On a recent “Haunted Lighthouse Cruise” on the Kennebec River with Maine Maritime Museum, we were discussing Maine place names. Most of the ones we were talking about were Native American names, such as Kennebec, Sasanoa, Arrowsic, and Seguin.
Then the discussion led to the strange phenomena that Maine has of having place names of Peru, Rome, China, Naples, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, Lisbon, Denmark, Vienna, Paris, Stockholm, Madrid, Moscow and Norway.
There is also Frankfort and Bremen of German heritage (not Dresden – Pownalborough was renamed Dresden just because the Probate Judge liked the sound of it!). Belfast and Limerick are of Irish background, as well as more, I’m sure.
Many of our place names are of English origin due to the majority of the settlers coming from Great Britain. Maine also has a fair amount of Finnish history, which you might run across.
Of course we also have Union, Hope, Freedom, Unity, Liberty, Friendship, and Harmony which are fairly self explanatory. As are Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, etc.
I won’t even start on Maine island names – that may be another blog entry!
The point of all this is that we tend to believe that place names came from the name of an early settler or the place that the early settlers came from or in honor of a person or a value.
There are other reasons!
China and Poland were named after songs/hymns that the person in charge happened to like at the time.
Some towns chose their names in solidarity with a country that was having independence conflicts at the time; Mexico and Peru for example. Others chose names out of respect for how the countries handled certain conflicts or battles, such as Moscow and Denmark.
Paris was named such in recognition of France’s help during the American Revolution, as was Camden, after a Lord Camden of England who was sympathetic with the colonies.
I, frankly, am amazed that in the 1700 and 1800’s, Maine people were so aware and knowledgeable of world happenings and felt such sympathy. It’s quite a statement, one that could be said to stand today.