Arizona Place Names (Pt. 1) explores a slew of cities with Spanish, Indian and random origins. This post touches on place names stemming from prominent people and patriotism.
Excerpt from Arizona Adventure by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.
Patriotism was the motivating factor in the naming of one of northern Arizona’s most prominent cities. A party of immigrants bound for California camped at the foot of the San Francisco Mountains on July 4, 1876. To honor the nation’s centennial, they raised the colors. To celebrate the occasion they called the site Flagstaff.
A group of miners in Santa Cruz County wanted to call their new town “American Flag,” but the idea was nixed in Washington so the folks settled for “Old Glory.” In a surge of patriotic fever during World War I, residents of a tiny community near Ajo wanted to call their town Woodrow to honor the President. Postal authorities refused to allow a town to be named after a living person, so the townspeople compromised and named the town Rowood.
The coming of the Atlantic and Pacific (Sante Fe) Railroad gave birth to several towns along the mainline in northern Arizona. Sanders, Holbrook, Winslow, Seligman, and Kingman, were all named for railroad officials or businessmen with a vested interest. The “billion dollar” copper towns of Jerome and Bisbee were named for a couple of Eastern investors—neither of whom ever took the time to visit his namesake.
Women have played a prominent role in the naming of some Arizona towns and places. When polygamy was outlawed in Utah, those Mormons who wished to continue the practice built a community on the Arizona side of the border. They named their town Fredonia. The free is self-explanatory and “Dona,” is Spanish for woman, thus creating a “Free Woman” or “Fredonia,” Arizona. Sedona is named for Sedona M. Schnebly—a member of an early pioneer family in the area.
“Olive City” was a small ferryboat crossing on the Colorado River named lo honor Olive Oatman, a young girl taken captive by hostile Indians in the 1850s. Miss Oatman survived her five-year ordeal in the Arizona desert, returned to white society and lived a long and productive life. Legend has it the gold-mining boom town of Oatman, in Mohave County, was also named for Olive.