Origins of the State Capitols

By Van Moltke

Montgomery, AL – Originally named for the popular country western duo Montgomery Gentry, changed in 2004 because the word “gentry” sounded British and, consequently, too gay for Charles Barkley to tolerate.

Juneau, AK – A French guide defeated a polar bear in hand-to-hand combat, using judo. The native peoples mistakenly tried to Francify the word judo and came up with Juneau. They still practice judo today, only they use harpoons, whereas the traditional judo masters do not.

Phoenix, AZ – Although it had never risen from its own ashes, the original city on this site was named Phoenix. When that city burned down and the decision was made to rebuild, the mayor said, quote, “Now the name makes sense. Boo-Yah!”

Little Rock, AR – A splinter town of Big Rock, this town became the capitol when Big Rock was razed by the militant wing of Little Rock two months after the secession. Big Rock was named Whose Big Now, AR and, later that week renamed, by presidential decree, Pine Bluff.

Sacramento, CA – This settlement originally bore the name Apocrypho. But not everyone liked the Book of Maccabeus as much as Sam, the guy who founded Apocrypho. So they renamed it Sacramento.

Denver, CO – The simplest of capitol stories. After the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, well, wouldn’t you move the state house as close to that Elway magic as you could?

Hartford, CT – Deerford, CT, in an effort to sound classier, was renamed Hartford. The move paid off as CT enjoyed a reputation as “classiest in the lower 48” for some years. But then Mohegan Sun opened.

Dover, DE – After much religious infighting, the two groups of settlers that founded the Delaware colony decided to coexist peacefully and as a token of that peace the decision was made to release a dove and wherever the dove made its nest, there the settlers would build their capitol. To commemorate the gesture the town was to be named Dove, DE. But, sadly, E and R are right next to each other on the keyboard and the town scribe had fat fingers. C’est la vie!

Tallahassee, FL – Originally named to poke fun at the Seminole Indians and Mississippi all at once, both the Seminoles and Mississippians banded together to slaughter each and every living being in the town. Not to be shown up, the Floridians re-settled the town under the same name. Just before the town was slaughtered a second time for their hubris, one of the Seminole warriors exclaimed “Oh! Now I get it! That is a good one.” So they all had a good laugh and a feast of brotherhood. Then, in a drunken stupor, they slaughtered the inhabitants of Pensacola. Frontier life was hard.

Atlanta, GA – For some reason, they decided to name the city after the most colossal of all municipal failures, Atlantis. I know it was dumb, but it gets dumber when you realize the town is landlocked. Or maybe they landlocked it to avoid the Atlantis catastrophe. Geniuses or morons? The world may never know.

Honolulu, HI – A Hawaiian word, Honolulu translates roughly as: “Feel like a big man now America? Taking over an underdeveloped sovereign nation on the flimsiest of pretenses to help stabilize your military power, real nice. Jerks.”

Boise, ID – Keebler produced a line of potato chips called O’Boises, the name was at once a clever play on the phrase “Oh, boy!” and a subtle play on our association of Idaho and potatoes. Imagine their embarrassment when they found out that Boise was actually in Montana! Thinking quickly, Keebler dispatched their imperialist war machine to annex Boise for Idaho and establish a puppet governor, making it a “potato republic.” The US Army was sent to squelch this aggression but President George Bush, Sr. decided to let Keebler have Idaho, in the hope that it would sate their lust for war. He was right, it did. But people still called him “The Great Appeaser” to make fun of him.

Springfield, IL – Conscious of the importance of public perception, the go-go ‘80’s plutocrats that run Illinois adopted this name over Swamp of Fetid Death, IL, which was the name from founding until 1887.

Indianapolis, IN – Always the consummate “boring state” Indianans decided their capitol should be Latin for “Indiana City.” Yawn, right? I know. Anyhoo, they were going to name the city Larrybirdpolis but plans were put on hold after the Colts started winning. After all, Peytonmanningpolis has a much nicer ring.

