miller, who died in 1962. The inspiration for her first name came from a character in the popular novel from the mid-1800s entitled The Dangers of Darkness. The farmer, Wesley Miller, sold land to the Pennsylvania Railroad around 1888 and in return was given the honor of naming the train station. A few old-timers insist that Enola was chosen because it's the backwards spelling of "alone," but this appears not to be the case. The only thing that's backwards, and pathetically so, is the name of the so-called Wilkes-Borough/Scranton Airport, a massive blotch upon our region's integrity.

Ephrata
Located in the Lancaster area, the German settlers who formed this town took the name from the Biblical city of Ephrath (the ancient name for Bethlehem), which some have translated as "fruitful." Once known as Dunkertown, the town fathers were part of a religious group known as the Seventh-Day Dunkers, a reference to the practice of water-immersion during baptism. Also known as the German Baptist Brethren, their austere, mystic-oriented lifestyles included life in cloisters, hence other early town names of Cloister and Kloster, and the Ephrata Cloisters now come under the auspices of the state Historical and Museum Commission. One of the early leaders of the group, Peter Miller, translated the Declaration of Independence into seven languages, at the request of Congress.

Equinunk
Found in Wayne County, the name supposedly means "place where clothing is distributed." An alternate translation is "trout stream."

Erie
Erie basically means "raccoon." The Erie tribe is sometimes referred to as the "Cat Nation," the raccoon being a wild cat, appearing as the main figure on the Erie totem pole. Early French maps of North America describe Lake Erie as Lac du Chat -- the Lake of the Cat.

Exeter
Early residents here arrived from the area of Exeter, Rhode Island. Earlier residents there had arrived from Exeter, England, which sits on the mouth of the river Exe.

Export
So named because it was the first town in the greater Pittsburgh area to produce coal for outlying markets.

Eynon
Named for a Welshman, Thomas Eynon (1821-1911), which partly explains why the town was once known as Welsh Hill. Eynon developed mines in the mid-valley, became a prominent Scranton resident, helped found the Welsh Philosophical Society (for whatever that's worth), and is not in Eynon anymore. His gravestone can be found in the Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton, not all that far from Eynon Street.

Factoryville
In the 1820s, people came from miles around to have their wool woven into cloth at the factory there. Supposedly Keystone College is technically in Factoryville but prefers to say it's located in La Plume, for obvious aesthetic reasons.

Fairchance
Due to laziness on the part of the humble town-names detective whose page you are reading at the moment, the exact locations of Smithfield and Uniontown, Pennsylvania will remain under wraps for the moment. But apparently the two towns saw their share of back-and-forth traffic in olden days, and the word on the street was that if you made it to the halfway point of the two towns by noon, that point being the town in question at the moment, located about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, you stood a "fair chance" of completing your trip before it got dark.

Falls
Here's a good example of how various towns took their names from nearby geographical features. Formed in 1824, this Wyoming County township, halfway between Tunkhannock and Pittston, takes its name from nearby Buttermilk Falls, near the mouth of Falls Creek.

Fayette County
Located south of Pittsburgh, we see here a remembrance of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who became a general in the Revolutionary War. He is one of but a handful of foreigners ever made an honorary citizen of the United States, a distinction not bestowed until 2002. Lafayette College is also named after this statesman who became a lifelong busom-buddy of George Washington. Several municipalities in northeast PA feature a Lafayette street or avenue.

Fiddle Lake (Susquehanna county)
This is not a town but a lake shaped, supposedly, just like a fiddle and located near the source of the Lackawanna River.

Finch Hill
This spot is located in Greenfield township, Lackawanna county. It's the final resting place of Isaac Finch who began serving in the Revolutionary army at the tender age of 13. His gravestone can still be found in a small cemetery along Route 247. See 'Kingsley' for another 13-year-old soldier who fought during the war for independence.

Fishing Creek Twp.
The origin of the name itself is hardly a mystery, but what stands out here in Columbia county is how the stream garnered a name for itself. During the Civil War, a fair amount of young local men preferred not to get worked up by the hoopla of fighting for the Union. Hardly a large or organized resistance, they were a loose-knit bunch content to hang tight in the woods, maintaining a low profile until hostilities were over. They essentially hid out in Fishing Creek Valley, earning for themselves the slightly sarcastic title "Fishing Creek Confederacy."

Fleetville
An early landowner here, James Van Fleet, once bought a standard wooden plow, but he didn't like the way it worked. So he fashioned his own more effective plow and soon the new "Van Fleet" style plow started catching on like gangbusters with the local farmers. The plow is gone but the name remains, as does the interest on a few outstanding loans from farmers who tried to lease the gizmo for $25 down and $5 a month.

Forest City
In 1885, Forest City was little more than a lumber camp called Pentecost, named for its founder, William Pentecost. The lumbermen often went into Carbondale for supplies by day (and possibly diversions by night). Apparently a group from the lumber camp walked into Carbondale one day, and someone remarked, in effect, "Where on earth are you from?" They looked at each other, stumped it seems by the difficulty of the question, before one of the bright ones -- a gentleman named John Blake -- spoke up, saying "Well, we're from Forest City." The name stuck and in 1888 the town officially took this name.

