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Etc.: The unincorporated
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One week ago in this space in your favorite weekly newspaper, I wrote about the sources of the names of places most people have heard of in this area.

There are, however, more places that are accompanied by the word “Unincorporated” underneath their sign. Sometimes, that word isn’t on the sign. Sometimes there isn’t even a sign denoting what are otherwise known as intersections, or wide spots in the road.

As with last week, one of my sources is The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, a 1968 book by Robert E. Gard and L.G. Sorden. The other is the DeLorme Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer, an invaluable resource for finding places that don’t necessarily show up on maps, even online maps. (And, of course, readers are free to make their own contributions, as one did this week.)

I mentioned Potosi last week as possibly being from “plomo,” a Spanish word for lead. Lead also was the source of the name of Big Patch, an area of sheet lead ore. Apparently the Welsh who settled the area would call an area of, for instance, trees a “patch,” hence the name. Big Patch apparently was called Kaysville before the Welsh gave it its name. 

In that area as well is the Town of Smelser, named for settler J.M. Smelser. Within the town is Georgetown, named for George Wineman, who built a home and used it as a general store. Wineman became Georgetown’s first postmaster.

My sources don’t say anything about the origin of Arthur, though it lists the Chippewa County Arthur as being named for Chester Alan Arthur, president of the U.S. after James Garfield’s assassination in 1881. Given the age of the settlements in this area, I tend to think whomever Arthur was named for, it wasn’t that Arthur, in the same way that, as you know, Grant County isn’t named for Ulysses S. Grant. Union apparently had no Revolutionary War or Civil War meaning either; it was just named for enjoyable meetings held there.

Elk Grove was named for elk horns supposedly found in the thick growth of trees in the area. Kendall was named for John Kindle, with his name changed because “Kendall” supposedly is easier to say than “kindle.”

North of what once were called Snake Hollow (Potosi) and Dutch Hollow (Tennyson) is British Hollow. The story supposedly is that someone at the British Hollow general store claimed that the French still owned land in the area, but suggested, “It won’t be long before the British have it, and as we are mostly English here, let’s call it British Hollow.”

Not far from there is Hippy Hollow. I don’t know the story of Hippy Hollow, and I’m guessing that it has nothing to do with the 1960s. Happy Corners is, according to my map, on Grant County H at Hill Road. 

Want to get more obscure than that? Ipswich is at the intersection of College Farm Road and Ipswich Road. Meekers Grove is north of Jenkynsville; both are on Lafayette County H southeast of Platteville. Prairie Corners is on Grant County Z at Wisconsin 11 north of Sinsinawa. Slateford is on Lafayette County O northeast of Belmont. Strawbridge is on Lafayette County W at Dump Road south of Benton.

When I first came to work in Grant County in a year starting in “19,” I started writing a series of stories called “The Wanderer,” in which I looked for some of these places not necessarily denoted by signs. Following one of those stories, I made a comment about a community’s yellow fire trucks, which was followed by a letter from 19 residents that concluded with their saying they liked their yellow fire trucks. I now no longer comment in print on fire truck colors. (For one thing, the trucks weren’t yellow; they were more like chartreuse, or the color now called Safety Yellow. You’d think someone who has worked in print most of his life would be more exact than that.)

Sometime after that, my then-new girlfriend, now wife, and I tried to find the Point of Beginning, where the Grant and Lafayette county lines intersect with the Illinois state line, the point from which the entire state was surveyed. There is a historical marker, but the marker is not where said Point is. Maps say there is a road there, but I stopped driving that road before my car got stuck, because my car at the time was most unqualified for unpaved roads.

I’m not sure if this subject is really “romantic,” as the aforementioned book is titled. It is interesting to me because it represents the idea of attempting to find something that isn’t easily found. It also represents just getting into a car and driving someplace, not having a destination or plan or schedule, just to see what you see on the way to wherever you end up going. Cars represent transportation freedom, after all — the ability to go where you want to go when you want to go, not subject to someone else’s schedule.


Not everyone is interested in obscure geographic history, but if you really hate history, this is the wrong place for you.