Funny Pennsylvania Town Names
What Were They Thinking?!
Pennsylvania holds the record for funny town names. There's Bird-in-Hand, Climax, Hazard, Jugtown, Intercourse, Noodle Doosie, Paradise, Puseyville, Punxsutawney, and Rough and Ready, and that's just for starters!
Have you ever wondered what people were thinking when they named these places? This article delves into some of these towns' histories in an attempt to unravel why they bear such usual names and show that Pennsylvania has the silliest and sexiest sounding towns and villages in the USA.
This is but a sampling of funny place names in Pennsylvania. There are many others, and we'll be adding more from time to time. Enjoy!
History of Pennsylvania's Silly Town Names
Asylum: Located in Bradford County, this location was established as an asylum for the wealthy refugees of the French Revolution.
Bala Cynwyd: is located in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia in Eastern Pennsylvania. It was named by Welsh Quaker settlers in 1860 for the Welsh town of Bala and the Welsh village of Cynwyd.
Balls Mills: is located in Hepburn Township and was named by Bill Ball for the family mill.
Bath Addition: is located in Bucks County. We're guessing that someone was very happy about their home improvements.
Beach Lake: Located totally inland in Wayne County, this town takes its name from the many beech trees and bad spellers in the area.
Beaver: Located near Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, this town got its name from Big Beaver Creek (so named for the great many beavers in the area).
Big Beaver: Also located near Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, this place had bigger beavers.
Big Run: This western Pennsylvania lumbering town was named after a creek called Big Run.
Bird-in-Hand: The community was founded in 1734. The legend of the naming of Bird-in-Hand concerns the time when the Old Philadelphia Pike was surveyed between Lancaster and Philadelphia. According to legend, two road surveyors on the Old Philadelphia Pike between Lancaster and Philadelphia discussed whether they should stay at their present location or go on to the town of Lancaster. One of them said, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and so they stayed. And that's how the town got its name.
Blue Ball: This rather suggestive name actually has a respectable meaning. It was named after a building at the same location—the Blue Ball Inn—which got its name when it was struck by cannon balls from a British war vessel in 1777. The Inn was torn down in 1990, but the town of Blue Ball remains. Ouch.
Bulls Head: Located in Lackawanna County, this town was named by a cattle dealer because his large red barn had a painting of a bull's head.
Bumpville: is located in Bradford County and was named for the Revolutionary Soldier Reuben Bumpus who settled there.
Burning Well: It was named after a burning oil field in McKean County, Pennsylvania.
Burnt Cabins: Located in Centre County, this town was so named because William Penn decided to burn some illegal settlers' cabins in 1750 to keep peace with the Native Americans. Settlers were building on land that was designated Indian land. These settlers kept pushing the borders, and the Indians were threatening war, so William Penn had some cabins burnt down in an effort to teach the illegal settlers a lesson and to make peace with the Native Americans.
California: This town in Western Pennsylvania was settled during the height of the California Gold Rush and named for that great state filled with gold.
Cherry Tree: This town's name has nothing to do with George Washington. It was named Cherry Tree because a huge cherry tree near this spot marked the boundary between the Iroquois' land and the territory acquired by the Penns.
Chinchilla: is located in Lackawanna County, and named for the squirrel-like rodent.
Clearfield: This town is located in Jefferson County and was named in the early 1800s for a cleared area in the normally rugged timberlands.
Climax: is located in Clarion County and was once a mining community. I could not find any information on how it got its name. Must have been a thrill, though.
Coffeetown: Located in Lebanon County, its name comes from a slang term meaning "undesirables."
Conshohocken: is located in Eastern Pennsylvania. The name Conshohocken is a Delaware Indian word for "pleasant valley."
Coon Hunter: is located in Snyder County. Raccoons would be wise to avoid the area.
Crackersport: It is said that a large supply of crackers was stolen at this spot, though I couldn't find anything to back up that claim. Crackersport is located in Pennsylvania's Lehigh County.
Drums: Located in Luzerne County, Drums was named for a tavern owned by Abram Drum in the late 1700s.
Echo: Established in 1857, this Armstrong County locale was named for the echo coming from the nearby hills.
Egypt: The eastern Pennsylvania community was settled in 1733 and named Egypt because the early residents of the Lehigh Valley would travel here to buy provisions, much like Jacob's sons once traveled to Egypt to buy corn. Yes, I know it sounds far fetched, but this is what the records say!