Forkston
A fork in Mehoopany Creek in Wyoming county is the source of this township name.

Forty Fort
Named for 40 of the earliest settlers from Connecticut who arrived in this area and built a fort around 1769. The area eventually became a flashpoint for various forces trying to dominate the region, culminating in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778.

Fountain Hill
A forward-thinking F. H. Oppelt opened his hydrotherapy institute here in 1842 just south of Bethlehem, centered around the natural springs atop the hill.

Frackville
Named in 1876 for its founder, businessman Daniel Frack, no known relation to Frick. The town was previously separated into Frackville and Mountain City before the merger, and the nickname Mountain City is still heard here and there. Frack, a hotel owner, was born in 1803 and checked out for good in 1890. Speaking of Frick, the wealthy Henry Clay Frick was safely away in the Pittsburgh area. An associate of Andrew Carnegie and an infamous union buster, Frick garnered enough wealth to found the exemplary Frick art collection and museum in Manhattan, far far away from fricken' Frack.

Freeland
The name indicated that land here was open to cultivation, as opposed to nearby coal-company land that was either off-limits or less hospitable to farming. In its early years it was known as Freehold (same connotation as Freeland), that is until the post office objected, saying that too much confusion would exist between having a Freehold in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Free Love Valley
A now-defunct community in the vein of Greeley (see below). Apparently located in the greater Pottstown area in the early 1840s, this group of religious idealists preferred holding their worship services in the nude and skinny dipping in the nearby lake. Despite their peaceful intentions, they went by the name Battle Axes of the Lord. Founded by a New England "prophet" named Theophilus Gates, the group believed that no woman should lack a husband "brisk" in bed, and no husband should ever go without the services of an "attentive" wife. What belonged to one member of the group belonged to all, that is until local authorities rounded up the group one day and charged them with adultery (and perhaps with an over-enthusiastic fascination with trapping and sharing beaver pelts). While it's true that Ben Franklin believed walking around one's bedroom in the nude helped induce sleep, he probably never envisioned extending the practice to the aisles of a church.

Friendsville
Dr. Rose of Montrose (see below, and what a burdensome nickname that would be) was also a Quaker -- a member of the Society of Friends. So the name is no cheezy attempt at promoting solidarity among people who don't give a hoot about such things; it marks, obviously, the pride Rose felt in helping establish this town/hamlet where religious tolerance was to be the order of the day.

Gallows Hill
You'll see this old spot on maps of the region southeast of Bethlehem. Apparently in the mid-1700s a local Indian was charged with murder and was later hung at a spot called Pegg's Run. A crowd gathered to witness the morbid event, and they picked a nearby hill for the best view of the gallows.

Germania
Located in Potter County, north central Pennsylvania. Settled around 1855 by some 100 German settlers, the name indicates their desire to retain the language and customs of their homeland.

Gibson
Named around 1812 for Judge John Bannister Gibson, a chief justice on the Pennsylvania supreme court. For a short time this town midway between Scranton and Binghamton was referred to as "Five Partners," for the original five families who settled there in 1809. Similarly, nearby Harford was once known as "Nine Partners," named after nine families who arrived from Massachusetts in 1790 or so. Judge Gibson developed a sterling reputation for his ability to deliver well-crafted decisions that involved a wise interpretation of the law, stepping beyond an over-reliance upon mere legal precedent. In this regard his influence was felt upon the legal profession in both the United States as well as England. Gibson apparently wore many hats as he was also a piano tuner, an amateur dentist, and an advanced student of Shakespeare.

Glenburn
In 1848, George Humphrey bought land near what is now Glenburn Pond, and for almost 30 years the area was called Humphreysville. During this era the poems and novels of Sir Walter Scott enjoyed widespread appeal, especially among the well-to-do. Scott sometimes used the word "glen" to depict locales in his works and he is credited with popularizing the use of the word in America. "Glen" literally means "narrow valley" but also evokes images of a pristine community. "Burn" is a Scottish form of "brook," and the combined word Glenburn achieves a heightened literary effect yet still describes the area fairly accurately.

Glen Campbell
Glen is a Scottish word for valley, and old Cornelius Campbell was a principal in the Glenwood Coal Company here in Indiana County in the 1880s. The country singer Glen Campbell came along many years later and thus had nothing to do with the name origin, though he did pay a visit in 1971 to the town that bears his name, despite the fact that he was never a lineman for Indiana County.

Glen Lyon
This village in Luzerne County takes its name from a small town in Scotland, a distinction also held by Montrose. Located at the foot of Lee's Mountain to the north, locals first called the place Williamstown and Morgantown. The prominent Lyon family eventually took top honors in 1885, as this was the original name of the valley itself, not far from Nanticoke.

