Unique Illinois Town Names

By: Brooke Mason

bnmason@lc.edu

Alton, IL – Alton was developed as a river town in January 1818 by Rufus Easton, who named it after his son. The Alton area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years before the 19th-century founding by European Americans of the modern city. Earlier native settlement is demonstrated by archaeological artifacts and the famous prehistoric Piasa bird painted on a cliff face nearby.

Arrowsmith, IL – It was at first thought that the name of the town would be Weldon, but it was soon learned that this name had been taken by a newly founded town in DeWitt County. Arrowsmith takes its name from the township in which it was located, which had been named for early settler Ezekiel Arrowsmith.

Assumption, IL – Assumption originally was called “Tacusah”. The present name is after Assumption, Canada. Assumption lays claim to the deepest coal mine (abandoned in the 1930`s) in the state at over 1000′ below the surface.

Beardstown, IL – Beardstown was first settled by Thomas Beard in 1819; he erected a log cabin at the edge of the Illinois River, from which he traded with the local Native Americans and ran a ferry. The town was laid out in 1827 and was incorporated as a city in 1896. During the Black Hawk War in 1832, it was a base of supplies for the Illinois troops. 

Beaverville, IL – In 1905, the village name was changed to “Beaverville”, when the village founders realized that there was another town in Illinois named St. Mary. The new name was inspired by the profusion of beavers in the area in the early 19th century, when Beaver Lake right across the border in Indiana still existed.

Bone Gap, IL – That sounds like a medical problem. According to local historians, the Piankeshaw Indians established a village in the vicinity of modern Bone Gap prior to the arrival of permanent European settlers. This village was situated in a gap in the tree line. When the first permanent European settlers arrived in 1830, they found a large number of discarded animal bones left by the Piankeshaw inhabitants and named the settlement “Bone Gap.”

Carlock, IL – Carlock was laid out on January 5, 1888, by John Franklin Carlock. Mr. Carlock owned 160 acres of land. One 80-acre tract was used to plat the original town of Carlock.

Carol Stream, IL – Jay W. Stream became frustrated with red tape while negotiating a planned 350–400 home subdivision in nearby Naperville, Illinois. A Naperville clerk reportedly advised Stream to “build your own town”, and in 1957, Stream began buying unincorporated farmland outside Wheaton. He hoped to allow people to work in the town they lived in, rather than have to commute to Chicago. Jay later named the town after his daughter who was in a bad accident and was put into a coma. After she awoke from the coma and learned that the town was named after her she thought it was odd and silly at first. 

Carpentersville, IL – Julius Angelo was the founder of Carpentersville, Illinois and its first prominent citizen. He and his family ended up staying in the area to settle what was then called Carpenters’ Grove.

Cave-In-Rock, IL – The town was originally known as Rock and Cave, Illinois, with a post office under this name. On October 24, 1849, the town was officially renamed Cave-In-Rock. Cave-In-Rock was incorporated as a village in 1901. I am actually from this village of 300 people or less. It is named solely after the famous cave on the river. The cave has a pretty cool history. The town is right on the Ohio River. Back in the day there used to be river pirates. It sounds silly but it’s very much true. The cave was a stop that the pirates always made. It eventually became a hang out/bar for the pirates. There were plenty of fights and deaths in and near the cave which gives it a creepy feel still to this day. The Cave is always open to visitors if the river isn’t up. 

Coal City, IL – Coal City was incorporated in 1870, named for coal mines in the vicinity that were built following the 1820 discovery of large coal reserves. During the 20th century, coal mining operations in the area declined, with the local economy being driven more by growth in manufacturing and the construction of nearby power plants.

Cornland, IL – Cornland was laid out and platted in 1871 when the Gilman, Clinton & Springfield Railroad was extended to that point.[3] A post office called Cornland has been in operation since 1872. I’m assuming it was named that because they farmed lots of corn. Typical Illinois things. 

Deer Creek, IL – Deer Creek was founded in 1830. Deer Creek received its name from the creek that ran through the northwest part of the village and the red deer that roamed the woods and came to the creek for water. 

Energy, IL – What is now Energy was originally known as “Fordville,” which was established in the early 1900s as a stop along the Coal Belt Railway. It was named for Wiley Ford and his son, William, who platted the village. In 1909, Herbert Taylor purchased the coal mining operations in the area. He marketed his company’s coal under the name “Energy,” and in 1913 he convinced the Fordville village council to adopt this name for the village. The post office changed its name the same year.

Eureka, IL – The city is named from the Greek expression Eureka, meaning “I have found it”.

Flat Rock, IL – The first Postmaster of Flat Rock was William Thompson, who kept the office in his residence, a mile West of the present town as now located. A big Flat Rock, somewhere near his home gave it the name.

Flossmoor, IL – In the late 1890s the ICG decided to sell the property for development and sponsored a contest to select a name for the Village. “Floss Moor,” a Scotch name meaning “dew on the heather” and “gentle rolling countryside” was selected and approved by the U.S. Post Office.

Foosland, IL – The village is named after William Foos, who owned 3,500 acres in the area in the 1840s.

Geff, IL – Although its official name is Jeffersonville, the village is known locally as Geff, with that spelling appearing on local road signs, the US Post office, and many official documents. “Geff” is pronounced as though it were spelled “Jeff”. The name change is said to have been made during the 19th century by the railroad, in order to distinguish the village in Illinois from Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Gladstone, IL – Gladstone was originally named “Sagetown”, after Gideon Sage upon whose land the town was platted. Gladstone is named after the English statesman William Ewart Gladstone.

Golf, IL – Located near Glenview, the village of Golf owes its existence and its name to its proximity to the Glen View Country Club, which was founded in 1897.

Good Hope, IL – Scarcely had the line of the T., P. & W. railroad been surveyed, before J. E. Morris had platted a town on the northeast quarter of section 31, in Walnut Grove township, to which was given the name of Sheridan. In July, 1867, W. F. Blandin laid off a few blocks a little west of the proposed town of Sheridan, on the southeast quarter of section 25, and the northeast quarter of section 36, Sciota township, and christened the same Milan. Here there were two rival towns. A postoffice named Good Hope had been in the neighborhood for some years, and the different names by which the town or towns were called were a little amusing. The railroad company issued its first tickets to Sheridan, and train men called out Milan as the cars stopped, but all letters had to be addressed to Good Hope. This state of affairs continued for some time, until finally both names of the town were dropped, and the name of the postoffice chosen as the one by which it should be known.

Gurnee, IL – The name Gurnee was said to have come from Louis J. Gurnee who did the surveying for the railroad; however, other sources indicate Walter S. Gurnee, one of the first settlers in the Chicago area and one-time Mayor of Chicago, was the person whose name was given to the town.

Illiopolis, IL – The name was formed from Illinois and -polis, a Greek suffix meaning “city”.

Joy, IL – The origin of the name: “Joy” was named when founded in 1869 after the president of the CB&Q Railroad, J.F. Joy.

Junction, IL – Junction was founded in the 1880s, and was named for its location at the junction of the L&N and B&O railroads.

Keithsburg, IL – It was named for Robert Keith, a pioneer settler.

Ladd, IL – The settlement was originally named Osgood after the manager of the Whitebreast Fuel Company. They set up the town in 1888. Ladd was incorporated on June 7, 1890, and was founded by George D. Ladd, a resident of Peru, Illinois. Ladd was originally named Laddville.

Makanda, IL – Also known as the hippie town. The village was named after Makanda, a local Native American chieftain. Makanda is a gorgeous little town with quaint attractions. They have a little café, an art museum with a garden in the back. Makanda was the best place to view the total solar eclipse in 2017. Makanda also hosts two annual events, The Makanda Spring Fest, and The Makanda Vulture Fest. If you are ever near Carbondale, IL I would recommend stopping by Makanda. 

Muddy, IL – The modern village of Muddy had its start as a mining settlement established by the Harrisburg Big Muddy Coal Company, for which it was named, in 1903.

Nauvoo, IL – The area of Nauvoo was first called Quashquema, named in honor of the Native American chief who headed a Sauk and Fox settlement numbering nearly 500 lodges. In late 1839, arriving Latter Day Saints bought the small town and in April 1840 it was renamed Nauvoo by Joseph Smith, who led the Latter-Day Saints to Nauvoo to escape conflict with the state government in Missouri. The name Nauvoo is derived from the traditional Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains…” By 1844 “Nauvoo’s population had swollen to 12,000, rivaling the size of Chicago” at the time. Nauvoo attracts visitors for its historic importance and its religious significance to members of several groups: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (RLDS); other groups stemming from the Latter-Day Saint movement; and the Icarians. The city and its immediate surrounding area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Nauvoo Historic District.

Nebo, IL – The first post office was established in December 1852. The term “Nebo” is mentioned at various times in the Bible, which may be the namesake.

Oblong, IL – Oblong was incorporated in 1883. The original town site was on a naturally occurring oblongular prairie, hence the name.

Ogden, IL – The town was named after a pioneer settler, John Ogden. An agreement was made that if John sold a tract of land to the railroad company, they would name the town after him.

Paw Paw, IL – The name Paw Paw was derived from a nearby grove of Pawpaw trees on the edge of a 2,000-acre forest. Paw Paw is home to a house which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 

Pawnee, IL – The community is named after the Pawnee Tribe.

Pearl, IL – The village, settled in the late 19th century, is named after pearl buttons drilled from the large supply of native mussels that once lived in the nearby Illinois River.

Ransom, IL – The village was named for American Civil War general Thomas E. G. Ransom, who was born in Vermont but lived as a young man in Illinois.

Romeoville, IL – In 1845, when the citizens of Juliet changed their town name to Joliet, in honor of Louis Jolliet, residents of Romeo responded by adopting the name Romeoville. That’s kind of like the actual story. Juliet dies first and then Romeo does the same. Juliet the town changed their name so Romeo the town changed theirs. Maybe they planned it all along. 

Sandwich, IL – The town’s history is tied to politician “Long John” Wentworth and his efforts to move the Illinois border with Wisconsin from being even with the bottom of Lake Michigan to its present location. Wentworth and Almon Gage worked extensively to create the community and also to get the railroad stop created. In honor of his efforts, Wentworth was given the opportunity to name the town. He named it after his home of Sandwich, New Hampshire. Now I have to find out why Sandwich, NH was named that.. It never ends. 

Saybrook, IL – Known by locals as the “City of Shade and Water,” it is believed to be named in honor of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. 

Steeleville, IL – Steeleville had the names Alma, Georgetown and Steele’s Mill before obtaining its present name. The area near Steeleville was first settled by John Steele in 1807. In 1810 George Steele (John’s son) settled in what came to be known as Georgetown. I’m assuming they named the town after the Steele family.

Texico, IL – Texico was named by Cashus M. Columbus Theodore Claybourn (1860 – 1936), a resident of Texico from his birth until 1901, when he moved to Texas. Cashus derived the name of “Texico” by using Tex for Texas where he had moved, the I for Illinois, the C for Claybourn, and O for Osborn’s, a family which owned the land on the south side of the main road in the town. Now if that isn’t a thought-out town name, I don’t know what is. 

Thebes, IL – Thebes was established in 1835. At first it was known as Sparhawk Landing. It was the county seat of Alexander County from 1846 until 1859. Thebes, like the city of Cairo, also in Alexander County, is named after the Egyptian city of the same name. This part of southern Illinois is known as Little Egypt. Abraham Lincoln practiced law here. 

Waterloo, IL – They named their settlement Bellefontaine (originally La Belle Fontaine), meaning ‘beautiful spring.’ This name related to a spring of water a mile south of the site of Waterloo, a frequent campsite on journeys between Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and St. Louis. As the years passed, the town was divided into two parts: Bellefontaine at the south and Peterstown at the north. The two communities were divided by a creek, and there was said to have been intense rivalry between them. Legend has it that in 1818, a man named Charles Carroll, an Irishman, came upon the scene, and to the astonishment of the Peterstown men and the Bellfontainers, ignored the rivalry and built his house on one side of the creek, his barn on the other and said “It won’t be Bellefontaine, and it won’t be Peterstown, but begorra, I’ll give yen’s both your Waterloo.”

