The somewhat abnormal name of this town of 52,000 was taken from Illinois State Normal University, a normal school (or teacher training institution), which was located there. The school, now known as Illinois State University, is the oldest public building teaching higher education in the state.
Dummer, New Hampshire
This northern New Hampshire hamlet is home to just over 300 citizens, who are probably just as clever as folks in the surrounding towns. The founder, a wealthy businessman from Portsmouth, clearly didn’t think things through when he named the new town after Massachusetts Governor William Dummer (1677–1761).
Ready to go to Hell? You’ll find this unincorporated village in south-central Michigan, just 15 miles from the bustling college town of Ann Arbor. The name may come from the German word hell, which means bright, or it could be attributed to the thick clouds of mosquitoes and deep forest found in the area when Western explorers first arrived.
Rough and Ready, California
With about 900 souls, this former Gold Rush town, founded in 1849, was named for a Wisconsin mining company, which was in turn named for General Zachary Taylor (nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready"), the 12th President of the United States. The company’s founder, A.A. Townsend, had served under Taylor during the U.S.-Mexican War.
The Chug, a stream that runs through this scenic cattle-herding valley, gives the area its name. The most famous citizen of the town of around 212 was a rodeo horse named Steamboat, who served as the inspiration for the bucking bronco on the Wyoming state license plate.
Random Lake, Wisconsin
With around 1,600 residents, this town is part of the Sheboygan metro area and sits clustered on the shores of its eponymous lake. The first surveyors in the region named the body of water—and apparently they were feeling very uninspired that day.
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The state of Texas is rich in bizarrely named towns. This one, a village of 450 in Frio County, was first settled in the 1860s as “Connally's Store," but later was renamed in honor of Texas Ranger William A. A. "Bigfoot" Wallace, a former resident of the town.
Located in northeastern Alabama, this town of 2,800 had its moment of fame in the early 2000s, when “The Choccolocco Monster” was repeatedly sighted at the edge of the woods, scaring motorists. The culprit was later found to be a local teen who liked to dress up in a cow’s skull. The origin of the town’s name remains a mystery.
Forks of Salmon, California
This unincorporated Northern California town was settled during the Gold Rush, and its name has nothing to do with eating a nice fish dinner. Instead, it comes from the hamlet’s position in between the north and south forks of the Salmon River.
This rural desert spot is home to around 115 people and got its name from the Y-shaped intersection of the two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, that originally comprised the center of town. It’s now a T intersection, but the name stuck.
This town at the foot of the Cascade Range is named for William Harrison Boring, a former Union soldier and farmer who settled the area in 1874. The townspeople embrace their low-key moniker with humor, and have adopted the tagline, “An exciting place to live.”
Bread Loaf, Vermont
This unincorporated community gets its name from a loaf-shaped nearby mountain. Vermont does boast many excellent bakeries, but this community is known for the famed writer’s workshop held there every summer, sponsored by Middlebury College.
After local folk found that all their other ideas for town names had already been taken, the postmaster settled on this one, figuring it would be too strange to be duplicated. The city now boasts a comical slogan—”Where the Odds Are With You”—and about 4,600 residents.
This unincorporated village gets its name from its river, which French fur traders dubbed “Rivière d'Embarras,” or, loosely translated, “river of obstacles.” It may be not be an embarrassing place to live, but it probably isn’t very comfortable—it bears the dubious distinction of being the coldest place in Minnesota.
One legend has it that when local residents inadvertently left a blank space on a form requesting a post office, the federal government gave this place its moniker. Others believe the name was adopted in protest after Yankee feds rejected a name chosen to honor a Confederate general. Whatever its origin, the Nameless name has attracted attention from writers and travelers ever since.
Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Only 25 to 50 permanent residents live in this community on Alaska’s North Slope, hard by the Arctic Ocean. But because it’s a jumping-off point for oil workers and tourists, the population can sometimes swell as high as 3,000. The town is believed to have gotten its name from the Dead Horse Haulers Trucking company, which used to make runs to the settlement in the 1960s and '70s.
This unincorporated flyspeck in the Mojave Desert was once known as Soda Springs, but a wily entrepreneur, who hoped to make the land’s mineral springs into a tourist spot, changed its name into something more memorable. Now home to a desert study center run by a consortium of California State University campuses, it’s usually the last entry in the index of any U.S. atlas.
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