Just like Texans today, our Texian forebears understood there was something special about Texas and they worried about becoming too much like the United States.
In the summer of 1840, a gentleman identifying himself only as “Marmaduke” wrote a letter to the editors of the Brazos Courier expressing the fear that Texas was losing its sense of itself.
Marmaduke didn’t like that new towns popping up across the Republic were being given names recycled from elsewhere. He was worried that:
“…names which we can properly call our own, such as Galveston, Brazoria, Velasco, and Houston, will disappear and give way to others as foreign and as inapplicable to us as Nashville, Cincinnati, Alabama and Virginia. There are places in Texas already known by the last mentioned names; and if this kind of puerile imitation continues till every state has its namesake in Texas, it will be no easy matter to understand which of the two countries is alluded to in conversation. Since we have so little that is national, in the name of patriotism, let our names at least be made so; and with this view let such as are peculiarly Texian be generally adopted.”
And what are peculiarly Texian names? In Marmaduke’s words they are:
“original names which have become known as belonging to Texas, whether of English, Spanish or Indian origin. They comprise most of the names of our streams and localities as they existed up to the time of our independence.”
To demonstrate his point about the absurdity of applying old names to new places, Marmaduke included in his plea, the following missive he imagined could be written by a Texian land speculator in the not too distant future.
Nova New-Orleans (formerly Austin), on the New Mississippi (formerly Colorado River)
April 15, 1847
Four hours after leaving the house at Canton I arrived at London on Euphrates Bayou. I had intended by the way to look at the unsold lots of Mount Olympus; but I passed the place without knowing it.
The sign board and post must have been blown down; and there was nothing else to distinguish the place from any other part of the boggy prairie on which that town is located. It does not matter however; for I think Olympus property will continue as low as it is for some time.
I was extremely vexed having to wait at London till late the next day before I could cross the Euphrates. There was no boat there of any kind. The proprietor does not live there; and his old negro who has charge of the city, and is its only occupant, could not easily be induced to go up to New London, two miles above, for a canoe. He at length brought one and I crossed.
As it was late, I intended to put up that night at one of the Cairos, but on arriving I found not a soul at home in either of the two rival towns of East New Grand Cairo or West New Grand Cairo.
I therefore had to go on to New Jerusalem to pass the night; which I much regretted, as the place is in bad repute, being inhabited solely by the notorious John Smith. I had no difficulty with him however; but left there the next day and arrived here in due time without accident.
The new town on the Ganges (formerly Cow Creek) in which we are interested promises well. It has not yet been positively named. The minor proprietors wish to call it Rome; but the chief owner insists in naming it after himself, Higgensville. I am inclined to let him have his way, as there are already ten Romes in Texas.
I late received a letter two years old which had been directed to me at one of the said Romes; and as it did not designate which, it had been roaming through them all.
You did well to keep out of the Mount Ida speculation. Mount Ida is now flat. You got out of Babylon too just in time. Babylon has fallen astonishingly since the Comanches took it and killed the resident.
A bill is before Congress to change the name of the Republic and I presume it will pass. Both houses are unanimous in wishing to drop the name of Texas which they very justly assert is neither of Anglo-American, European, Oriental or Classical origin, and is moreover a name which has never been given to any other country before and was never heard of till this country became known.
The members are however much divided as to the new name to be adopted in its place. Among those proposed are New North Carolina, New Arkansas, Macedonia, and Munster.
Categories: Texas Culture, Texas Folkways, Texas history