Don’t Leave Home Without It

Gas prices are coming down again, or so they say. However, high gas prices did not deter too many Americans from venturing out and about anyway. After a few years of COVID restrictions and yearning to see loved ones and sights beyond the four walls of home, it was time to pack up the kids and head down the road.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on

As you travel down the highways and byways, you may wonder if you have taken a wrong turn when you start seeing European names for the towns appearing on the road signs. Did you know there are 12 Amsterdams across the US? Most are familiar with the previous name for New York being New Amsterdam, so the New York townships are no surprise. But did you know you could find Amsterdam in Texas or Montana too?

Photo by Ivu00e1n Rivero on

The most common European city name reproduced in the US is Lisbon. There are 21 Lisbons (or New Lisbons) across the country with three each in Indiana and Wisconsin alone. Who knew that this Portuguese capital city was so popular with founding fathers in town across the US? It so happens that the city itself has been occupied by most every ethnicity over the centuries of existence and was fought over during the Crusades by the Christians and the Moors more than once. A popular port, indeed.

São Jorge Castle and the surrounding neighborhoods of Castelo, Mouraria, and Alfama.

What about all those German immigrants that flooded into the United States? There are 98 German-named towns in America. Unlike some nationalities where their country is represented in only certain regions like the 18 Norwegian town names in Minnesota, the German names are found sprinkled across the map. If you look for a concentration of German names, it will have to be Missouri. There are ten in that state alone, from Arnsberg to Wittenberg.

Photo by Ingo Joseph on

Berlin is found in six states: CT, VT, PA, GA, NY and WI. Other towns, like Paitzdorf, MO, changed their names because locals could not pronounce it. The current place in Perry County, Uniontown, was renamed when it was used as a Union camp during the Civil War and the soldiers had difficulty pronouncing it.

Photo by Markus Spiske on

Other German town names were not christened for the beloved towns they left behind in the Old World. Some names were plucked from poetry like Lynden, WA is named for the poem Hohenlinden by Thomas Campbell. He was an 1801 Scottish poet who visited Berlin in his travels. The poem is about the Battle of Hohenlinden between Napoleon and the Austrians. The town was named by a pioneer author, Phoebe Judson. Why she had such an affinity for the poem to name a town for it, I have no idea.

Blenheim, NJ and Lutsen Township, MN were named for German battles too. Only Coburg, Oregon was named for a stallion that was imported from Coburg, Germany. Originally named for the founder, John Diamond, it was renamed after this incredible horse arrived. I would think if the town was that fond of the horse, they would name the town for the name of the horse rather than where the horse originated. Go figure! Can you imagine was the town founder thought?

Do not worry if you end up in Paris without your passport. There are seven of them in the US from Texas to Maine. You likely have not crossed the border yet. Your ancestors simply did not want to leave home without bringing a little bit of home with them. Enjoy your summer.

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