What’s in a name? Plenty

David Stevens

David Stevens

By David Stevens

Editor

Things you might not know about places you probably do:

• Origins for the names of many eastern New Mexico communities have been lost to time. The tiny Roosevelt County village of Elida is a good example.
“Roosevelt County History and Heritage,” published in 1975, includes multiple pages about Elida’s earliest days, from its platting in 1902 to incorporation in 1907; but it makes no attempt to explain how Elida came to be named.
“The Place Names of New Mexico,” published in 1996, offers three explanations, none of them documented.
The one we might most like to believe involves pioneer John Gee naming it for his two daughters — Ella and Ida. That version is also mentioned in, “Elida, To the Best of Our Recollection,” written by a centennial committee in 2007. But “Place Names” also tells us other early settlers denied the existence of those daughters.
A second explanation also involves Gee — he found a stake in the ground with the name “Elida” on it.
While that seems impersonal, the third version may be even less appealing: An unnamed local construction worker named it for his hometown of Elida, Ohio.
If that report is true, it wouldn’t be the first time an eastern New Mexico community was named because a settler had memories of home. Pleasant Hill, just north of Clovis in eastern Curry County, was named for Pleasant Hill, Texas, because New Mexico pioneer Lee Barnes was partial to the Texas community near the middle of that state.

• Greene Acres Park was established in 1964, named for prominent citizen C.O. Greene, manager of Clovis’ Southwestern Public Service Company office.
Today, its 24 acres are home to a lighted tennis court, a walking trail, a basketball court, playground, skate park and softball field surrounding a lake stocked with rainbow trout and sometimes catfish.
Before Clovis Jaycees spurred the move to create the park, it was generally known as Dutchman’s Lake for Alfred, Arthur, Curt, Fritz and Otto Liebelt. They were brothers who homesteaded on the property, coming to the U.S. from Bunzlau, Germany, about 1903.

• St. Vrain, about halfway between Cannon Air Force Base and Melrose on U.S. 60-84, once had three grocery stores, three gas stations, a school with more than 50 students, a traveling baseball team and a weekly newspaper.
It had a post office from 1907 until 2009. The post office had electricity, but no running water in its final years. The part-time postmistress had to use an outhouse.
The only buildings in the community today are residential.
The origin of St. Vrain’s name also is not clear, but likely selected for a New Mexico trapper and soldier, Ceran St. Vrain, who was close friends with territorial Gov. Charles Bent.
While St. Vrain had no known ties to the region, the town was named by railroad officials who seemed to have an affinity for naming railroad stops after mountain men around the turn of the century.

David Stevens is editor for Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at:
dstevens@pntonline.com