What’s in a name?
We live busy lives and in our daily hustle and bustle, most of us probably don’t stop to think about the names we see around us daily. As we drive through the St. Louis metropolitan area, we are surrounded by a rich and vibrant history. The names of our towns, streets, and rivers often reflect our local history.
Many names of St. Louis area streets, rivers and lakes are influenced by the original St. Louis inhabitants – Native Americans.
Let’s look at some prominent names we probably take for granted! All were influenced by Native Americans in the area!
We live in the beautiful State of Missouri. We also have a river that passes through by the same name. But do you know where the name Missouri came from? Well, the Missouri River was named after a Native American tribe that lived near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. They called themselves Niutachi. Today we know them as Missouria because when French explorers asked their guides what the tribe was called, the guides described them as “Mihsoori” meaning “people of the wooden canoes.” As time passed the area became known as the Missouri Territory eventually becoming the State of Missouri in 1821.
Early American Explorers
If you live in or near St. Louis, you are familiar with the Mighty Mississippi! The Mississippi river was used for transportation by the Native Americans long before Europeans landed on American shores. The name Mississippi was coined by the Ojibwe tribe, also known as the Chippewa. In their Algonquian language it was called “Misi-ziibi” meaning “Long River.”
Jesuit Priest ministering to Native Americans
The Meramec’s name also has Native American roots. According to author H.R. Schoolcraft, in his book “A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri,” the river was discovered by Father Jacques Gravier. Father Gravier was a Jesuit Priest who was a missionary to the Ottowas. Father Gravier put into French the sound the Native Americans called the river – “Miaramigoua” which means “river of ugly fish.” As English speakers moved into the area, the pronunciation was butchered a bit and changed to “Mahr-ah-mec” meaning “water of the bitter spring.” There were sulfur springs feeding into the river, indeed making it taste bitter. Another English pronunciation of the river was “Mah-ah-mac,” meaning “waters of death.” The river had a reputation for people drowning in it. Regardless of the proper translation, it is not a very uplifting name – but it is a picturesque river meandering through St. Louis County!
Big Bend Blvd.
Big Bend Blvd.
We all recognize Big Bend Blvd. as a major thoroughfare in St. Louis, but the name is a reference to the Meramec River! According to the Webster Groves Historical Society, the road was laid in 1840 along a Native American trail that led to a ‘big bend’ in the Meramec River. Thus, Big Bend Blvd. was born!
Creve Coeur Lake
Creve Coeur / Creve Coeur Lake
The City of Creve Coeur gets its name from the nearby Creve Coeur Lake. For anyone who has had some basic French, you know that Creve Coeur translates to broken heart. However, there is a legend surrounding Creve Coeur Lake! (Some even say it is haunted!) According to the legend, there was a local Native American princess who fell in love with a French fur trapper who did not return her love. In another rendition of the legend, she was married to a great Indian warrior who died during a hunt. Upset and broken hearted, the woman took her life by jumping off a ledge overlooking the lake, now known as Dripping Springs. The action of which split the lake in two making it look like a broken heart! There used to be a second lake connected to the main lake, which did indeed look like a broken heart. That lake has since been silted in leaving only the lone Creve Coeur Lake.
There you have it! Now when you drive along Big Bend Blvd., take a walk around Creve Coeur Lake, or cross a bridge over an area river, you have some history on which to ponder.
Speaking of interesting names, let’s look at Agape Construction. Agape is a Greek word meaning “the fatherly love of God for humans as well as the human reciprocal love of God.” It is our mission to do everything as if we are doing it for the Lord: To the best of our abilities, with absolute honesty, and with the interest of others forefront in our minds.
So, if you live in the St. Louis metropolitan area and need a home remodel, whether you are near Creve Coeur Lake, the Meramec, Missouri, or Mississippi – think Agape Construction!
McCafferty, Michael. The Latest Miami-Illinois Dictionary and its Author. 1999.