Idaho History

Idaho place names have a rich legacy

Lalia Boone’s “Idaho Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary” (1985) is an indispensable source of information for anyone interested in Idaho’s history, geography, place names or folk lore.

My own well-worn copy contains additions and notes made over the past 30 years — and suggests how much more daunting research needs to be done before a second edition could be published.

I never knew Boone, but I admire the tenacity and courage it took for her to undertake such a huge task, even with help from her University of Idaho students over the years.

Lalia Boone was born April 19, 1907, in Tehuacana, Texas. She graduated from Westminster Junior College in Tehuacana in 1925. From 1925 to 1944 she taught school, first in Navaroo County schools, then at Wortham High School in Wortham, Texas, where she was principal from 1944 to 1946. A lifelong scholar, Boone received her bachelor’s in English at East Texas State College in 1938, and her master’s in medieval literature and linguistics at the University of Oklahoma in 1947. In 1951 she became the first woman to receive a doctoral degree at the University of Florida. In 1965 Boone accepted a position as professor of English at the University of Idaho. She retired from teaching in 1973 but stayed active with research and writing. She died at 83 in 1990.

Idaho’s place names tell us so much about our history, geography and ethnic origins that I have always been fascinated by their rich variety and the very sounds of them, whether short and sweet, such as Elk, Rue or Sam, or long and melodious, such as Pahsimeroi or Kooskooskia.

Among names taken from European cities, we have Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Bern, Cambridge, Copenhagen, Dover, Dublin, Florence, Hamburg, Moscow, Naples, Oxford, Paris, Parma and Vienna. Other places are named for the nationalities of early settlers, such as China Gulch, Dutch Flat, French Creek and Irish Canyon.

Among the Idaho place names that I have collected over the years, not included in Boone’s 1985 book, are these: Alkali Flat, Belvidere, Bennett Mountain, Big Eddy, Byron Canyon, Camp Wilbert, Concrete, Crawford, Dufort, Ducommons, Duff, Dustin, Eagle Heights, Eakin, Echo Bay, Edgewood, Edison, Edmunds, Esmeralda, Evolution, Farmington Landing, Fischer, Garnet, Grand Fork, Grove City, Hades, Hancock, Hickey, Highland, Homestead, Hoover, Hugo, Hunter, Kinney, McDonaldsville, McGregor, Merino, Mill, Mowry, Mozart, Nameko, Norwood, Paddy Flat, Plaza, Rattlesnake Station, Rebecca, Reverse, Rubicon, Shultis Spur, Sid, Sierra Nevada, Signal Point, Smelter, Starbuck, Ticeska, Tuttville and Waverly.

These places were named for Idaho women, many of them postmasters of the towns where they served: Addie, Adelaide, Agatha, Amelia, Berenice, Bertha, Blanche, Carrie, Cora, Edna, Grace, Jeanne, Joan, Julia, Josephine, Josie, Kathryn, Letha, Lorene, Louise, Margaret, Marie, Mary, Mollie, Rhoda and Viola.

Among my favorite Idaho place names, for one reason or another, are these: American Girl Gulch, Broken Leg Creek, Bugtown, Bunghole, Calamity Point, Coffee Pot Creek, Curiosity Gulch, Dead Horse Cave, Dishrag Spring, Fred and Mary Draw, Frogtown, Goose Heaven Lake, Gyppo Creek, Hangmans Gulch, Hell Roaring Creek, Hurry Back Creek, Humbug Creek, Lady Face Falls, Lager Beer Gulch, Long Liz Creek, Looking Glass Butte, Outlaw Creek, Purgatory Lake, Red Elephant Gulch, She Devil, Shoo Fly Creek and Whoop-um-up Creek.

Bless the Idaho men and women who left us such a rich legacy.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email