Happy Saturday! - Hope you have a great weekend!
The history of our state capitals' names is as varied as it is storied: Some are named after presidents or notable figures, some are the stuff of legend, and some seem obvious (hello, Oklahoma City) but really have more to them than that. Here are several examples; you can check out the entire list in Reader's Digest.
Joseph Juneau discovered gold in Alaska in 1880 with his prospecting partner, Richard Harris. When other prospectors flocked to the area, Harris named the resulting town after himself: Harrisburg. It was briefly renamed Rockwell, ostensibly because there were too many towns in the U.S. named Harrisburg. But Joe Juneau felt something in the town should be named for him, and in 1881, he garnered enough support to change the name to Juneau. In 1906, the city became the territory capital; Alaska officially became a state, and Juneau became the state capital in 1956. Today, Juneau's natural beauty is offset with one of the strangest roadside attractions in America.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Bernard de la Harpe, a French explorer from New Orleans, noticed an outcropping of rock along the banks of the Arkansas River—the first he had seen since leaving New Orleans—which he called la petite roche (translation: "the little rock"). In 1803, the United States purchased this area, which was then part of the Louisiana Territory, from France (although Native Americans still occupied it). In 1818, boundary lines defining what's now Arkansas were drawn via a treaty that referred to this spot as "Little Rock," and the name stuck. The settlement was designated as the territorial capital in 1820, and in 1836 Arkansas became a state.
The word Honolulu means "protected bay" in the Hawaiian language, and it's thought that there has been a settlement in the spot since the 12th century. Despite English colonists wanting to call it Fair Heaven or Brown's Harbor (after Captain William Brown, who landed there in 1778), the Hawaiian name for the city stuck, and it was ultimately declared capital of the Hawaiian kingdom by King Kamehameha III in 1850, more than a hundred years before Hawaii became a state in 1959.
Frankfort has nothing to do with the similar-sounding German city and everything to do with Stephen Frank, a local settler who was killed during a skirmish with Native Americans in 1780. Because of a ford along the river that ran through the area, a Buffalo trail that led the way for settlers, "Frank's Ford" seemed a good choice. In 1786, the name was shortened to Frankfort, and it beat out other cities to become the capital when Kentucky became a state in 1792.
Montana's state capital was originally named Crabtown after one of the four prospectors who found gold on what's now Helena's main street, which they called "Last Chance Gulch." As more people moved to the town, they decided to rename it, St. Helena, after a town in Minnesota where some of them were from. It was eventually shortened to Helena. (Reportedly, other names were floated, including Pumpkinville and Squashtown, as their meeting was close to Halloween.) Helena became the territory capital in 1875 and retained the honor when Montana became a state in 1889.
Trenton, New Jersey
Here's one of the not-so-surprising facts about George Washington: Trenton is the site of Washington's first victory in the Revolutionary War after the general crossed the Delaware River and arrived there for a surprise attack on Dec. 25, 1776. But surprisingly, Trenton was named for someone else: William Trent, one of the leading landowners in 1719. Initially, it was called Trent Town, which eventually became consolidated into its current form. Trenton became the capital of New Jersey in 1790.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, which means "Holy Faith" in Spanish, is the oldest state capital in U.S.: The city, the second oldest in the country, was founded in 1610. It was a Spanish capital, a Mexican capital, the American territorial capital and, finally, the U.S. state capital from 1912. Sante Fe is not exactly the name that was intended by the man who christened it, however: New Mexico's first governor under Spain, Don Pedro de Peralta, wanted it to be known as "La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís," which means "The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi."
Boise, Idaho (Here's what they had to say about our capital)
Boise (pronounced "boy-see" by locals, not "boy-zee") is a French word that means "wooded," which, legend has it, is what 19th-century French Canadian fur trappers exclaimed when they saw the tree-lined banks of the Boise River: "Les bois!" It appeared like an oasis after crossing the plains of the eastern part of the state. Some accounts say they called it "la rivière boisée," which means "the wooded river." Even today, Boise is known as the "City of Trees." In 1864, a year after Idaho Territory was established with Lewiston as the capital, that distinction moved to Boise, and Idaho became a state in 1890. Today, Boise's old Idaho State Penitentiary is one of the spookiest abandoned places.
I still remember back in 5th grade here in Meridian, Idaho; we learned all the state capitals for a test. I still have most, if not all, memorized, but it was fun to read about how some of them got their names and origins.
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Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!
Matt Capell & Capell Team
Capell Flooring and Interiors
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P.S. Here is joke for you because what would you do without our jokes ;)
What is the capital of Alaska?
Come on, Juneau this one!