Gouldsboro (originally Gouldsborough)
Named by or for Jay (Jayson) Gould, a gold speculator and railroad tycoon who built a tannery here in 1856. Gould was known to enter business partnerships, siphon off company money for personal real estate ventures, run the business into the ground, and then use company security guards to keep his partners outside the gates. In one noted dispute with a partner, their joint-venture tannery mysteriously burnt down. In the years following the Civil War, a time when the American currency was weak, Gould (one of the richest men in the world, earning his first million by age 21) attempted to corner the gold market. This little ploy led to the infamous Black Friday of 1869; the price of gold plunged and the nation was thrown into a financial panic. Gould, the prototype "robber baron" and a driving force behind New York's elevated rail system, was once quoted as saying, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." However, more recent scholarship has tended to exonerate Gould of some of the more serious personality flaws associated with him. These charges may have been motivated partially by a dose of anti-Semitism, as some people believed because of his name that he was Jewish, though he was born and raised a Presbyterian.

Gravity
Located in Lake township, Wayne county, between Lake Ariel and South Canaan. Since it was the gravity railroad system that put Wayne County on the economic map, it's almost certain that this is the source of the town name in question. While the main purpose of the gravity lines was to transport coal to larger markets, a fine example of a gravity passenger car -- "The Pioneer" -- is housed at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, next to the old (and closed) Brooks Mine exhibit.

Great Bend
Located in Susquehanna County, just south of the New York line, Great Bend was once known as Lodersville. The Susquehanna River heads toward Great Bend from Binghamton, then takes a "great bend" and heads for a short distance back up into New York State. Before continuing there, this marked the final stop along the Philadelphia & Great Bend Turnpike, built over seven years in the 1820s and sometimes called the Drinker Turnpike. In fact, it most likely ran right through most if not all of Dunmore's current Drinker Street, which accounts for the current Turnpike Garage at the point where the street leads off toward Moscow, near the intersection of Interstate 81. Travellers and stagecoaches could anticipate meeting up with an inn or tavern every 20 miles or so along this route, at times supplanting old Indian paths, that included Mount Pocono and the Abingtons. At the north end of Providence it passed through Leggett's Gap, today referred to as "The Notch," through which flows Leggett's Creek which passes by Leggett Street in North Scranton today and honors one of the earliest settlers there, James Leggett. Parts of this turnpike coincided, it appears, with a route known as the Old Connecticut Road. The trip from Philly to Providence took about two tiresome days. Back at Leggett's Gap we saw quite a confrontation in 1850 between German laborers and two feuding factions of Irish workers laying down the Leggett's Gap Railroad. These so-called "Irish Wars" -- between the Corkonians and the Fardowns -- left about three workers dead until the groups were partitioned by Colonel Scranton.

Greeley
The great American newspaperman Horace Greeley once said, "Go west, young man," but Horace himself appears to have harbored a fascination with regions much closer -- right here in Pike County, east of current-day Lake Wallenpaupack (the man-made lake that didn't exist at the time). Nineteenth-century America saw several so-called Utopian societies spring up in the northeast, most famously the Oneida Community in upstate New York. Greeley, the wealthy publisher of the influential New York Tribune, seems to have been enthralled by these socialist ideals as well, influenced strongly by the writing of the Frenchman Fourier, among others. Greeley eventually became treasurer of Pike County's "Sylvania Association," a group of some 136 residents, many of them "soft" Manhattanites in search of a more communal type of lifestyle free of the competitive pressures of modern urban life, not to mention the "free love" or "complex marriage" framework where each member of the group enjoyed "community access" to the others. Almost a third of this group was composed of children, and few of them understood the realities of farming and food storage, much less trodding around in lands chock full of rattlesnakes. In fact, many of them were sent here by their wealthy families in order to "straighten their lives out," so to speak, after reading about the experimental community in Greeley's newspaper. As you could predict from candy-ass New Yorkers of privilege, many balked at the idea of fair and equal distribution of labor. Many of the women balked at the idea of waiting their turn to get washed up in the morning. The group disbanded in 1845 after producing at least eight children who had to be placed into New York orphanages. After the Sylvanians departed, locals referred to the area for quite some time as "that Greeley place," which was later shortened to Greeley. Horace, who once perceptively said "Apathy is a sort of living oblivion," was apparently embarrassed by the entire affair and he rarely discussed the matter afterwards. He did comment, however, that Pike County was composed of little more than "rocks, rattlesnakes, and Republicans." (It is still difficult to ascertain at times which of the three is the most bothersome and annoying.) Another attempt at a "utopian" community, this time of lesser renown, srung up near Milford. It was founded by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, a formative influence in the school of "pragmatism."

Green Ridge
A wealthier neighborhood of Scranton once known as Sanderson Park. Sanderson Avenue is now one of the major streets that run through this section. It runs right into Throop, whose first postmaster in 1882 was C.D. Sanderson, who despite his initials never owned a walkman nor a certificate of deposit for that matter.

