20 March 2017
State Names in the United States part 2
In part 1, I started the stories of the names of the states in the United States of America. This post concludes that list with more origins from the native people, British places, kings, queens, rivers and geography.
NEW HAMPSHIRE was named after the southern English county of Hampshire by Captain John Mason, an early settler who came from that county.
NEW JERSEY My home state was named after the Channel Island of Jersey by Sir George Carteret, who also used the name of his earlier home. Vice Admiral Sir George Carteret, was not an explorer but a royalist statesman. He was Treasurer of the Navy, and one of the original Lords Proprietor of the former British colony of Carolina and New Jersey. The city of Carteret, New Jersey, as well as Carteret County, North Carolina, are also named after him.
NEW MEXICO or Nuevo México was first used by a seeker of gold mines named Francisco de Ibarra, who explored far to the north of Mexico in 1563 and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico" hoping that this area would be as rich in resources as the southern area. Juan de Oñate officially established the name when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico in 1598.
NEW YORK was named after the English Duke of York and Albany (and the brother of England's King Charles II) in 1664 when the region that had been called New Amsterdam was taken from the Dutch. The state was a colony of Great Britain until it became independent on July 4, 1776.
NORTH CAROLINA and SOUTH CAROLINA are both named after Charles IX of France. Carolina is a Latin feminine form of Charles.
NORTH DAKOTA and SOUTH DAKOTA come from "Dakota," a Sioux Indian word for friend or friend alliance. President James Buchanan signed the bill creating the Dakota Territory in 1861 which originally included the area covered today by North and South Dakota as well as Montana and Wyoming. On November 2, 1889, both North and South Dakota were admitted to the Union, becoming the 39th and 40th states.
OHIO originates from the Iroquois Indian word for a "good river." This Indian name was later translated by the French as La Belle Riviere (the Beautiful River).
OKLAHOMA is a word that was made up by the native American missionary Allen Wright. He combined two Choctaw words, "ukla" meaning person and "humá" meaning red to form the word that first appears in a 1866 Choctaw treaty. Oklahoma means "red person."
OREGON's origin is still debated. It is possibly a misreading of the river name in Wisconsin that was written as Ouaricon-sint on an 18th century map, but with the last 4 letters on the next line and therefore dropped. Most scholarship ascribes the earliest known use of the name "Oregon" to a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain, seeking money to finance an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. The petition read "the rout... is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon...." After that, the early Oregon Country and the present day state took their names from that river, which is now known as the Columbia River.
PENNSYLVANIA King Charles II of England owed $80,000 to Admiral Sir William Penn. In 1681, as payment for the debt, the king granted what is today Pennsylvania to the admiral's son, who was also named William Penn. Penn named the territory New Wales but also suggested Sylvania (woodland) for his land. Eventually, his name and sylvania were combined to mean "Penn's Woods."
RHODE ISLAND The first mention of the name Rhode Island or any of its variations in connection with Narragansett Bay is in the letter of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the explorer, dated July 8, 1524, in which he refers to an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay, and likens the island to the Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.
TENNESSEE In the early 18th century, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or "Tanase") in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. The town was located on a river of the same name (now known as the Little Tennessee River), and appears on maps as early as 1725 in its Anglicized spelling of the Cherokee river name.
TEXAS is based on the Caddo word tejas meaning "friends" or "allies", and was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas.
UTAH When the Mormons first came to the territory, they named the area The State of Deseret, a reference to the honeybee in The Book of Mormon This name was the official name of the colony from 1849 to 1850. The nickname, "The Deseret State," is in reference to Utah's original name. Utah is derived from the name of the native tribe known as the Nuutsiu or Utes (which itself may come from the Apache yudah, yiuta or yuttahih, meaning “they who are higher up”), whom the Spanish first encountered in modern-day Utah in the late 1500s. In the tribe's language, ute means “Land of the Sun.”
VERMONT is an English form of the name that French explorer Samuel de Champlain gave to Vermont's Green Mountains on his 1647 map. He called them "Verd Mont" meaning "green mountain."
VIRGINIA and WEST VIRGINIA were both named to honor Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.
WASHINGTON was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute.
WISCONSIN was originally "Meskonsing" and is the English spelling of a French version of a Miami Indian name for a river that runs 430 miles through the center of the state and is now known as the Wisconsin River. At one time the word was translated as meaning "long river," but recent scholarship has concluded that in Miami it meant, "this stream meanders through something red" and that is was a reference to the red sandstone bluffs of the Wisconsin Dells.
WYOMING is thought to be a contraction of the Native American word mecheweamiing meaning "at the big plains" and was first used by the Delaware people as a name for the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania.