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A to Z Missouri: The Dictionary of Missouri Place Names... Missouri History and Heritage Titles. Hike, Bike, Explore, Float, Paddle or Pedal Missouri's Outdoor Daytrip and Weekend Getaway Destinations with Pebble Publishing Guidebooks as your guide!

A to Z Missouri: The Dictionary of Missouri Place Names

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By Margot Ford McMillen. Illustrated by Dennis Murphy. ISBN: 0-9646625-4-X. $14.95.

Place names are, in a sense, a comedy of errors. Though many place names were the result of careful deliberation, many towns hark back to chance events, mishaps and stodgy local characters. California, Missouri is a perfect example. Though it seems this town was named during the California Gold Rush, it was actually named for California Wilson. At the raising of the first log buildings, he offered two gallons of whiskey to the local boys if they’d name the town after him.

In 1886, the postal system ordered that names had to be unique. Of the many Cross Roads and Stringtowns, there could only officially be one of each. In 1894, the post office went a step further and ordered "from this date only short names or names of one word will be accepted…"

When application was made, local names were often thought unflattering and were changed. Pucky Huddle was changed to the more refined Davisville. Toad Suck became Millersville and Exist, where people barely got by, changed to Burch.

Post offices requirements gave people a new way to complain about the government and as a result we have some of our best place name stories. The town of Glad became Plad due to a clerical error that was too hard to get fixed. Enough became a dot on the map after two hundred other post offices names were rejected.

The requirement that names be distinct helps explain Peculiar, Rat and Ink. The requirement that names be short was taken to mean three letters. The result was town names just three letters long—from Abo to Zig.

Reading the stories of Missouri place names and their origins, history comes alive in vivid detail. The stories within these covers will definitely turn many a smile and offer insight into the care and comedy that helped found our state.

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Reviews of A to Z, Missouri:

The Dictionary of Missouri Place Names:

How interesting! Reading about the pioneer days in Missouri. I’m seeing our towns and cities in a whole new light… Phillip Ratterman, Modern day explorer, Kansas City

A to Z, Missouri Table of Contents

Native American Names
Robert Ramsay file
Daniel Boone
Charles Dickens' Eden
German Place Names
How to pronounce the name Missouri
New Madrid handbill
Rural Federal Delivery Mail
Saint names
U.S. Board of Geographic Names
Pronunciation Key
List of Sources and References

Excerpted from A to Z Missouri

By Margot Ford McMillen.

Copyright © 1996. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

Zalma [ZAL muh] (Bollinger). This town is named for Zalma Block, friend of a railroad builder (GS). P.O. 1890-now. Pop. 83.

Zanoni [zan OH nee] (Ozark). This post office was named for an 1843 novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton (GS). P.O. 1898-1927, 1930-now.

Zebra (Camden). Some say this town was named for striped rocks on the bluffs (LI), but it was probably named after a person named Ziebar (RF). Today, Zebra lies under the Lake of the Ozarks. P.O. 1886-1935.

Zell (Ste. Genevieve). Before the Civil War, this town was called The German Settlement and it still has pride in its German heritage. There are Zells in many parts of Germany and nobody knows which Zell this one refers to (LI). P.O. 1881-1922. Pop. 100.

Zeta (Stoddard). Named by a classics lover for the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet, this was the place where a little group of believers went to wait for Judgment Day on March 1, 1914 (LI). P.O. 1895-1896, 1907-1936.

Zewapeta [zuh WAH puh tuh] (Scott). See Tywappity Bottoms.

Zig (Adair). This was named for a popular citizen, Harrison Ziegler (RF). P.O. 1870-1908.

Zonker (Douglas). This post office bore the family name of the postmaster (RF).

Zumwalt's Fort (St. Charles). This early fort provided shelter for local families in time of attack. It was named for Jacob Zumwalt (RF).

Zwanzig [ZWAN zig] (Morgan). This name, meaning "twenty" in German, was given for a local man, August Zwanzig (RF). P.O. 1892-1901.

About the Author

Margot Ford McMillen was born and raised in Chicago and the suburbs, received her B.A. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and moved to Missouri in 1972. She has lived in Missouri ever since, and has raised two daughters in Callaway County. She has also devoted herself to learning and writing about the folklife of the state.

McMillen's earliest articles appeared in the St. Louis and Kansas City newspapers, and since then she has written for national quilting magazines, farming magazines and old-time music magazines. She received her M.A. in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1987.

McMillen's book "The Masters and Their Traditional Arts" and a series of brochures on Missouri traditions were published by the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1986. From 1988 to 1994, she published "Our Missouri", a quarterly journal for elementary students studying Missouri history and culture. She is a regular contributor to the "Missouri Conservationist".

In 1994, the University of Missouri Press published her book "Paris, Tightwad, and Peculiar: Missouri Place Names" as part of its Missouri Heritage Readers Series. In 1995, she was invited by the Secretary of State Rebecca Cook to write the keynote essay on childhood for the "Missouri Blue Book", the state manual.

McMillen teaches critical thinking for the English Department at Westminster College in Fulton and lives on a farm in Callaway County. She is married to Professor Howard Marshall of the University of Missouri-Columbia Department of Art and Archaeology. On their farm, they raise Salers cattle and enjoy a varying selection of dogs, cats, horses, hogs and chickens.


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