Special Report

50 Strangest Town Names in America (and Where They Came From)

Source: Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons

41. Smock, Pennsylvania
> Municipal status: Census designated place
> Population: 599

This long-time coal-mining settlement was named not for an apron or cover but for one Samuel Smock. A land speculator, farmer, and blacksmith, he bought a farmhouse and 190 acres of land here in 1869, later selling most of the property to coal companies. When a line of the Pennsylvania Railroad wanted to run tracks through the portion he still owned, he agreed, on the condition that the railway station be named for him. Smock Station later gave its name to the village.

Source: Tea South Dakota

42. Tea, South Dakota
> Municipal status: City
> Population: 4,628

This city near Sioux Falls was originally called Byron. When locals submitted an application for a post office in the late 18th century, they were told by postal authorities that the name had been taken and were asked to submit 10 alternatives. At a meeting around the pot-bellied stove at Heeren’s and Peter’s General Store, townspeople came up with nine names and couldn’t think of a 10th. When somebody suggested that they take a tea break, they decided to write in “Tea” as the final alternative. That, of course, is the one the Post Office Department chose.

Source: Brandonrush / Wikimedia Commons

43. Thor, Iowa
> Municipal status: City
> Population: 183

No superheroes here. Thor was established in 1881 by the Western Town Lot Company, a division of the Chicago North Western Railway Company, which named it for the Norse god of thunder. Though Thor was a warrior god famed for slaying giants with his hammer, he was also, by virtue of his association with thunder and thus of rain, thought to aid in the growing of crops. This was the explanation for his appeal to this farming community.

Source: punktoad / Flickr

44. Toad Suck, Arkansas
> Municipal status: Unincorporated
> Population: 3,300 (est.)

According to the Toad Suck website, this is the origin of the community’s name: Steamboats used to ply the Arkansas River, but when it temporarily grew too shallow, they’d tie up near a local tavern to await for passable conditions. Their crews apparently imbibed so freely that somebody cracked, “They suck on the bottle ‘til they swell up like toads.”

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

45. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
> Municipal status: City
> Population: 6,157

This spa city southwest of Albuquerque used to be called Hot Springs. In 1950, though, radio host Ralph Edwards, of the popular quiz program “Truth or Consequences,” had the idea of finding a town somewhere in America that would change its name to honor the show in celebration of its 10th anniversary. The New Mexico State Tourist Bureau heard of the idea and passed it along to the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. The city held an election to decide the matter and voted to become Truth or Consequences.