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Arizona Place Names

I was in Prescott recently, walking along Whiskey Row, and decided to spend some time browsing my favorite local bookstore, The Worm. (Wickenburg’s only bookstore sells Christian books, which is fine if all you like to read is Christian books. Personally, I prefer a little variety in my reading material, and I’m saddened that I have to either shop online or drive 40 or more miles to satisfy my appetite for books.)

The Worm stocks a variety of brand new local interest books, best sellers, and used books. It doesn’t stock the books I write, which are computer books, but I don’t hold that against them. After all, who wants to stock books that are worthless after eight or twelve months? (For that matter, who really wants to write them?)

While at The Worm, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s book, On Writing. What a great book! It was extremely refreshing to read a book about writing that I could believe. One that didn’t talk down to the reader like he was some kind of writer wannabe moron.

I also picked up an index to topographical maps for Arizona. The Worm sells topo maps, too, but I couldn’t remember which ones I needed. (Wickenburg used to have a store that sold topo maps, along with local area books and mining equipment. But like so many of the small businesses in Wickenburg, it went under.)

Arizona Place NamesBut the best thing I picked up at the Worm that day was a copy of a book called Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes. This book is a goldmine of information about places in Arizona and how they got their names. Here’s an excerpt about Wickenburg:

Wickenburg, Maricopa Co.
Elevation 2,077 feet. On AT&SF RR, on Hassayampa creek in northwest part of Maricopa county. After Henry Wickenburg, an Austrian, who discovered Vulture mine, 1863, about 15 miles from town. Came to Arizona, as a member of Weaver party. Town is said to have been named by Gov. Goodwin, according to McClintock, who says: “His (Wickenburg’s) death in May, 1905, was by his own hand by a bullet through his head, in his little adobe house on the Hassayampa, a short distance below the town he used to own.” Fish says: “Wickenburg was so named by James A Moor, (he spells it this way) a friend of Wickenburg who lived with him in 1864. Moor wrote several letters to Governor Goodwin and always dated them Wickenburg.” Barney also maks this same statement and says “the town was platted by Bob Groom, 1868,” See Vulture. P.O. Established June 19, 1865. B.F. Howell, P.M.

This book has hundreds of Arizona listings, many of which cover local places with names that have faded from all but the oldest maps. Chris Billings, who wrote an article for this site about local maps (see “Local Area Maps, Lesson 1“) could get all his questions about places like Allah, Matthie, and Love answered by this book. And anyone with an interest in Arizona history could learn about the towns, railroad stations, canyons, mountains, and creeks throughout Arizona.

Arizona Place Names has earned a spot on my bookshelf, right alongside the books about Wickenburg and the rest of Arizona. I only wish I could have picked up a copy here in town.

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