Grimville
If the Happy Valley of central Pennsylvania needs an alter-ego, here it is, at least in name. Grimville was once part of a major route for driving cattle, and appropriately enough an old tavern named the Golden Lamb was once located here. It was owned by Colonel David Grim and was located north of Kutztown on what's now Interstate 78. It's just east of another elegant morsel of a town known as Krumsville, named after a landowner named Mrs. Wilson Krum.

Halfmoon Township (State College area)
Settled in 1784, it's said to be named for marks cut on trees along an Indian trail. The source for this listing called it a Native American trail, but with all due respects, that kind of politically correct expression is pure hokum.

Hallstead
Located in Susquehanna county and named for William Hallstead, a president and general manager of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad. If you drive along Route 11 toward Great Bend, you just may notice a fascinating state historical marker entitled "Joseph Smith." The text goes on: "Founder of Mormonism, once lived a few miles east of here prior to 1830. Much of the translation of the 'Golden Plates' for the Book of Mormon is said to have been done there. Site now owned by the Church of Latter Day Saints."

Hamlin
Named for a doctor, Orlo Hamlin, who moved to that area partly because he wasn't pulling in enough business in the township of Providence, now a part of Scranton. It's been suggested that the hardy residents of Providence were a "bit too healthy" for the good doctor's services. The Hamlin area was once known as Little Meadows, later Salem Corners, and later Hamlinton. Some say the name origin goes not to the doctor but to Oliver Hamlin, an early store owner, or to Butler Hamlin, an early settler.

Hanover Township
Originally settled by "refugees," many of them German, from the town of Hanover on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. Since the borderline for many years was not clearly defined, it rendered the area a magnet for scoundrels trying to escape jurisdiction from one state or another. In fact, locals called the place "Rogue's Shore" or "Rogue's Resort." (Isn't it ironic how slimeball congressman Dan Flood, who represented the "newer" Hanover area, should "earn" a spot on Time magazine's "Rogue's Gallery"? [2/18/80] A succinct definition for rogue is "a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel," so Time called it just right in the matter of the congressman that Wilkes-Borough reveres.) Anyway, the original Hanover, Pennsylvania became a breeding ground for lowlifes who would basically terrorize the local law-abiding citizenry, enough of whom got fed up and moved northward. The settlers originally arrived from the area of Hannover, Germany, a possession of the British royal family. A slightly-alternate version of the story, one that needs to be reconciled, holds that Captain Lazarus Stewart named the area in 1771. Stewart, leader of the "Paxton Boys" (see Paxtang), received the area as a land grant from Connecticut authorities, probably with the intention of aggravating Pennsylvania authorities whom the rash Lazarus couldn't stomach.

Happy Valley
Although this name belongs to an old neighborhood to the west of Exeter, it's more associated with the Penn State area, though no formal designation exists there. It was apparently coined by football announcers on national television starting in the late 60s or early 70s. In this sense, Happy Valley sometimes seems to refer just to the stadium itself and the immediate environs, perhaps with the slightest of derision, suggesting an attitude of "this place is in the middle of nowhere, so after the game, get me out fast."

Harford
Originally known as Nine Partners, for the first nine families who settled in this Susquehanna County locale in 1790. The settlers had traveled from Massachusetts, possibly passing through Hartford, Connecticut along the way. Perhaps they were impressed by what they saw, for by 1807 the area was now called Hartford. A close-knit group, they gathered shortly thereafter to discuss the ramifications of the town name. In one of history's more profound quotes, right up there with "Don't give up the ship," Hartford resident Laban Capron is reported to have stood up, run his thumbs up and down his suspenders and urged his neighbors (in a passionate tone, one would suspect), to "strike out the T." Any further bursts of eloquence from old Laban, a commissioner and postmaster, have been lost to the ages. The dropping of the T may have occurred anyway, despite the exhortations of Laban. For one, the T was hardly pronounced anyway, as with the T in the middle of Scranton which is hardly pronounced particularly among those of lower socioeconomic status and/or fans of John Cougar Mellencamp. The other reason could be the long-term trend toward the "de-Connecticut-ization" of the northeast quadrant of the state following the Yankee-Pennamite (Connecticut/Pennsylvania) animosities of the Revolutionary period and the years immediately afterward.

Harmony
The name of this town, now known as Oakland, denoted a group of Germans known as the Harmony Society. They were apparently industrious, self-sufficient, God fearing, and (heaven forbid?) celibate. At one time they regrouped and headed westward to the state of Indiana, naming their next stop New Harmony. From a feng-shui point of view the harmonics of the new location were less than optimal and obviously not economical; the enterprise went belly-up and the group returned to the greater Pittsburgh area and formed the town of Economy.

