A Town by Any Other Name--Part 1
There are at least three variations on this theme of towns changing their names.
Many communities adopted a name at the time of official formation or incorporation that differed from the name the settlement was previously known by. Some of these name changes were brought about when the town applied for a post office and learned that another town with the same or a similar name already existed.
Some towns, on the other hand, did not change their names until after they were officially formed. Many of these changes came soon after formation, but on occasion they might come years later. One of the most common reasons for such a change was to honor a prominent citizen.
A third variation on the theme of name changes involved a new town being established near an older one. If the new town began to outpace the original community, the general area, which had originally been known by the old town’s name, would gradually take on the name of the new town. Eventually the old town would be engulfed by or completely outstripped by the new one to the point that the original town would lose its identify and either die or become part of the new town.
Examples of all three phenomena occur in the naming history of Ozarks’ towns. Let’s look, in alphabetical order, at a sampling of towns in the southern Missouri Ozarks that are known today by a name that differs from the original.
Ava, the seat of Douglas County, did not change its name as such, but it had a forerunner named Militia Springs, a Civil War encampment with a government post office. When Ava was formed a mile or so to the south at the end of the war, the post office was moved to Ava.
Crane, located on Crane Creek in northern Stone County, was originally called Hickory Grove. About 1890, the town sought a post office and learned a Hickory Grove already existed in Missouri. The town changed its name to match the name of the creek it was on.
Dadeville in eastern Dade County was established before the Civil War as Melville. In 1865, the name was changed to Dadeville, supposedly because postal workers kept getting it confused with a town named Millville.
Doolittle in Phelps County was originally called Centertown because it was halfway between Rolla and Newburg. The town boomed during construction of nearby Fort Leonard Wood in the early 1940s, and it was incorporated and renamed in honor of World War II general Jimmy Doolittle.
Farmington was originally called Murphy’s Settlement after David Murphy, the first white settler, who arrived in the late 1790s. In 1822, Murphy donated land for the town as a prospective county seat for Francois County, and it was shortly afterwards named Farmington because of the fertile soil in the area.
Fremont was established along the railroad in Carter County in the late 1880s. It was originally going to be called McDonald after the man who laid out the town. However, the post office rejected the name, and the town was named Peggy instead, after the wife of an early settler. In 1907, the name was changed to Fremont.
Irondale in southeast Washington County was laid out in 1858. In 1906, the town changed its name to Savoy so that people wouldn’t confuse it with Ironton and Iron Mountain, but the name was changed back to Irondale the next year.
Jane, in southern McDonald County, was originally called White Rock Prairie, but when a post office was established in 1882, it was named Jane after the postmaster's daughter.
Lebanon, the seat of Laclede County, was originally called Wyota after the Wyota Indian village where it was established. It was renamed after Lebanon, Tennessee, which was the hometown of a respected local minister.