Erie: This town was named for the Erie Tribe, whose name means raccoon or wildcat. In fact, early maps show Lake Erie as the Lake of the Cat. Erie is in Erie County, Pennsylvania. If the locals had their way, they would have renamed the whole state Erie!
Forest City: Located in Susquehanna County, this was the location of a lumber camp.
Forty Fort: Located in Luzerne County, this town got its name because 40 settlers built a fort there during the American Revolution.
Free Love Valley: This now-defunct community got its name in the 1840s from a group of idealists who preferred holding their worship services in their natural, unclothed state and went skinny dipping in the community lake.
Glen Campbell: was not named for the singer, although he did pay a visit in 1971. The first part of the name, Glen, was taken from the Scottish word meaning "valley." The second word, Campbell, comes from Cornelius Campbell, who supervised the area's local coal company.
Gravity: Named for the gravity railroad system, which allows cars to coast down the slope using just the force of gravity.
Hazard: Although it certainly sounds like an accident waiting to happen, this Lehigh Valley town was actually named for a Philadelphia Quaker by the name of Erskine Hazard, son of Ebenezer Hazard, the nation's first postmaster. Erskine Hazard partnered with Josiah White and played a major role in the American industrial revolution.
Homer City: was named after Homer, the Greek Poet.
Honey Hole: Located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, this town's name comes from the fisherman's slang for a sweet spot where the fish are biting nicely.
Honey Pot: Also located in Luzerne County, Honey Pot got its name from the hordes of wild honey bees at that location.
Hop Bottom: This Susquehanna County area was once known for its hops grown for regional breweries.
Indiana: Located in western Pennsylvania, Indiana took its name from the native Indians in the area.
Intercourse: The Amish village of Intercourse was named by George Brungard in 1813. At that time, the word 'intercourse' commonly referred to a commercial or trading site. As one writer from the Amish Country News has noted, "in the written annals of early days, 'intercourse' had a common usage referring to the pleasant mutual fellowship and frequent intermingling which was so much more common in the informal atmosphere of the quiet country village of that day."
Jersey Shore: This town is nowhere near its namesake. Located on the north side of the Susquehanna River, from 1790 to 1826 it was called Waynesburg, but since many settlers came there through New Jersey, the locals liked to teasingly call it the Jersey Shore. The name stuck and was changed to Jersey Shore around 1826. By the way, this town is inland, and when I did a search, I found it to be about 160 miles from inland New Jersey.
Jim Thorpe: Jim Thorpe was originally called Mauch Chunk but because a number of murders and hangings had taken place there and the town was decreasing in population, its name was changed from Mauch Chunk to Jim Thorpe to help generate tourism.
Jugtown: Located in Franklin County, this town was either named for its pottery works or its booze.
King of Prussia: Located in Montgomery County, it got its name from a local tavern that was named after Frederick II, King of Prussia.
Kunkletown: Located in Monroe County, Kunkletown was named after Joseph Kunkle in the early 1800s. Kunkle was one of the town's early settlers and businessmen. The name of the town is frequently mispronounced and called Knuckletown.
Lititz: Located in Lancaster County, Lititz was founded in 1756 by members of the Moravian Church and was named after a castle in Bohemia.
Lover: Located in Washington County, we can only speculate about how it got its name.
Mars: For some reason, this western Pennsylvania town was named after the Roman god of war.
Milwaukee: There is some controversy over the origin of this name; some say it was named after a mill, and others say the name "Milwaukee" is an anglicized version of the Algonquin Indian word for "good land."
Moon: This township outside of Pittsburgh got its name from a bend in a nearby river that looks like a crescent-shaped moon.
Moscow: was named in the 1830s in honor of Russian immigrants from Moscow.
Mount Joy: is located in Lancaster County and was founded by the Scottish Irish in 1759. We do not know the origins of the name.
Nazareth: Located in Northampton County in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, Nazareth is named for the Biblical town of Nazareth, where Jesus Christ resided as a young boy.
Nebraska: The residents of this community in Forest County are said to have headed to Nebraska and been disillusioned, so they returned to Pennsylvania. Why they chose to name their town after a place they disliked is anyone's guess.
Newfoundland: was named by Daniel Stroud in the late 1700s, when the town was a "new found land."
Noodle Doosie: Records indicate that this town was founded in the mid-1700s. Located in Lancaster County, its name was changed to Napierville a number of years ago because it sounded less silly. Apparently no one could say the former name of their town with a straight face or without getting a lot of laughs.
