This town was initially named Waterloo. Think of all the grief we have been spared by every cliché-driven sports writer, over the years, beginning stories with, “The Aggies met their Waterloo here today at…” or “The UT Longhorns were no Duke of Wellington Saturday when they were routed by the Baylor Bonaparts.” And on and on. Gag. The named was changed in 1839 when the Texas government was moved here from Houston despite former President Sam Houston’s protests (he liked receiving mail addressed to: “President Houston, Houston, Texas.”) President Mirabeau Lamar thought the capital should be more centrally located, although it was pointed out that the place was in hostile Indian territory. (The day the French ambassador formally presented himself to the Texas government, three hunters were murdered and scalped right outside – where else? -- the Austin City Limits.) So we lucked out in naming our capital city for the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, who was already dead. What if those early Texans preferred Deaf Smith (he got a county named after him) and pronounced it as he did, Deef, rhymes with thief. Good thing they didn’t. Political writers can hack out clichés as well as sports writers. Maybe our Founding Fathers wanted to name this town Washington-on-the-Brazos instead of the other place where they met. Would that ever be confusing. Which Washington? Yes, we lucked out. We had the same fortune in naming a backwater, mosquito infested swamp for the victor of San Jacinto and first president of the Republic, Sam Houston. The name was grabbed by the town’s founders, the Allen brothers who were native New Yorkers. They thought the hero’s title would quicken the town’s growth. What if they’d named their development Backwater or maybe Mosquito Infested Swamp? So we got both our capital and largest city properly named. (San Antonio and El Paso had already been named, and got the pass – or El Paso.) Then the name game went off track. Fort Worth’s handle makes no historic sense. It was an army fort named for Gen. William Worth, who contracted cholera from the troops under his command and died in San Antonio, probably wishing he’d never heard of Texas. Fort Worth is in Tarrant County, for an equally underwhelming reason. It was named for a local hero, Gen. Edward H. Tarrant, who burned three undefended Indian villages in the area only to find that the villages were home to 1,000 warriors who were waiting for him just around the bend. Gen. Tarrant decided to leave. To the east of Cowtown is Dallas, named either for U.S. Vice President George M. Dallas, his brother, Commodore Alexander J. Dallas, or Joseph Dallas, a local resident. None of them made any difference to Texas or to any place else. If Big D was going to become a major city, it should have been named after one of our heroes. No Dallas Cowboys. We could cheer for the Bowie Knives or the Crockett Coonskin Caps. It’s easy to remember that Dallas is in Dallas County, but Houston is in Harris County. The town of Harris is in Hudspeth County. Harris the city and Harris the county aren’t even in the same time zone. Houston County contains the town of Crockett, so what’s in Crockett County? Ozona. Austin is not in Austin County. It is in Travis County. Austin County, just to the west of Houston, is home to Bellville which, by all rights, should be in Bell County but isn’t. As for the town of Travis, it is in Falls County. No, it wasn’t named for William B. Travis but for Travis Jones, who surveyed the site for a town. Then there is the aforementioned President Lamar. There are two towns with his name, neither in Lamar County. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, another Founding Father, has a city and a county named for him. They are not in the same place. In some cases we used both first and last names for counties. Deaf Smith, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg and Tom Green. (Val Verde doesn’t count.) In other instances they got cute and named the county seat for someone’s first name and named the county for his last name. That’s why, in honor of Anson Jones, we have Anson in Jones County. Then there is just the opposite: in honor of Collin McKinney: we have McKinney in Collin County. Good thing there is not a Mirabeau Buonaparte located in Lamar County The city of Bowie is not in Bowie County. The city of Sherman is hundreds of miles away from Sherman County. There is a city of Pecos and a Pecos County. Not in the same place. Neither of the two Camerons is in Cameron County, but Brownsville is. It was named Fort Texas, but was renamed Fort Brown in honor of Maj. Jacob Brown, who died during a Mexican attack on the stronghold. I still prefer Fort Texas. The huge majority of our counties and cities are named for early Texans, others for saints and some for geography. But I can find no county in Texas named for a woman. Those early Texans had no idea how difficult it was going to be for future generations to learn the difference – and there is one – in the town and county of Jefferson, not to be confused with Jeff Davis. How could our ancestors have been so haphazard about place names when those same people created the perfect legislature? They must have been loaded. Yes, that had to be what happened. Houston and Austin and their buddies had been hitting the bottle one night and decided to name places. They stood around a big map of Texas, casually writing their names in the blanks. Houston studied the map carefully then said, “We got everybody covered. Rusk, Wharton and Navarro and Zavala. We got Travis, Bowie and Crockett.” “Check.” “Wait a minute.” “What’s the matter, Sam?” “Who the hell is Dallas?”  Find Ashby at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location