What Is In a Name?

Every state has them, those bizarre and funny town names, creeks and rivers.  Arizona has no shortage of them.  I often wonder where the names come from.  Did a group of town councilmen have too much to drink or too much sun and decided that “Why” a good name for their town? Perhaps a bloody battle or another event occurred and the creek or town was named after that incident? Or better yet, it was named after a person with a wacky name?  I decided to check into the stories behind some of these unusual names to see if I can get to the bottom of where the names came from.

Wet Beaver Creek & Dry Beaver Creek: 
 Named for the abundant amount of beavers that lived in the area.  Mines out of the gutter people on other possible reasons for the names, lol.

Bloody Basin: This is a historical area where dinosaurs once dominated and in the early 1900’s a bloody battle against Yavapai hostiles and a military outfit once fought. Many were killed during this battle.

Horsethief Basin:  
Not much information found about this place but I imagine the name had to do with horse thieves (duh)

Is actually an area where retired aircraft are kept until they are turned into scrap metal.  The southwest is a great location for these boneyards because of the dry conditions which reduces corrosion.

Bootlegger Crossing:  This area is located near Williams, Arizona. I didn’t find much about the history of the name but I imagine that someone like Granny Clampit or Bo & Luke Duke once sold their “homemade remedies” or booze in that area.  Must have been a hot meeting place to make the exchange.

Bumble Bee:  This place now stands as a ghost town in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona. It once was a booming town with a stagecoach stop, outpost for the U.S. Cavalry and post office. With the downfall of mining and stagecoach runs, the town eventually was abandoned. Bumble Bee was named for the nearby Bumble Bee Creek.  And here I thought it was named for all the bees that were buzzing around the area.

Goobertown: I couldn’t get enough information on this town so I just figured it was named after a goober, lol. (Perhaps Goober Pyle?)

Goodyear: This town was named for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company that purchased it in 1917.
Nothing:  Stories were told by the people living this town to anyone who traveled through; the town was named by a bunch of drunks.  LOL, no surprise there.

Speaking of surprise, this Arizona town was founded in 1983 by developer Homer C. Ludden and named after his hometown of Surprise, Nebraska.

Why: This town sits in the Y-intersection of State Routes 85 and 86 and the founders were going to call it “Y”.  Apparently there was an Arizona law that required all city and town names to be at least three letters, the name was changed to “Why”.

Ajo: The word Ajo (pronounced AH-hoe) is Spanish for garlic.  Some say the Spanish may have named the place after O’odham or paint (o’oho), which sounds similar to Ajo.   The red paint pigment taken from the area by the Tohono O’odham aided in giving Ajo its name.

Hell Hole: In 1860, when Senator Benjamin Wade stated that Arizona was “just like Hell” because of the lack of water and prominent people, it created a song, “Hell in Arizona”.  Basically the song was about how the Devil was given Arizona because of various types of horrid animals and plants.  There are a few places around the state known as “Hell Holes”.   

Santa Claus and Christmas:
Someone had a sense of humor naming towns in Arizona after a person and winter season that we associate with the North, frickin’ cold, Pole.   Santa Claus is located northwest of Kingman and designed by Nina Talbot, a huge real estate agent in California.  Was it the fact that she sold many homes or that she weighed 300 pounds that made her huge?  Anyhoo, she opened the town of Santa Claus in 1937, modeling it after the North Pole and Santa’s workshop, using it as an attraction to sell the surrounding land.  Christmas: This town got its name when two mines that were thought to be dry and located in the Copper Springs Mountains were shut down and reopened after they resurveyed the area.  Since they were located outside these mountains, they were able to resurrect the mines which were now producing oodles of minerals.  The mines were reopened on Christmas morning and the name “Christmas” stuck. Today, the post office in Christmas receives letters from all over the world during the holiday season to get that Christmas seal stamped on it.

Two Guns: 
Originally this town was called “Canyon Lodge” until the National Trail Highway headed west and later became “Route 66”.  The town folks changed the name of the town to “Two Guns” after one of the local residents, Henry E. Miller, who liked to call himself, “Two Gun Miller.”

Arsenic Tubs: In a mineral hot springs located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Graham County, the combination of the mineral substance in the water and the natural “tubs” in the rocks is what gave this town its name.

Total Wreck:
Named by John L. Dillon in 1875 when he thought the mine that stood firm and rigid, looked like, “A total wreck.”   


  1. great post... what is in a name...

    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    Visit The Madness:

  2. Okay-it's official-we need to go to Bumble Bee and Hell Hole and Total Wreck.

  3. Jeremy; I heard we had a town named after a bunch of drunks, "Nothing". Sometimes the stories of how they were named is just as interesting as the name itself.

    Sis,we need to see if the Brand New Dead Things store is open when we take our trip next week. I would love to see what they are selling. I totally agree about visiting the other places too.

  4. I've never been to the city "Total Wreck" but I dated a girl in college with that nickname.

    It lasted two dates. And she was indeed a total wreck.

  5. That sign in the first picture is hilarious. I love the vulture silhouette too! Can you imagine living in a place called "Hell Hole" or "Total Wreck"? Those names keep the expectations low for a town. ;) I like the town name "Surprise"!

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  7. LinI; I think many of us can relate. I dated a guy who was a "total wreck".

    Justine; it is funny you should say that, because Surprise is where I am living right now. Many years ago it used to be a very small city. The joke was if you drive by Surprise don't blink because "surprise" it will be gone. It is a much bigger place these days

  8. i am totally moving to where you all live, can i stay with you... i make for a good house guest... you see the coolest thing, all i got is the little dog in the snow with her william shatner jacket on...

  9. Jeremy, she wouldn't have to wear her jacket here. The weather has been in the 70's. She would have to deal with my two spoiled pups. They rule the house, lol.

  10. OMG! That is AWESOME!!!!!!! SO glad you had your camera on you to capture this!!!!


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