Normalville: Located in Western Pennsylvania, this town got its name because it is the site of a state teacher's college that was once known as a "normal school."
Norwegian: Located in Schuylkill County, Norwegian got its name from the German settlers who thought the mountains resembled those found in Norway. Hmm.
Ono: We're not sure if the town name is pronounced like Yoko Ono (the name of the artist who was married to John Lennon) or if it's pronounced "Oh No!" If anyone can enlighten us, please put your information in the comment box below. Thanks!
Overshot: Located in Bradford County, this town was named after a nearby water-powered sawmill that overshot a stream nearby.
Paint: Located in Pennsylvania's Somerset County, this town took its name from the nearby Paint Creek.
Pancake: Located in Centre County, this town was named after settler George Pancake.
Panic: In 1871, this western Pennsylvania town was about to open a post office, but the people of the town realized that the town's name—Samoka—was already taken and they had to come up with a new one. As the story goes, no one could agree on a name and panic set in. Someone suggested they call the town "Panic," and on this, everyone agreed.
Paradise: Some say this town was named by the settler Joshua Scott around 1800 because he thought it was beautiful, "like paradise."
Peach Bottom: Located on the east bank of the Susquehanna River, this village got its name in 1815 from a peach orchard owned by a settler named John Kirk.
Pigeon: was named in the 1800s for the great number of passenger pigeons in the area. This species of pigeon is extinct today.
Pillow: Located in Dauphin County, this town was named after General Gideon Pillow.
Pottsville: is located in Schuylkill County and was named after John Pott.
Prosperity: is located in Washington County, and was so named because of the wishful thinking of the early settlers.
Punxsutawney: Located in northwestern Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney was named by the local Indians for a vicious sandfly that caused them to avoid the area.
Rome: is located in Bradford County. The source of the name is unknown.
Rough and Ready: is located in Schuylkill County and named after a California Gold Rush town.
Shickshinny: Located in the Appalachian Mountains of Luzerne County, Shickshinny is an Indian word that either means "land of mountains" or "land of the fine stream." There are two different versions of the meaning of this Indian name.
Slippery Rock: is located in Butler County and named after slippery rocks in the nearby creek. Some of the locals say that the town was so named because George Washington was fleeing an Indian and chose to cross the creek at Slippery Rock. The Indian who was following him lost his footing on the slippery rocks and misfired, thereby sparing Washington and giving the town its name.
Snowshoe: Located in Centre County, Snowshoe got its name in 1773 when surveyors found a snowshoe hanging from a tree limb here. Seriously.
Stump Creek: Located in Jefferson County, this town was named after a stream running through the town.
St. Petersburg: was named in the 1830s in honor of Russian immigrants from St. Petersburg who settled in the area. It is located in Clarion County.
Two Lick Valley: Located in Indiana County and Named for Two Lick Creek. I guess one lick wasn't enough.
Virginville: Located in Berks County, Virginville is the translation of an Indian name meaning "virgin" or "pure."
Versailles: Located in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, Versailles got its name from the famous French palace, although the reason is unknown, as it doesn't seem to have had French settlers. The locals pronounce it "ver-sales."
Yellow House: Located in Berks County, Yellow House was named for a rest house that was painted—you guessed it—yellow.
Favorite Place Names in Lancaster County
Lancaster County is located in the south-eastern part of Pennsylvania. It is the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and is home to the oldest Amish settlement in the United States. When traveling through the area, you will see horse-drawn buggies and some of the best crafts and heartiest home-cooked food in America. But Lancaster County is special for another reason as well. This extremely religious community has some of the sexiest and silliest town and community names on the planet! It's hard to stop yourself from laughing at names like:
- Blue Ball
- Burnt Mills
- Mount Joy
- Noodle Doosie
A Look at the Amish Way of Life - Lancaster County, PA (Runtime: 3:33)
The Most Stolen Sign in Pennsylvania
The road sign for Intercourse in Lancaster County is Pennsylvania's most stolen sign. It is actually not the one pictured above, but the sign we wanted to show you is unavailable (because it was stolen).
Intercourse, Pennsylvania is not hard to find in spite of the fact that you can no longer find any road signs directing you there. They are stolen as fast as they're put up, so the Department of Transportation no longer bothers.
More Seemingly Misplaced Towns in PA
Moscow, Nazareth, and the others on the list above aren't the only Pennsylvania town names that seem more than slightly out of place. Here are a few more.
© 2009 Aquavel