Waterman, IL – The village is known for the “Waterman and Western” train line that operates in Lion’s Club Park. Surveyed and plotted in March of 1872, the town was named in honor of Daniel Waterman, General Solicitor of the Chicago and Iowa Railroad which reached Waterman in December of 1870.

Zeigler, IL – Zeigler incorporated in 1914 and was named for Levi Zeigler Leiter, the father of Joseph Leiter, the founder of the Zeigler Coal Company.

 

Namesake Story Unknown

Alsip, IL – Alsip is labeled as a village although the population is over 19,000. It is a suburb of Chicago which explains why they call it a village. I wonder if everyone there sips their drinks.

Apple River, IL – I’m just going to take a wild guess and say there was an apple tree nearby the river. 

Aroma Park, IL – I’m just assuming this town is really smelly.

Bluffs, IL – If there aren’t bluffs here then what is the point? I’m going to call their bluff.

Big Rock, IL – Which came first, Little Rock or Big Rock?

Birds, IL – Birds has a population of 51 people. The town was disincorporated in 2009. We may never know why it was named Birds. 

Boody, IL – There is no information as to why this small town was named Boody. However, there was a man named Larry Warren who was a longtime resident of Boody. He donated his estate to the town after he passed. His estate was turned into a park and is now named Warren Park. 

Bath, IL – Every house in this town should have a bathtub.

Brownstown, IL – Welcome to Brownstown where everything is brown. 

Buffalo, IL – I’m sure this town was named by the amount of buffalo in the area when the town was settled. 

Burnt Prairie, IL – A story too sad to tell, so they just named the town after it. 

Butler, IL – I’m not sure about this one but it could possibly be named after someone.

Cherry, IL – I could not find out why the town was named Cherry. However, I did find out that this town was home to one of the worst mine accidents in the United States. The accident killed 259 coal miners back in 1909. A very tragic thing to remember the town by. 

Eagarville, IL – I’m guessing they were pretty eager to name the town.

Fisher, IL – The town is all land with no nearby body of water. So, my guess is that it was named after someone. 

Golden Eagle, IL – There is no name origin to the town. However, there was a strong Native American presence in the town before it was settled. I want to believe that the town was named Golden Eagle by the Native Americans or at least named by the settlers because of the Native Americans. 

Goodwine, IL – Count me in!

Hometown, IL – Imagine being raised here and when someone asks you where you grew up and you say Hometown and they look at you funny because you didn’t quite answer the question, but you actually did. 

Illinois City, IL – Simple enough, a city in Illinois. 

Industry, IL – I wonder what kind of industry? 

Justice, IL – I bet justice is served well in this town. 

Liverpool, IL – There’s what in the pool?!?

Loogootee, IL – I could not find any information on this towns name. There is also a Loogootee, Indiana. 

Mark, IL – I’m sure Mark was a great guy that the town was named after. 

Mechanicsburg, IL – I’m bet you will be fine if your car ever breaks down in this town. 

Saint Elmo, IL – I had no idea Elmo was a saint. 

Teutopolis, IL – Teutopolis, “City of the Teutons”, or Germans, was established in 1839 along the National Road, now U.S. Route 40. It is the only town in the United States with this name. The town was incorporated by two men from Germany who came to the US to purchase land to sell to the government. 

Vienna, IL – Vienna was originally a Native American trading post in the early 1800s, the forming of Vienna far preceded the rise of the railroad and coal industries in the region. Platted as early as 1818 – the same year Illinois became a state – and named the county seat, Vienna was incorporated as a village in 1837 and then as a city in 1893.

Walnut, IL – People from Walnut are identified as “Walnutties” as a unique response to the demonym.

Washburn, IL – I think that’s pretty good advice. 

Witt, IL – I imagine they were so proud of this name. 

 

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