What’s in a name?

Linda Trest
Staff Writer

While doing research for this Bicentennial series, I came across some explanations for some of the strange names of things in Franklin County. I also learned of some strange names of which I wasn’t aware. This information comes from an M. A. thesis written by Eugenia L. Harrison, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1943 titled, “Place Names of Four River Counties in Eastern Missouri.”

Big Creek: A northern tributary of Bourbeuse River, which rises in the north central part of Boone Township. It is so named on account of its extensive size at flood time. 

Boeuf Creek: The stream was named by the early French settlers for the buffalo then found near it, the term “boeuf,” cattle, being usually applied to buffalo by the French. The name was later Anglicized by American pioneers to Buffalo River (spelled Buffalow River by Lewis and Clark), or Buffaloe River; but the original French name prevailed and is the only form now used. However, it is more or less Americanized in pronunciation and sometimes erroneously spelled Beouf, Beouff, Boeuse, or Beef. It was called Beef River in Clark’s Journal when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed its mouth on May 26, 1804. McDermott says of the term “boeuf” in Mississippi Valley French: “A buffalo. The term “buffle” was in occasional use; precise travelers used the word “bisen.” In the Mississippi Valley the common term was “boeuf sauvage,” generally simplified to “boeuf.” It is not to be translated “wild cattle.”

Bourbeuse River: Rises in Gasconade County and enters Franklin County at the southwest corner of Boone Township, flowing northeast through the township. The name is a very early one, conferred by the French pioneers: “bourbeux,-euse” means muddy, miry, sloughy, sloshy, and adjective derived from the noun “bourbe,” mud. In Gasconade the name does not seem very appropriate, for there the Bourbeuse is a comparatively clear stream; but it fits better the lower part of the stream in Franklin County. Variants in spelling that occur are Bourbois, Bourboise, Burbois, Burbus, etc.

Canaan Road: A name given to the road running from Gasconade County into Newhaven, across the southern part of Lyon Township. The road doubtless took its name from Canaan Township in Gasconade where it started. According to Mr. Weber’s thesis, the familiar Bible name was chosen by some settlers from Tennessee in the 1840s who considered Gasconade their “promised land.” (HIST. FRANKLIN, 203; Mr. Weber’s thesis under “Canaan”.)

Champion City: A village in the central part of Boone Township. The post office was established on August 20, 1877, but has been discontinued since May 20, 1911. It was named for the Champion Flour Mill, operated there by Mr. Everhard Giebler, who suggested the name in 1872. Mr. Arthur Keller, in a letter, says that Mr. Giebler wanted to call the place Champion, but since there was already one Champion in Missouri added the word “City.” If the story is true, the other place must since have changed its name, for there is no such place-name in the state at present.

Dissen: A post office in the south central part of Boeuf Township, established in 1899 and discontinued in 1909. It was named for Dissen, Germany by early settlers who came from there.

Japan: A village of ten inhabitants, in the southwest part of Boone Township, which has received considerable publicity since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in December, 1941. Since it had been ceded locally that the place had been named by its first postmaster, Absolam R. Dyson, for the country of Japan, patriotic enthusiasts suggested that the village be given a new name. Further investigation by Reverend John H. Lakebrink proved that such a procedure was unnecessary because the place had been named in honor of a church that has been here for more than a century, i.e., the Church of the Holy Martyrs of Japan, which was so named for twenty-six Catholic priests and lay brothers of Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese blood, who were crucified in Japan by Japanese fanatics, February 5, 1597. He maintains that the name is really patriotic because this heartless massacre only serves as a reminder of the cruelty of the Japanese. The post office was established here in 1860 and was discontinued about 1908. 

Leslie: A village and station on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, in the northeast part of Boone Township. The post office has been established since 1901. According to one informant, the Christian name of Leslie Wood, Recorder of Deeds at Union from 1882 to 1896, was used to name the place. Another said it was the first name of one of the civil engineers on the Rock Island Railroad who helped to extend the line through the village.

Reed’s Defeat School: A rural school in the southeast part of Boone Township. The school was built in 1874, and its first teacher was named Reed. The big boys made life so hard for him that his work was a failure. The directors discharged him. The people of the district called the school Reed’s Defeat, and it has borne that name ever since.

Seminary School: In the south-central part of Boone Township. The school was at first called Sego Seminary, by way of jest, for a man named William Sego who lived close by. Sego had little education and was practically an illiterate; and some of the boys in the community suggested that it be named Sego’s Seminary, or Sego Seminary. In the course of time the Sego part was dropped, but the Seminary part remained.

Springfield Road: A public road which follows the Pacific Railroad from Pacific to Sullivan, and also one which runs from Jeffriesburg to Gerald via Beaufort and Leslie. No positive reason for its name has been found, but it was evidently so named for its terminus.

Strain: A village in the west-central part of Boone Township. The name Central, a name of position, which was first proposed, was rejected because it was the name of a town in St. Louis County. J.E. Hulsey, the first postmaster at Strain, named the place after an active promoter, John M. Strain, who was the father of the last postmaster, Andrew J. Strain. The place is also known as Strain Community. 

Walbert: A post office in the western part of Boone Township, established in 1895 and discontinued in 1910. Ulrich K. Baur, a merchant, was its first postmaster. His sons were named Walter and Herbert; and the first syllable of Walter’s name and the second syllable of Herbert’s name were combined into Walbert, which was made the name of the place.