Buried Treasures: Vintage names from lost New England towns
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by lost civilizations, towns that have been wiped off the planet for one reason or another. And I happen to live near lost towns–with the added allure of being submerged under water.
The sacrifice of the town residents, most who are long gone, cannot be overlooked. They left their beloved small towns so that people living 65 miles away in Boston could have drinking water.
These towns’ disappearance was a part of recent history. In 1938 four central Massachusetts towns in the Swift River Valley were disincorporated to create the state’s largest inland body of water, the Quabbin Reservoir. The towns were: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott.
Anything left from these towns, the artifacts, the relocated buildings, the old photos, the names of these towns’ last residents are all forever stuck in the 1900’s – 1930’s.
As a fan of old-fashioned names, I couldn’t help but notice some of the names as I read about the people who left these early 20th century small towns.
Some of their names were expected for the time such as Annie, Arthur, Fred, Florence, George, Ida, June, and Minnie. Some of their names were uncommon–but not unusual–by early 20th century standards such as Burt, Cyrus, Effie, Elmer, Homer, Ola, and Willis.
And then there were the names that stood out back then and stand out even more now.
Clementina – For those who like the idea of Clementine but can’t get past the fruit, the folk song or the nicknames (Clem or Clemmy), Clementina offers a great alternative. The name can also bring back Tina–as a nickname.
Orissa – This name of a North Dana resident is very rare, but seems familiar due to its sounds. Being similar to Odessa and Ophelia, the name has a classic literary feel, and yet it also manages to seem modern, like an inventive name inspired by Alyssa and Olivia.
Cyprian – was the name an Russia immigrant who was also a prominent resident of Greenwich. Cyprian Uracius had served the town in many different capacities for over 20 years. This was also the name of a 3rd century bishop who died a martyr.
Felton – C.W. Felton was a name of a building in the center of Enfield’s business district. The name has some history as a given name in the U.S. ranking in the lower top 1000 for most years since 1888.
Linwood – An old surname-name that has faded into obscurity but has lots of style.
Lowell – is fitting for a little boy living in early 20th century New England. Might come across as literary, inspired by 19th century poet James Russell Lowell. Yet the name’s meaning, “wolf”, gives it a rugged wild side.
Ellis – One of the lesser used members of the popular El-group, which includes Ella, Ellie, Eleanor, Eloise, Elliott, Elijah, and Elias. This name is historically more common on boys. While Ellis has never left the top 1000 list for boys, it has only charted once on girls, back in 1883.
Lost towns intrigue me because they inevitably invite the question,“What if?” Imagine what these towns could have become. And discovering creative names from over a century ago is like discovering antique housewares and artwork from that time. I like to put them on display and inspire a few people to use them again.