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Post Office Names


In the early 1900s, many new counties and towns were forming throughout the state and country, which also meant more post offices, which were often named after the town they served, though sometimes they were given different names – perhaps after the first postmaster.

On this date in 1907, the search for meaning and originality in naming towns prompted a commentary in the Bismarck Daily Tribune, which wrote:

"It may seem an easy thing to find a new and appropriate name. For instance, if ... there are a good many oaks in the vicinity, down it goes as Oakville, and one more is added to the 250 places similarly named, thus increasing the chance of missives directed to any one of them ultimately finding the way to the Dead Letter Office."

Many more of these "original" names were shown to be less than original. Some picked names that reminded them of their childhood, explaining why "between six and seven hundred towns have names beginning with the adjective 'new.'"

The names of presidents were also used. Jackson, Washington, and Jefferson were all popular, although Cleveland and Roosevelt were near the bottom of the list, which, the article surmised, was "because they are not yet dead."

Women’s names were another option, from the popular Marian to Hepzibah; men's names, such as William; authors, like Byron, Darwin and Virgil; foreign notable characters, producing names like North Dakota's own Bismarck and Napoleon. Still other names came from foodstuffs, alcohol, colors, tools, and articles of clothing.

Then there were the towns that became Nameless – such as Nameless, Texas; Nameless, Tennessee; and Nameless, North Dakota. North Dakota’s Nameless took the name from the town in Texas. It was located in McKenzie County, near Cartwright.

"How it happened to get that title or how the department approved such a freakish name is a mystery," North Dakota papers reported; but Nameless it was, until it closed in 1916.

But see how we've stayed the same: almost a century later, in 2006, Nameless still existed in Texas and Tennessee, and the ten most common Post Office names in the country were Clinton, Franklin, Madison, Washington, Chester, Marion, Greenville, Springfield, Georgetown, and Salem.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker





The Pioneer Express, August 6, 1909, p3

The Bismarck Daily Tribune, July 28, 1909, p4

The Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 14, 1907, p4