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Think You Know From Where These Names Came?

What’s in a name, or from where did that name come?

I am always fascinated by the names of streets and cities, and I often wonder the origins. Thanks to a 1968 book I found about Los Angeles, “Los Angeles: Portrait of an Extraordinary City,” I found some answers.

Alhambra — This city (current population: about 83,000) south of Pasadena is named for a Moorish fortress built in Granada, Spain, popularized by Washington Irving’s book of essays, “Tales of the Alhambra.” It was named by Benjamin Davis Wilson — the same person from which Mount Wilson gets its name.

Anaheim — A German colony was established there in the 1850s. As it was near the Santa Ana River, the people called it Anaheim, meaning “home on the Ana.”

Beverly Hills — Named by landowner Burton Green after Beverly Farms, Mass. Interestingly, Benjamin Davis Wilson was a previous owner of the land.

Burbank — Dr. David Burbank was a landowner, sheep raiser, dentist and builder.

El Monte — Spanish for “the wooded place” and so named because of the thick willow growth along the San Gabriel River.

Figueroa Street — named for Jose Figueroa (1792-1835), governor of Alta California who oversaw the secularization of the missions.

Los Angeles — In 1781, settlers named the town “El Pueblo de Neustra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).” When Spain and Mexico owned California, it was shortened to “El Pueblo.” Under United States control, it was shortened to Los Angeles.

Pasadena — OK, this gets crazy. The word is from the Chippewa language (meaning “of the valley”), even though the area’s earliest residents  were Tongva. It again involves our friend Benjamin Davis Wilson. He owned much of the land, and in 1873, an asthmatic friend from Indiana visited him and, after enjoying three really good nights of sleep, wanted to recommend this place for his patients with tuberculosis. They started a company, sold stock and incorporated in 1874 as Indiana Colony.

By 1890, the colony still didn’t have its own post office (the mail went to Los Angeles), but the Postmaster General didn’t accept Indiana Colony as a suitable name. So, the town fathers put up three names to a vote: Indianola, Granada and Pasadena, suggested by Thomas Elliott, who had a missionary friend who worked with the Chippewa in Minnesota. Actually, Elliott suggested four Chippewa names, translated as Crown of the Valley, Hill of the Valley, Valley of the Valley and Key of the Valley. Everyone liked “of the valley.”

Until next time! Use the right words!


November 28, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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