The Commerce Journal

April 23, 2012

Early settlers demonstrated imagination in naming children

By Dr. James Conard
The Commerce Journal

Commerce — Early settlers of Hunt County gave their daughters some charming, if not outright strange names.  

Although names like Sarah (by far the most popular among parents in the pre Civil War era), Nancy, Rebecca, Elizabeth and Mary appear most often in family genealogies from this period.

Scattered here and there, however, are unusual, even whimsical names that break the monotony of the more ordinary Anglo-Saxon names and that give testimony to our ancestors’ sometimes overactive imaginations and individuality.

Here are a few gleaned from the Hunt County censuses of 1850 and 1870 and from cemetery inscriptions, that appear unusual to my eyes.

Samuel P. Moore, a cabinet maker in Greenville and his wife Marcy, had a daughter born in Texas — and named her Texas. The wife of Jacob Reed was named Texana.

M.M.M. (initial only in the 1850 census) was a female child of James Moore; Phylinding was the daughter of Hunt County farmer Thomas Stubbs and his wife, who had three other children, named George, Fanny and Cynthia; Feltie was the 7-year-old daughter of William Payne; and Silihah and Cyrena were the daughters of Charles Hart and wife Eliza.

Elisha and Elizabeth Brake had two daughters named Ruliany and Hulda; while Catherin Mooney, a 40-year-old widow with daughters Elizabeth, Mary Ann, Sarah and Martha — all fairly common names for the time — named her youngest daughter Cloa.

In addition to Texas and Texana, as noted above, I found Louisiana, Tennessee, California, Kansas, Indiana and Missouri on the 1850 and 1870 census records. There is a Hunt County tombstone for Miss Arizona Miller, aged 17, who died Oct. 23, 1889.

Phelina, Movalda, Narcissus, Tilitha, Rencia, Arena and Prudence Angeline were all present on the census rolls of 1850.

Euphena and Fora were sisters, and while listing other unusual names without comment, the 1870 census taker noted that “Hinchy” was female.

And Jenetta, Lunvenia, Fletie, Rosetta, Thursey, Anrilla, Zora, Selitha, Abbaalen, Sophronia, Mina and Artemesa are wives or daughters listed on the 1870 census. Also the 1870 census shows that Isaphina was the daughter of Arch and Nancy Dill who named other children Onicimus (male), Eliza, Josephine, Columbus, Jeff Davis, Nancy and Sarah.

In addition, feast your eyes on these other unusual names from Hunt County cemetery inscriptions while you ponder the reasons for these sometimes lyrical names — Zerrelda, Dovie, Gapitola, Zoona, Pardetia, Alfeete and Flarra.

Let us not forget the parents who named their sons Napoleon, Zepliamah, Pepton, Theadore and Americas (brothers), Damascus, Tiberious, Mansilus, Zebeda, Ephraim, and Ludelian — so the females had no monopoly on unusual names.

Dr. Jim Conrad has retired as Emeritus Head Archivist from Texas A&M University – Commerce.  He remains active in the community.