The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 15, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Historical societies track name changes

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When researching family history, one often learns that an ancestor lived in a community that no longer exists. How can one learn about that area?

This week I discovered that the State Historical Society of Missouri has a website that has information about places in Missouri that underwent a name change between 1928 and 1925. The information on place names is but one collection of many that are available for free online.

The society has centers at Kansas City, Columbia, Rolla and St. Louis, with thousands of collections about various topics. The society’s Web page lists information on all of them.

The collections that will be most helpful include diaries, letters, scrapbooks, newspaper articles, interviews, family histories, biographies and autobiographies, as well as information on the history of towns and communities.

One of the local history collections I checked this week is found at the society site at When the site opens, the page has a search box. Enter the name of the Missouri county where your ancestor lived and add the term “place names.”

When I entered “Newton County place names” in the search box, I received an alphabetized list of sites and information on the background of each.

I’ve done enough research on Southwest Missouri to notice that some explanations are too simple. For example, some entries say a town was formerly called another name, when, in fact, the earlier name was for a nearby community. Nevertheless, the collection is interesting and will be helpful in your research.

I was surprised to learn that Boulder City (located between Neosho and Stella) was once called the Sweetwater community. I also learned that Five Mile Creek and Five Mile School received the name because they were five miles from the county seat.

I also learned a theory about the name Neosho. It said the word is a form of the Osage word “neozho,” meaning clear, cold water. I also learned that Saginaw was once called Thurman (a nearby stream still has that name), and the community of Redings Mill was once called Shoalsburg. The community of Tripoli, near Seneca, received its name from its deposits of magnesium limestone.

In checking the place names for Barry County, I learned that Pulaskifield was once called Bricefield. Also, Monett was called Plymouth Junction, Washburn was Keetsville, Leann was Marmaduke and Purdy was Winslow.

The Jasper County information stated that Oronogo was once called Leadville Hollow, Center Creek and Minersville. Sarcoxie was Centerville, and Bellville was Zincite. Fidelity was once called Skeeterville and Lehigh. The information also said there was a site 6 miles south of Carthage with the unique name of Damfino. It may have been a mining camp, since many of those had colorful names.

According to the information on McDonald County, Anderson was once Brown Spring, and Pineville was once Maryville.

Be aware that some adjacent counties had community names that were the same. For example, Newton County and Barry County both had a Tan Yard Hollow.

Suggestions or queries? Write to Frankie Meyer at 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or email