Harrisburg
Named in 1785 by John Harris Jr., who laid out the town. Harris' father ran a ferry service here beginning in the 1750s. Shorter after 1785, state officials changed Harrisburg's name to Louisburg, in honor of Louis XVI and out of recognition for France's support of the colonies in the war with Britain. But although the name was officially Louisburg, everyone still called it Harrisburg, such was the popularity of the Harris family. The state soon got the message and changed the name back. It didn't hurt that the state government was feasting its eyes upon certain lands that John Harris owned, and Harris refused to sell them until the name Louisburg/Louisbourg was safely shredded and shoved down the trash compactor.

Harvey's Lake
The lake was "discovered" by accident during the Revolutionary War by Benjamin Harvey, a local soldier returning home from British/Indian imprisonment in Canada, once the British determined he was no longer a threat. If one pieces the story together correctly, it's an educated guess that Harvey walked back from Canada, eventually stumbled upon a creek that fed the lake that now bears his name, spotted the lake in a fog, and then with a stroke of good fortune eventually found his family's homestead near what is now West Nanticoke. Perhaps the legend surrounding his arduous journey was enough to have the lake named after him, pending a better explanation.

Hawley
Sitting at the northern tip of Lake Wallenpaupack, Hawley has seen several name changes over the years. The settlement that grew into present-day Hawley was formed at an eddy (a little whirlpool) near where the Lackawaxen and Wallenpaupack Rivers converged. By 1792 the area became known as "The Eddy," by 1829 Paupack Eddy and by 1848 Falls Port. A year later came the name Hawleysburgh, named for one Irad Hawley, third president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company, which figured prominently in the development of the Honesdale/Hawley area. By 1851 the 'burgh' was dropped, giving us the name we have today.

Hayna-Gulch
See Wilkes-Borough. Residents of Hayna-Gulch complain loudly about the teasing their town receives at the hands of outsiders, but they're too thick to realize they bring this ridicule upon themselves by insisting on naming the local airport backwards. Wilkes-Borough is essentially located in a valley (a gulch) where more "haynas" are spoken per capita then anywhere else in the world, as chronicled on the authoritative site Lingo of Northeastern Pennsylvania. On a more metaphysical level, residents of Hayna-Gulch display no sense of humor when you remind them the airport name is upside down. This indicates that Hayna-Gulch residents are typically of a thicker density than their neighbors to the north and east, or in other words, at least two or more generations behind the times in evolutionary terms, hence their need to overcompensate by always placing their name before Scranton at every opportunity. Another example of this caveman mentality at work is when congressman Dan Flood bulldozed the integrity of the United States Post Office, declaring that any piece of mail sent from the city of Scranton on a Saturday be shipped to Wilkes-Borough and get stamped with the postmark of a town. In civilized society, one simply does not act like this. Pure and simple, Flood was a functional (dysfunctional, actually) megalomaniac, a term whose best definition is "egotist to a pathological degree," indicative of an infantile mindset that gets expressed every time some brainless twerp inaccurately (and almost always intentionally) refers to northeast Pennsylvania as "Wilkes-Barre"/Scranton, a name that makes as much sense as "Nanticoke/Wilkes-Barre."

Hazard
What may first come to mind is an image of some accident waiting to happen or at least a sand trap on the 18th hole, but when it came to the business practices of Erskine Hazard of Philadelphia, the impression certainly does not apply, except to those he left out of the economic loop. A working partner of Josiah White (see White Haven), Hazard was a Philly Quaker who spent time in England and Wales in 1826, systematically studying their railroad systems. He brought back the latest technology to help solve some of the unique logistical problems facing the Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe) Railroad, eventually creating one of the most highly regarded railroads in America for its time. In fact, Jim Thorpe today still features a Hazard Square. Using his connections from God-knows-where, Hazard and partners were able to form a series of interlocking corporations, the connections of which were probably hidden at times, to help form a virtual monopoly on the transport of coal from the greater Jim Thorpe area to the Philadelphia markets, making a killing in the process and leaving behind a town with few residents but a deep heritage.

Hazleton (with a note on secession)
This is the case of a famous misspelling. Hazleton was referred to as Hazel Town in the first half of the 1800s, a reflection of the abundant hazel bushes that dotted the landscape. In fact, Moravian missionaries had earlier called the area "St. Anthony's Wilderness," an upgrade, it would seem, from the old Indian expression "Hazel Swamp." The name later became one word, Hazeltown, and then simply Hazelton. But in 1856, an attorney in Harrisburg drawing up the city's incorporation papers spelled hazel as hazle, and no one picked up the error until it was too late. Culturally speaking, Hazleton is a much different place from its Wilkes-Borough neighbors to the north, mainly because it doesn't share the same combination of arrogance, thick-headedness and hubris that created the abomination of an airport name at Avoca. Partly because of the social difference as well as the practical challenges of conducting essential business 23 miles to the north at the county seat, a movement was started around 1853 to center Hazleton around a new county to be called Anthracite. It would take in southern Luzerne county and parts of eastern Schuylkill. By the 1890s the movement gained considerable credibility as a measure passed the state legislature that would create a new Quay County which would also include parts of Carbon county. Hazleton would be the county seat, but the legislation was vetoed by governor Daniel Hastings. Quay was a powerful political boss and U.S. senator who eventually mired himself in financial scandal, dying in 1903. (In the 1890s, Hazelton sported a semi-pro baseball team, known as the Quay-kers, playing in the Pennsylvania League.) There was also an attempt back in the same era to name the new county Pardee, after a coal developer from New York named Arivistius Pardee, oftentimes considered Hazleton's founder. How the northern end of Luzerne County jerks around the southern end for mere sport, a sentiment well over a hundred years old, was well illustrated when Wilkes-Borough legislators rammed a hotel tax through the state chambers in order to fund a minor arena, although the voters of the Hazleton area had already voted overwhelmingly against it. The author Harold Aurand of Mount Carmel (Population Change and Social Continuity: Ten Years in a Coal Town; 1986, Susquehanna University Press) noted that during the secession era, a "cultural fault line" existed between Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre. Aurand is associate professor of history at Penn State Hazleton. Such a fault line does exist between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, located right around Avoca. Crossing that line towards Wilkes-Borough is like falling down several rungs on the sociocultural ladder, somewhat like listening to the Beatles and then all of a sudden the station starts playing John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Seger.

