Back in the early days of Missouri, towns and settlements grew up anywhere that people congregated – around the local neighborhood mill, a crossroads or maybe even around a church. And many of those towns went without official names for years, until the post office was created.

A post office was essential to the survival of any community. So, in order to get a post office, folks had to submit an official town name with their application. Of course the post office refused to accept any suggested name, if there happened to already be an application on file by the same name. That was a major problem across Missouri.

That was the Cass County town of Peculiar’s little problem. Every name the town fathers submitted was rejected, and after about the third or fourth disappointment, the postal officials suggested they come up with a peculiar or unusual name. Well, according to legend, since the town is not named Unusual, those farm boys must have had a real sense of humor, because they submitted a Peculiar name. Huh!

Street names and town names are like a little piece of recorded history. Sometimes an event will take place to change the original name, and sometimes those original names will remain long after some event changes what created the name in the first place.

For example, the wolves have disappeared from Wolf Island in Mississippi County, and the elk have left the Ozark town of Elkland, but the names remain. The buffalo have disappeared as well, but we still have 25 places in Missouri alone named after the critters, including “Buffalo Creek” and the French “Boeuf Creek,” both in Franklin County. However, the obvious town of Buffalo on U.S. 65, north of Springfield, is believed to have been named by its early settlers for Buffalo, N.Y.

Missouri has some odd names, such as the towns of Coal, Ink, Shake Rag, Map, Nip and Not. We have a Bat, a Rat, and a Cat. We even have the community of Plad down near Bennett Spring – it was supposed to be named Glad, Mo., but the Post Office printed the wrong name, and it was too much hassle to change it, so Plad stuck. Today, all that remains of the community are a church and cemetery, and the ever-popular (but now closed) lookout tower along Highway 64.

Missouri even has a school named Accident School near Cassville, and one named Reeds Defeat in Franklin County. You can let your imagination run wild on those two.

A guy wonders if maybe Franklin might have been named for Benjamin – and it was! Boonville was named for Daniel, but to me, Independence and Liberty seem pretty patriotic, it makes you wonder what happened to the towns of Freedom and Justice, huh! There are several stories floating around about why Liberty and Independence were so named, but your story is probably as good as mine.

Lone Jack, in the southeast corner of Jackson County, was named for the lone “Jack Oak” tree that dominated the prairie skyline surrounding the town for over a century. Lone Jack was a mill town and the scene of a fierce battle during the Civil War. Lake Jacomo is short for Lake Jackson County, Mo., and the town of Claycomo, north of the river is short for Clay County, Mo.

Reference: “Paris, Tightwad, and Peculiar,” by Margot Ford McMillen, University of Missouri Press.