Saturday, March 1, 2003

Author answers: What's in a name?

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Larry Miller just wanted to know how Celeryville came to be named after a stalky vegetable.

But his curiosity while driving past the Sandusky-area town in 1991 led the geography buff to write Ohio Place Names, a reference staple in most Ohio libraries.

"It just sort of kicked things up in my mind, and I was curious about where such names came from," Miller said.

He learned that Celeryville was named by workers who moved there to pick celery and onion crops. Then he learned the stories behind 2,499 other names and put them on paper.

Some places are named for founders: Cleveland, Dayton, Youngstown, Adamsville, Bratenahl, Elyria, Painesville, Worstville and Dull - located near the Indiana border in Van Wert County.

"Last I heard, they had six houses and 50 dogs," said Richard Helwig, who is cataloguing Ohio's 9,000 ghost towns, places which no longer exist.

Other place names needed more explanation, like Knockemstiff, Teacup and Jug's Corners.

"There was a saloon in town, and a woman told her local minister her husband liked to spend more time in the saloon than at home. How to get him home? Take a frying pan, knock him stiff and drag him out," Helwig said.

Apparently, several former towns paid homage to drinking establishments, including Teacup, named after a tavern, and Jug's Corners, named for a still near a mule trail. Passersby left empty jugs and money on a tree stump. At day's end they picked up their jugs.

High on the list of reasons for a name is to honor a hero, like Columbus, Lafayette and Washington, or to honor American Indian roots, such as Chillicothe, Cuyahoga and Mohicanville.

Others note the landscape: Yellow Springs for the iron; Vermilion for its red clay; Minersville, Portsmouth, and Rocky River - all named for the geology of the area.

Ohio has a Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada and Texas. It also has Parma, Rome and Toledo, and, over the years, at least 13 Berlins.

Helwig has documented 6,000 Ohio places that have vanished or are shadows of their former selves. "I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes aspect of it," he says.

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