Good Question: How Did Minnesota Towns Get Their Names?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A real estate blog is getting some flak from Minnesotans, especially those who live in Little Canada. The people being Estately put together a list of what it called “The Most Oddly Named Towns” in each state. Little Canada was Minnesota’s winner.

“I’ve lived here 36 years,” Little Canada mayor John Keis said. “It’s never crossed my mind it’s an odd name.”

Towns like Castle Danger, Embarrass and Kiester received honorable mentions.

But, how did they get their names? Good Question. For this story, the Minnesota Historical Society and Minnesota Geographic Names by Warren Upham helped us with the research.

Little Canada was settled by French Canadians in 1844. It retains many of those French names, like Lake Gervais, in the area.

Embarrass was named after the Embarrass River by French trappers. They called it the Riviere d’Embarras (River of Obstacles) because pieces of wood made it hard to navigate.

Kiester is named in honor of Jacob Armel Kiester, a state senator, county attorney and judge.

Ball Club is named after a lacrosse stick. Ham Lake gets its name from the lake shaped like a ham. Sleepy Eye is named after a Chief of the Sisseton Dakota tribe. The past town leaders of Climax liked the brand-name of the popular Climax chewing tobacco at the time. Staples comes from the name of a prominent lumber family in the area in the late 1800s.

Nimrod is a biblical reference. He was known as a “mighty hunter before the Lord.”

As for Castle Danger, there is some debate. Three Norwegian fisherman might have thought the cliffs along the shore resembled a castle. Or, there was boat named Castle that was grounded there.

Luck, WI, even made the Minnesota list. According to the Luck Area Historical Society, Daniel Smith is given credit for choosing the name Luck. After several failed business attempts, his luck changed for the better when he moved to the area.

“I want to be in Luck for the rest of my life,” Smith said.

More from Heather Brown

One Comment

  1. Greg Laden says:

    Minnesota almost ended up with a city called “Pigs Eye” as its capital.

    Close call on that one.

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