Heart Lake (west of Archbald)
Heart Lake is shaped like, what else, a heart. But shape names aren't always so accurate: Half Moon Lake, near Moscow, is shaped more like a crescent, so the name is only half right.

Herrick Twp.
A colonel in the War of 1812, Edward Herrick was president-judge of several northern counties for over two decades.

Hershey
The credit of course goes to Milton Snavely Hershey, who after a couple false starts opened his chocolate operations here in his home town once known as Derry Church. One of the high points of Pennsylvania cultural history occurred around the year 1989 with the release of the single "Between Something and Nothing" by the Hershey group known as Ocean Blue. Of all the singles ever released by Pennsylvania bands, this one stands out as the highwater mark, gaining wide acclaim on college radio nationwide, a hit so strong and significant you'll never hear it on a commercial or NPR radio station, though you will hear them play songs by worthless-drek groups such as The Hooters, which is about the best that Philadelphia could ever come up with. On a side note, inquiring minds do wonder whether any other American ever sported the middle name of "Snavely," not to mention whether or not an ounce of Snavely is the secret ingredient in the Hershey Kiss.

Hickory Run
Now the site of a state park, not to mention a famous reststop along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, early colonists called the area "Shades of Death" for its dense forests, swamps, and poor soil. Little remains of the former town that once called itself Hickory Run, nor have many hickory trees ever been found here.

Highspire
Located in the Harrisburg area, it's said that early boatmen on the Susquehanna used the high steeple -- spire -- of a local church as a trustworthy landmark. An alternate explanation contends that two of the founding fathers here borrowed the name around 1814 from their home town of Speyer, Germany.

Hinkletown
This word may not appear in a German dictionary, but in the dialect of the Pennsylvania Dutch, a hinkle is a chicken. Though it was named for the old Hinkle family, we can still make a case for an Amish country town of Chickentown. However, the post office may not go for this since another hamlet named Chickentown is located in the Lehigh Valley. Don't ever confuse a hinkle with a haahne, which is a rooster, giving rise to the nearby town of Haanstown.

Homer City (doh!)
Located near Indiana, PA, the town takes its name not from Homer Simpson but Homer the Greek poet.

Honesdale
To transport coal to the eastern markets, gravity railroads carried the loads out of the Lackawanna Valley and over the Moosic Mountains into Honesdale, a gargantuan task at the time. (Gravity technology is still seen today in the operation of many rollercoasters.) At Honesdale, coal was transferred onto the barges of the Delaware & Hudson canal, to be floated onward to the Delaware River and eventually the Hudson. The barges, sometimes called the "coal boats to the tidewater," were pulled by mules, carried tons of coal at a time and clipped along at a turtle's pace of three miles per hour. The canal construction had been pioneered by Philip Hone, a wealthy New York mayor and first president of the D&H, which was perhaps the country's largest private corporation at the time. The town was known initially, in 1827, as Hone's Dale. Son of a German immigrant carpenter, Hone wasn't shy about expressing his distaste for most immigrants from Ireland.

Honey Hole
Little more than a village in the Hazleton area, the name is fisherman's slang for a "sweet spot" where the fish are biting rather nicely. Back in the day, the postal service seemed to locate a post office just about anywhere, including "ma & pa" general stores in places like Honey Hole. However, the years between 1900 and 1920 saw an inevitable consolidation of many of the smaller offices, leaving nothing behind in many cases but a colorful name that still shows up on a map or two.

Honey Pot
Named by a Major Alden (for whom the town of Alden is named) in 1772 as he reportedly discovered hordes of wild bees there and noted the ease with which one could obtain honey. Another "discovery" town is Sugar Notch. Early Yankee settlers named it after they found an abundance of sugar maple trees in this mountain notch located in Luzerne County.

