What we’ve probably all learned collectively from this column is that when it comes to naming something, there are no rules.
It could be the local geography, a nearby landmark, folklore, practicality, famous people, landowners or even the local farmer that inspires the name giver. This is what makes disentangling the origins so fun and interesting.
In honor of the season, this week’s column will explore the names of holidays and / or religious themes from across the state. The why behind each name is as varied as ever. There are dozens of places honoring the Saints, but it would take a book, not a column, so they’ve been left out of this holiday roundup.
Peak of Angels: This mountain peak in San Juan County in the northern part of the state rises to nearly 7,000 feet. The peak is 13 miles southeast of Bloomfield and is within the Angel Peak National Recreation Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The surroundings have been nicknamed the Garden of the Angels.
TM Pearce said in a 1962 New Mexico Quarterly article titled “The Allure of Names” that he thought the woodpecker “was named so by breeders in the area because of two small dots on the top resembling figures that must have flown up there “. Pearce is also the author of “New Mexico Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary”.
Beulah: This now abandoned settlement was located in the Sapello Canyon in San Miguel County. It is named after the old Methodist hymn âBeulah Landâ. The Hebrew biblical meaning of Beulah is “married” and the mythical land, which some believe to be paradise, is mentioned in the King James version of the Bible.
Bible Top Butte: Also known as Bible Top Hill, Bible Top Butte is a summit in Union County, located in the northeastern part of New Mexico. According to Robert Julyan in his book “The Names of Places in New Mexico,” it was his appearance that earned him this name.
“A crease centered at the top of this flat-topped mound gives it the appearance of an open book when viewed from the east.”
Bishop Peak and Bishop’s Cap: Bishop Peak is in Catron County and is named after “Uncle” Henry Reynolds, a bishop of the local Mormon church who lived nearby. The summit is approximately 8,850 feet.
The Bishop’s Cap is another peak, but it is located further south in DoÃ±a Ana County and the name is unrelated to anyone. The summit is in the Organ Mountains and is a series of bishop’s cap-shaped ridges.
Church mountain: This 8,800-foot mountain is found in Lincoln County. According to Julyan, in 1882 a prospector named Church told his companions that he was going to the top of the mountain with his burro. They scoffed at the idea, but he proved them wrong and made it to the top. He literally hammered his victory by carving his name on a board and sticking it to a monument he built at the top.
He came down from the mountain and returned to his life in Texas. Years later, after returning to New Mexico, he purchased a survey map of the area. According to Julyan, Church was stunned to find that government surveyors had gone to the top of the mountain, found the sign with his name on it, and named the mountain after him.
Church rock: The shape of this well-known natural monument led to its name. According to the same Pearce article, it was so named because it looks like a church with towers. This prominent natural structure is found in the Churchrock Chapter of the Navajo Nation in McKinley County. The chapter was named after the rock formation.
The region became the site of a nuclear disaster in 1979 when a dam containing 1,110 tons of uranium waste broke and released 94 million gallons of radioactive water into the Rio Puerco, poisoning the land.
Cuba: Some might wonder how this name fits here. This is not the case. But the original community that settled there in the 18th century was called El Nacimiento de Nuestra Se Ã± ora (Our Lady’s Birthday). They most likely took the name of the nearby mountains. The community was abandoned and present-day Cuba was reestablished in the late 1800s, just east of the original village.
Mesa Holidays: This mesa is located in the Jemez mountains. A man named Holiday once maintained a logging camp nearby and is famous for his name. The local Native Americans called the mesa Pueblo Chise.
Source of the Holy Spirit (Ojo del EspÃritu Santo): These thermal springs are located on the Jemez Pueblo. According to Julyan, a local legend explains the origins of his name. The hot springs âwere named when a member of an expedition saw two ghostly spirals rise from the ground one night and rushed towards his camp, shouting ‘El sp Ã ritu santo! Other members of the expedition followed him to the spot and discovered columns of steam rising from the hot springs.
Spirit Lake and Holy Ghost Creek: Spirit Lake is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe. The name of the Holy Ghost Creek, which flows towards Spirit Lake and empties into the Pecos River, was inspired by the lake. There is also a Holy Spirit campground near Pecos which takes its name from the stream.
Author and environmentalist Elliot Barker said the beauty of the lake could inspire thoughts of the Holy Spirit. He wrote: âI used to hear ancient Hispanic Americans call the lake La Laguna del EspÃritu Santo (the lake of the Holy Spirit) or the Holy Spirit. It may have been originally so baptized, and the stream naturally took the same name, while the name of the lake was abbreviated to Spirit Lake.
Curious about how a city, street or building got its name? Email editor Elaine BriseÃ±o at [email protected] or 505-823-3965 as she continues her monthly journey in “What’s in a Name?” ”