Des Moines, IA – Most people think this name is French for “The Middle” as in “The Middle of Nowhere.” Not true. It is actually named for Desmond “Des” Moines. Who dueled and killed Aaron Burr in a Staten Island hotel as revenge for the death of Alexander Hamilton. Many say it was not a fair fight as Burr was 80 and bed ridden and Moines was 26 and spry. Well, I guess that’s why it’s Des Moines, IA and not Des Moines, NY or Des Moines, PA, huh?

Topeka, KS – In an effort to win a game of Scrabble, Diamond Jim Brady paid 20 million dollars to have the capitol of Kansas renamed Topeka from Kanstastic. Topeka having been the random word he made up and played in the Scrabble game. His Scrabble opponent claims that they made the deal “no proper nouns” before play began, but John L. Sullivan “persuaded” him to drop his complaint.

Frankfort, KY – You thought it was named after Frankfurt, Germany? Well sucks to you, Gerry! Because it was named after Frank “Boozy” O’Shea’s fort. O’Shea, you may remember, was known as America’s William the Conqueror, for his brilliant use of forts to maintain military dominance. Like William the Conqueror used castles. God, do I have to spell it out for you?

Baton Rouge, LA – French for “Red Stick” I would explain its origins but it’s in Louisiana and the story gets a little blue.

Augusta, ME – Some say it was named for St. Augustine, some say for Augustus. But then they remember that they’re thinking of Augusta, GA and realize that Augusta, ME was named for a spunky little lobster that could—who went by the name of August. The townspeople loved that little guy and bits of his story went on to inspire the children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web.” He was a town treasure, and, according to Mayor Watkins: “delicious, especially his tail.”

Annapolis, MD – Originally named Annstown, MD, after the Colts fled to Indianapolis, the residents of Maryland quickly renamed the town, ending in “polis” in the hopes that the Colts would get confused, turn around and resettle in Annapolis. The plan was foiled, however, because the Colts had a map and were not idiots. But the locals of Maryland still hold out hope that their plan will work. And it did, sort of, when the Cleveland Browns got confused and headed toward Annapolis. Halfway there they realized their error but settled in Baltimore anyway because “we suck anywhere, who cares where we play.” Two years later they won the Super Bowl.

Boston, MA – Ah, Beantown. Named for Boston, Lincolnshire, England, this was named, as a contraction of St. Botolph’s Stone. This is a lame name history. I think we should rename it Bradyville and challenge any team of football players to enter the Bradyrena (formerly Fenway Park) and compete against Tom Brady and a team of housecats and small children. Tom Brady would win, of course. And then we could hang the naked bodies of the other team from the parapets of Bradyville. Oh yeah, we need to build parapets.

Lansing, MI – Lansing, MI has a rich and colorful past. When Michigan was just an infant, nobody paid her much mind. So, in order to get people thinking about Michigan, they changed the capitol from Detroit to Lansing. Now, whenever kids have to list the state capitols and they get to Michigan they say Detroit. But they’re wrong! It’s Lansing! And now they have a kernel of interest for Michigan which will blossom into a full grown tree of infatuation. And trees belong in Ann Arbor, another Michigan city. In conclusion, tourism in Michigan is up 49%, the same as unemployment.

St. Paul, MN – See, you thought it was Minneapolis, huh? I can’t blame you, what with the “apolis” and all. And you may say what’s the difference, they’re the twin cities? And while this is true St. Paul is named for St. Paul, who slew a dragon and invented the technology to levitate Santa’s sleigh, as well as the Harrier jet. He also conquered Istanbul, destroyed Count Dracula and read to baby Jesus at an early age, increasing his vocabulary and aptitude for language in general. Minnea, the Lakota chief who Minneapolis is named after, slew the Wendigo, developed the technology that makes his people’s corn multicolored and also led to laparoscopic surgery. He defended Big Round Top at Gettysburg and taught Tecumseh all about life. Impressive, yes. But not as impressive as St. Paul. So the capitol goes to St. Paul.

Jackson, MS – In a brilliant display of prognostication by Louis LeFleur in 1792, he named his city Jackson. He claimed that the name Jackson would be shared by thousands of famous people throughout history and that the city would be named for all of them. From Michael and Bo to Andrew and Action, the city boasts the greatest collection of namesakes in Mississippi. Only Smith, OR and Johnson, Qatar outdo Jackson.