Hop Bottom
The area was known for its hops that were grown for regional breweries. This Susquehanna county town was once known as Foster. It was sometimes even referred to by locals as "Hoppingbottom," a teasing jab at Methodist settlers whose religious ceremonies could get rather expressive, perhaps in the same vein as the Shakers.

Hornbrook
A double-honor of sorts bestowed upon both a creek and locality in Bradford county. Credit for this colorful name goes to the intrepid Isaac Horton who supposedly found a 9-foot-long tusk of a mastadon in the future Hornbrook Creek in 1844, a remnant of a beast that once roamed parts of North America. Curiously, another take on the name-origin reminds one of Buckhorn (see above), where legend says a pair of deer’s horns were found gouged into a tree near the creek. Intelligent minds do wonder whether Horton ever saw eager beavers swimming in Hornbrook checking out the tusk, but no firm citations can be found on this matter, at least none that anyone was ever willing to own up to.

Hosensack
If you're afraid of the dark, don't head out to this town in the southern Lehigh Valley. Early German settlers once exclaimed the area at night got darker than a hosensack, which translates as "pants pocket," which is still a very good place to leave the hose (unless one is playing pocket pool, preferably in the dark).

Hyde Park
Once a borough independent of Scranton, the Hyde Park section picked up its name sometime between 1825 and 1830 when it was founded by Joseph Fellows (a small park exists in his memory today). One early homeowner there, Harvey Chase, had recently moved from Hyde Park, New York, home of the future Roosevelt estate. One day Chase took a piece of wood, painted the name "Hyde Park" on it, and placed the sign in his neighbor's front yard. Needless to say, the name stuck, whether or not Chase's purpose was good-natured needling or not. Hyde Park, New York had been named for Edward Hyde, governor of the New York colony from 1702 to 1708. The name's choice, no doubt, was influenced by the famous Hyde Park of London.

Indiana (town & county)
Probably named for the Indiana Territory which took in parts of what eventually became five states in the upper great-lakes region.

Inkerman
Located a stones-throw south of Sebastopol in the Pittston area, much as the Inkerman in present-day Ukraine is located three miles east of Sevastopol (see below). Both cities, part of Russia at the time, figured prominently in the Crimean War which was fought partly (or mainly, depending upon one's point of view) over control of and access to the Middle East. In November 1854 the Battle of Inkerman resulted in a hard fought, joint French/British victory over Russian forces. The British fought under the command of Lord Raglan, who had a lot of explaining to do back home after the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade two weeks earlier. It was another Lord -- Tennyson -- who described the Charge in two lines that have withstood the test of time: "Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do -- and die." As an aside, the word 'inkerman' is said to mean 'cave fortress' in Turkish.

Intercourse
Originally named Cross Keys in reference to an old tavern, this delicately named town was founded in 1754 and possibly was called "Entercourse" by the locals for a time. Some people believe the name stems from an old race track that existed just east of town on a stretch of road known as the Old Philadelphia Pike. This is the point where one would "Enter-the-Course" until the name morphed into its current form around 1814. A bit contrived as an explanation? Another suggestion is that two famous roads once crossed here: the Old King's Highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (later the Old Philadelphia Pike), intersecting with the road from Wilmington to Erie. This explanation in itself seems strong enough to explain "Cross Keys." A third suggestion is that the word "Intercourse," when adopted around 1814, carried only wholesome connotations, echoing the fellowship and social interaction the town fathers wished to impart and sustain. It's important to realize that many town names contain a bit of self-promotion, and the founders of Intercourse (and we're not speaking of Adam & Eve) appeared to be positioning themselves as the "center of action" (so to speak). Certainly a pesky bunch regardless of the name's heritage, the founders of Intercourse would probably feel right at home in other Pennsylvania locations such as Pleasant Valley, Mount Union, Mount Pleasant, Pleasant Grove, and certainly Pleasant Gap and Honey Hole.

Jackson Township
Named for Andrew Jackson before he became president, commemorating his victory over the British at New Orleans around 1815.

Japan
At first glance this name makes no sense, given the heritage of northeast Pennsylvania. But somehow, some way, the old Hazleton Coal Company once managed to export coal to the far-east port of Edo. As any crossword buff knows, Edo is the ancient name for Tokyo and it's also been anglicized as Jeddo, a village that still exists today east of Hazleton, right around the bend from the Pennsylvania village of Japan.

Jeddo
Located northeast of Hazleton. Either Jeddo itself or the old Jeddo Coal company was named for Jed Ireland, or so goes one story that may only be partly true. For a better explanation, see "Japan." Descendants of Jed, it is believed, are still on the lookout for Jethro, Granny and Ellie May.

Jermyn
Once known as Gibsonburg and even earlier known as Baconville, it takes its name from John Jermyn, a wealthy Englishman with mining interests in the region. Unofficially, though certainly to its credit, Jermyn is known as the "birthplace of first aid in America." This honor is due to the work of a Dr. Matthew Shields who, beginning around 1910 and under the auspices of the American Red Cross, established special health-related programs for miners.

