Friday, February 17, 2012

"Worth-y" Names Identified

The chances that you know anything about the background of the names of the county/cities where you grew up is highly unlikely, unless you subscribe to or buy the Northwood Anchor when it comes out.  A front page story in this week's issues tells all . . .

Worth County was named for a prominent general of the mid-1800s, William Jenkins Worth.  Background on Worth came by way of Alice Barnes Madson and a monument to the general, the second oldest in New York City, built in 1857 and standing in a small park, Worth Square, on Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

Not surprisingly, the statue was the source of her information, gleaned in 1992, prior to The Google.  Today there is a boatload of information about this general online, including his involvement as a Freemason in a "filibuster" invasion of Cuba.

He was a hero of three wars, apparently, the Spanish-American, the Mexican, and the Seminole.  His membership in the Masons may be an indirect connection to the longevity of the Masons in Northwood, though this is a conjecture of the author and not necessarily fact.

The Northwood Masons invited a large group of high school students to attend an information meeting about their organization in the early 60s, but whether any joined in one fashion or another is unknown.

Northwood was named almost by mistake.  Originally called Gulbrand after Gulbrand Mellem, the first settler here, it found its name from the coincidence of two groves situated on the ends of the town called North Woods and South Woods.  When the post office was established the town was named Northwood because it was in these woods that the post office was originally built.  Ironically the post office was later moved to the south grove, but the town retained the name Northwood.

Kensett had its own unique origins.  Like many small communities, it was formed around the railroad and named after Thomas Kensett, a Baltimore oyster packer, and director of the Central of Iowa Railroad.  Kensett promised that if the town were named after him, he would build a church in the town.  The church was never built.

The source of the information on Northwood and Kensett came from a book by local historian Lois Hogen, Worth County Heritage 1853-1976.  The timing of the book may have had something to do with the Bicentennial of 1976 although that, too, is conjecture, and corresponds with the founding of the county in 1853.

So now you know.  

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