The Dallas Morning News
Name that town
Uncertain about Texas towns’ unique names? Texana buffs are happy to circle back and dish about Lickskillet, Bigfoot and more
How did that Texas city get such a weird name, and how do you pronounce it?
It’s easy for native and non-native Texans to get confused by some of Texas’ more unique place names. Bexar sounds like “bear.” Gruene is pronounced like the color. And don’t get us started on Pflugerville.
Then, there are the towns with names that are easy to pronounce but hard to understand. Think about Cut and Shoot, Bug Tussle, Levelland, Uncertain and DISH.
Two readers, Richard Todd from Highland Village and Jacque Vilet from Richardson, wondered how some Texas towns got their names, and how
they’re pronounced. We’ll take a stab at answering these questions submitted to Curious Texas, a project of The Dallas
Morning News that invites you to join in our reporting process. The idea is simple: You have questions, and our journalists are trained to track down answers.
This is by no means a complete list of unique Texas town names. There are whole books written on the subject. But consider it an introductory geography course for the newly inducted Texan, compiled from local and state historians, records and books.
Terlingua (tur-LING-wa) Terlingua means “three languages” and was founded in an area near Big Bend where speakers of English, Spanish and American Indian languages met.
Gruene (GREEN) This little community, home to “the oldest dance hall
in Texas,” on the north side of New Braunfels, was founded by Ernst Gruene in 1845.
DISH This Denton County town was originally named Clark. The town voted to rename itself in 2005 as part of a publicity stunt with Dish Network in exchange for free satellite service.
Uncertain The origin of Uncertain is, well, uncertain. It either was the location of a landing where it was difficult for boats to moor, or it was home to less-than-dependable fishermen.
Fate It’s short for Lafayette, although it is unclear which Lafayette this town is named for.
Boerne (BURN-ee) Named by a group of German settlers for Ludwig Boerne, a German author.
Texana (tex-ANN-a) Originally named for Santa Anna, the Mexican general. In 1835, at the height of the revolution against Mexico and Santa Anna’s army, the town voted to change its name to one more friendly to the cause of Texas independence. The old town was flooded to make Lake Texana, but you can still visit a Texana Museum in nearby Edna.
Tarzan Tant Lindsey submitted 14 book names for the town’s name. The U.S. Postal Service approved Tarzan. Telegraph The first telegraph poles in Kimble County were built from trees cut down in this town. Bigfoot Named for Texas revolutionary William A. “Bigfoot” Wallace. Buda (bee-EUH-duh) Legend has it, a widow operated a hotel here for years. Once, a traveler asked a Spanish-speaking local where he was, and he replied that this was the city of widows. Viuda is the Spanish word for widow.
Lickskillet (LICK-skill-it) Oxen drivers, it is said, sipped spring water at this spot and “licked their skillets clean.” This Texas town sits just across the border from Bethany, La.
Dumas (DOOM-us) Named for surveyor Louis Dumas.
Quanah (KWON-uh) Named for legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker, who fought against American soldiers in the Red River War and eventually surrendered, bringing his people onto the federal reservations. Balmorhea (BALL-mah-REY) Three men named Balcom, Morrow and Rhea established the town, home to San Solomon Springs and Balmorhea State Park.
Cibolo (SIB-uh-lo) Cibolo translates to buffalo in Spanish, and this was once the site of an American Indian hunting ground. Nacogdoches (nack-uh-DOHchess) Named for the Nacogdoche people who once called this area home.
Palacios (pull-ASH-us) Originally named “Tres Palacios,” or three palaces, there are a few stories about the town’s origin. The most likely, however, is that the governor of the area at the time was named Palacios. New Braunfels(new BRAWNfulls) Named by German settlers for Prince Carl de Solms-Braunfels, from the Braunfels estate on the Lahn River in Germany.
Mobeetie (mo-BEE-tee) An American Indian word for “sweet water,” Mobeetie was known for its natural spring.
Fair Play Travelers through this part of Panola County were impressed by fair fees at a boarding house and general store here.
Sweetwater Local elm trees and gypsum gave the water here a sweet taste. Texas Rangers knew the spot as a place to get refreshed.
Bug Tussle Legend has it, there was once a Sunday picnic here that was so overrun by a swarm of bugs that it was forever enshrined as “Bug Tussle.” Pflugerville (FLEW-ger-ville) Named for German settler Henry Pfluger, forever the cause of consonant consternation.
Levelland (LEVEL-land) If you’ve ever been to this part of the Panhandle, you’ll know why this town was so named. It is, truly, level land. Hico (HIGH-co) The first postmaster of this town was from Hico, Ky. Dallas Nobody knows why Dallas is so named. It was founded by John Neely Bryan in 1841.
Gun Barrel City The city’s motto, “We shoot straight with you,” inspired this unique name when the town was incorporated in 1969. The city map also looks like a gun’s barrel.
Cut and Shoot As legend has it, there was a pastor accused of impropriety with local married women. One Sunday, a mob of men came after him with knives and guns to “cut and shoot.”
Mexia (muh-HEY-uh) Named for Texas revolutionary Jose Antonio Mexia. There’s a joke about two visitors who went to a Dairy Queen in Mexia and were debating how to pronounce the name. They asked the local behind the counter and he looked at them funny for a moment, then said slowly, “Daaairy Queen.”
Refugio (re-FURY-oh) Named for the Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission, founded here in 1793. Waxahachie (walks-uh-HATCHee) This one’s another mystery. The oft-repeated story says it’s an American Indian word that means “cow creek” or “cow chips,” but that’s not completely true. The city’s founder might have merged words for “creek” — “hatchie” — and the name of the Waxawa people.
Palestine (PAL-es-teen) Some of the earliest settlers here were from Palestine, Ill.
Italy (IT-lee) There are many stories about how and why this Ellis County town was named after the Mediterranean country because of its climate similar to “sunny Italy.”
Dime Box Named for a community mailbox that charged 10 cents per postal delivery. Ding Dong Brothers I.V. and Z.O. Bell had a store here with a clever advertising sign featuring the words “Ding” and “Dong.” Muleshoe Named for the Muleshoe Ranch, which used a “U” brand near this part of Bailey County. White Settlement This Tarrant County town, originally founded by white settlers,