Jersey Shore
From the late 1790s until 1826, Jersey Shore officially was called Waynesburg, located on the north side of the Susquehanna, west of Williamsport. During this time many settlers arrived from eastern New Jersey, and over the years more and more Jersey folk descended upon Waynesburg. The locals on the opposite side of the river teasingly started to call Waynesburg "the Jersey shore," and the new name started appearing on maps around 1826. One wonders if the locals could have gained more traction by calling Waynesburg "Wayne's World." On a side note, residents of northeastern Pennsylvania were also known to refer to New Jersey "immigrants" as "Jerseyites."

Jessup
Settled in 1849, Jessup has seen several name changes. First called Saymour, later Mount Vernon, and then Winton, after one William Winton who established a coal breaker there in the mid-1870s. Winton was a Scranton banker and investor. The current name was taken from the prominent Jessup family of Montrose, most likely for William Jessup. A delegate to the 1860 republican national convention, Jessup gave a nominating speech for Abraham Lincoln. A lawyer, his practice extended to several wealthy clients in New York. A Winton Street still exists today (also in Dunmore), as does a Mount Vernon Road on the Jessup/Archbald line.

Jim Thorpe
As most everyone knows, Jim Thorpe was once known as Mauch Chunk, an Anglicized form of an Indian name meaning "Bear Mountain." What's not as well known is that periodically movements have urged a return back to the original name. The name Jim Thorpe was chosen mainly as a publicity stunt to help generate tourism for a town that had seen better days. The Asa Packer mansion, a must-see in this picturesque town, is so haunted that the dogs won't walk in certain parts of the house. Packer, who mounted an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1868, would stand atop his mansion holding a watch, keeping an eagle-eye on his railroad operations below. The story goes that the wrath of hell faced any engineer who was more than a couple minutes late pulling into the station. Speaking of all things spooky, Jim Thorpe is the site where Alexander Campbell of the Molly Maguires was hanged for murder in 1867. Although he admitted some foreknowledge of the crime, he professed his innocence for the actual murder right up through the time he was led to the gallows. Enroute there, he rubbed his hand in the mud, slapped it on the wall, and announced that the stain would serve as an eternal reminder of the injustice being meted out that day. Despite all efforts to sanitize the wall of the handprint, it's claimed that one can still make it out even today.

Justus
Records pertaining to the origin of Justus are not easy to come by. However, it seems that at one time a Justus Ackerly was chosen by lottery for the honor of having the village named after him. The old canard about "Just Us" remains yet to be proven.

Keyser Valley
One of the first white settlers in this region was Timothy Keyes (probably pronounced "kize") who in 1771 opened a sawmill along the creek that bore his name, Keyes Creek. Various spellings over the year led from Keyes, to Keyesers, and eventually to Keyers (but never Keister). For his gallant efforts, Keyes was killed by Indians, perhaps while he was distracted over all the various spellings.

Keystone State
A keystone is the top interlocking stone of an arch -- the "key" stone (but never keister) that holds the rest of the arch in place. If you picture the original 13 colonies as a 13-stone arch, Pennsylvania would sit in the middle, with six colonies located to the northeast and six to the southeast. So in a rhetorical, self-referential sense, Pennsylvania serves as the symbolic keister (oops, keystone) that holds the rest of the structure together. In addition to the geographic sense, Pennsylvania served as America's kiester in a commercial sense as well, since it was an economic force both in the manufacturing trades associated with the north as well as the agricultural trades of the south. And despite extensive searches of the keister archives, no connection has yet been established between the Keister State and the gloriously named town of Kiester, Minnesota.

Kingsley
A young Rufus Kingsley entered the Revolutionary army at the ripe old age of 13, becoming a drummer boy. In 1775 he distinquished himself at the Battle of Bunker Hill to such an extent that this Susquehanna county town eventually took on his namesake. It was a tradition in Pennsylvania to grant free land to veterans of the Revolutionary War, and both Rufus Kingsley and Isaac Finch (see Finch Hill) were possible beneficiaries of this honor.

Kingston
As with Kingston, Rhode Island, its possible source name, Kingston, Pennsylvania was also once known as King's Town. Legend says the name was chosen almost whimsically during a toast -- held after a picnic under a shady tree (and possibly during a state of inebriation) -- to the king of England, Charles II, who granted William Penn the land rights to the region that eventually became Pennsylvania.

Kittatinny
The Kittatinny Mountains straddle the Delaware River in northeast Pennsylvania and northwest New Jersey, and their most famous landmark is the Delaware Water Gap. The name means either "endless hill" or "great mountains" or "endless mountains" or a little bit of each.

Koonsville
The old Kester brothers (not to be confused with the notorious Keister Brothers), ran a factory here back in the day. Who Koon was, or whether the name has anything to do with raccoons ('coons, for short) is still a matter of conjecture. The place is located near Shickshinny along a scenic stretch of Route 11, north of Berwick.

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Updated: August 2007
E-mail: pocono1013@verizon.net