Jefferson City, MO – In an attempt to win a Presidential pardon Ed Montgomery named this city after Thomas Jefferson and wrote a letter to the President stating that in light of this service he should be pardoned for re-using a stamp. Now mail fraud was no laughing matter in 1812 and, using the return address on the letter, President Jefferson, as part of his “toughe on ye olde cryme” program, was able to apprehend Montgomery. At his hanging Montgomery, through his choking sobs, exclaimed “The South will rise again!” This confused all in attendance as MO was the West at the time and the South had not risen the first time yet. Breaking the silence with his trademark affable wit, President Jefferson was heard to say “Are you crying, dude? What a pansy!”

Helena, MT – Named for Greek beauty Helen, the face that launched 1,000 ships, Helena also launched 1,000 ships. Promising 40 acres and two mules to anyone who settled there, 1,000 ships set sail with some 20,000 settlers for Helena. Sadly, they were lost off Cape Froward. Waiting patiently for settlers for 10 years, the “Four Georgians” and their 90,000 mules decided, in 1864, “Eh, might as well make it the capitol.”

Lincoln, NE – Jealous of the upstart community, Mexican immigrant and Omaha resident Juan Wilkez Butjez fired drunkenly at the rear side of the city, screaming “Sic simper tyrannapolis!” A few years later John Wilkes Booth heard about it, thought it was funny and played the most ill-fated prank in history. When the residents of Better-Than-Omaha, NE heard this hilarious coincidence they renamed the town Lincoln.

Carson City, NV – Not to be outdone by Truth or Consequences, NM, the people of Springfield, NV changed the town’s name to Carson City, after Johnny Carson. Johnny Carson labeled the move “neither sought out, nor appreciated” and when they went to change the name back, it had already been taken by Crapsburg, NV.

Concord, NH – Named for the bitter and suspiciously round grapes, this city’s claim to fame is that nothing important ever happened here. Some people say that something happened during, possibly even to start, the Revolutionary War. But those people are crazy.

Trenton, NJ – I could be wrong, and, admittedly, I’m guessing here, but I think it’s named after Lord Trent. A good way to remember that Trenton is the capitol and not Hoboken is to remember that there was never a chicken emergency in the capitol.

Santa Fe, NM – Homestead of the “Gay Santa” (he loves the hot pants and Hawaiian shirts) G.S. decided to also extend his services to Mexican children as well, for two reasons: first, not many small children are out of the closet, second, Straight Santa won’t bring presents to Mexican children, claiming “If their parents want the jobs Americans won’t take, they can have the presents Americans won’t take. Oh, wait; there are no presents Americans won’t take! Ho, ho ho!” Anyway, as a show of solidarity, G.S. changed the name from Gay Santa to Santa Fe.

Albany, NY – Even though Matt Albanese, little known title actuary, claims to have no mafia connections, the mayor of Altherston, NY held a press conference with a black eye and bandaged fingers to announce that he was changing the name of the city to Albany, to honor Matt.

Raleigh, NC – You might think it’s named for Sir Walter Raleigh, and the fact is, I don’t care enough to look. So run with it. Walter Raleigh it is.

Bismarck, ND – With the slogan “We’re the top Dakota. If you know what we mean” ND has always had a preoccupation with being the Dakota in charge. And also with monocles, so they named the capitol after Otto Von Bismarck.

Columbus, OH – Hacked out of the very wilderness by a swarthy and tenacious Christopher Columbus he hid golden tablets and decoder rings all over the Americas that led to Columbus and a vellum book naming him and his descendants as rightful kings of the world. Then, that done, he sailed back to Europe, pretended that he wanted to voyage around the world and, in 1692, “discovered” the New World. However, the Indians that were so helpful to him the first time didn’t like the idea of so many white guys crashing the party and the rest is history. Later Joseph Smith misread all the tablets and stuff and now they all live in Utah and have a middle-of-the-road football program at BYU. Eh, the best laid plans of mice and men. But the next guy who found Columbus saw the sign that said “Welcome to Columbus!” and said “Whatevs, I’m ok with that name.”

Oklahoma City, OK – They would have put more thought into it, honest they would have, but they just sort of assumed the Natives would raze the city anyway and thought a fancy name would be like making beds on the Titanic. Even though the Titanic hadn’t sunk yet.

