Patriotic Place Names Sometimes Display Patriotic Spirit

The Fourth of July holiday is coming up, and Americans all across the United States will be celebrating with all manner of patriotic events to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the nation’s Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776.

But expressions of patriotism don’t end with the day. Many cities and towns across the United States have chosen patriotic-sounding names, but not always for patriotic reasons.

For example, thirty-five places in the United States have “eagle” in their names, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Congress chose the bald eagle as the national emblem in 1789. This majestic bird was — and still is — seen as a symbol of strength, courage and freedom, and, unlike other eagles, the bald eagle is indigenous only to North America.

The most populous U.S. city (26,248) with eagle in its name is Eagle Pass, Texas. But according to the Texas State Historical Association website, the city did not get its name from the American bald eagle in particular. Located near the Mexican border near an old smuggler’s trail, the area was known as El Paso del Águila because of frequent flights of Mexican eagles from a nearby wooded grove. The city that grew up there, however, kept the English version of the name: Eagle Pass.

Thirty-one places have “liberty” in their names — the most populous being Liberty, Missouri, with 29,149 residents. Founded in 1822, the city of Liberty says it is “named for the principle that Americans hold most dear.” Liberty, the city’s website says, “today offers a freedom of choice for contemporary living rivaling that of any community in the country.”

Independence, Missouri, with 116,830 residents, is the largest of 11 places around the United States with “independence” for a name. Once called “Big Spring” by the American Indians who originally lived there, the U.S. government

The majestic bald eagle has been a U.S. symbol since 1789.

took control of the area in 1825 through treaties with the Indians. Missouri’s General Assembly approved the site as Independence in 1827, according to the city’s website. The city gained its name from the white settlers who admired President Andrew Jackson, who was known as a “people’s president” and for advancing political democracy.

Of the nine places having “freedom” in their names, the largest is New Freedom, Pennsylvania, with 4,464 citizens. But New Freedom — incorporated in 1873 — isn’t named for the blessing of freedom, but for the Free family (see York Town Square blog post), a prominent clan that lived there. Since there was another town already with the name Freedom, “New Freedom” was chosen as the official name, according to the borough’s website.

Patriot, Indiana, with a population of 209 is the only place in the United States with “patriot” in its name. Originally called Troy when it was first laid out in 1820, the town later changed its name to Patriot because of the patriotic sacrifices of its citizens, who answered the call of service to fight in every U.S. war beginning with the American Revolution. A historical description (PDF, 125KB) of the town appears on the city’s website. Written in 1931, it says: “Ever since [the town’s founding] have the citizens, in times of stress and war, sent forth, with all the name implies, their patriotic sons, their moral aid, and more financial help than could naturally have been expected from them.”

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