Salem, OR – Tantalized by the amount of tourism that Salem, MA received for its bewitching past, and also for hanging those witches, Salem’s mayor tried to accuse housewives in Salem, OR of witchcraft in order to boost municipal revenue. He even built gallows and a wig for the judge. But his plans went for naught when someone pointed out “Come on, man, it’s 1991.” But the name stuck.

Harrisburg, PA – Originally named Titletown, PA, residents got annoyed when everyone thought they lived in Pittsburgh. After Titletown resident Joe Collins got beat to death in Los Angeles because Raiders fans thought he was “rubbing their noses in the immaculate reception” town officials had had enough and changed the name to “something random. Like, uh, Harris….berg, yeah, Harrisburg.”

Providence, RI – Having first settled on Petty Spite, RI to reflect that God had, apparently out of spite, killed half their party on the trans-Atlantic voyage and caused them to land 100 nautical miles from their intended destination, in the middle of winter with no food, they decided not to anger him any further and named it Providence to appease the bloodthirsty God.

Columbia, SC – Not much to tell, just another case of some people stumbling upon Columbus’ mislaid plans to establish himself as king of the Earth and misreading them.

Pierre, SD – This town was originally named St. Peter, after the founder and rock of the Catholic Church. But it was taken over by the French in the early 1700’s and they said Peter was no saint, now the guy who invented escargot, he was a saint. So they mockingly renamed it Pierre. Later, when they found out St. Peter had invented escargot, they were embarrassed.

Nashville, TN – Inbred hicks wanted to name this capitol after Davy Crockett but they didn’t know their letters and randomly chose some out of one of Crockett’s “buhks” and assembled them to form a sign that said “Ghfedcromli.” Not wanting to hurt their feelings a bureaucrat from the Tennessee Valley Authority asked them what it said and they told him, Nayishvyuhl. So that night he switched the signs and it was Nashville ever since.

Austin, TX – Everyone knows Stephen F. Austin was a dyed in the wool hippie. Sandals, long hair, you name it, he had it. So when they made Austin the capitol the conservative majority of Texans moved to Houston, to show their support for rootin’, tootin’ Sam Houston. Because “Don’t Mess with Texas” and while you and I might not understand this reasoning, attempting to understand it is, technically, messing with Texas. So move to liberal Austin if’n you wanna thank suh dern much.

Salt Lake City, UT – Here the misadventures of Chris Columbus crop up again. These people are so crazy that they thought they were being told by God to go move to the Salt flats near a Lake so full of salt that a car will float on it. It’s hard to imagine how they got that from a golden tablet that read “Give Columbus a solid gold throne and all the virgins he can deflower! This I command as your lord God! Oh, and also wine.”

Montpelier, VT – One of the tiniest capitols in the nation, it’s just so darned cute. But don’t get carried away, remember that these rabid, gay, French secessionists once tried to establish themselves as their own Kingdom. So if you are ever in Montpelier, remember to mock them and point out that their “mont” “pelier” wouldn’t even be a “foothill” “pelier” in Colorado, a real state.

Richmond, VA – This town was actually named for King Richard, who was king of England during the Revolution. Not a popular guy ‘round those parts. And then people act all surprised when the South secedes and, what a surprise, Richmond is their capitol. I’m telling you, these dudes just don’t want to be part of America. That’s why we need a grass-roots change of ideals there, starting with renaming the place Elvis’ Apple Pie Ballpark.

Olympia, WA – Impressed by the majesty of the nearby mountain these settlers named the place Olympia, after the towering home of the Greek pantheon. Then, I’m not even joking, like, 3 days later they discover Mt. Rainier which made them look like such idiots. And they’ve been trying to convince people that Mt. Rainier “isn’t as big as it looks” ever since.

Charleston, WV – Named for Charlie Chaplain, this mountain city is higher than “Mont”pelier and Olympia. Yet the modest West Virginians went with a solid, humble namesake like a funny actor. Sensible and affable, that’s what the name suggests and the people are. Clearly the most aptly named capitol.

Madison, WI – Round about 1996 everyone started naming their kids Madison, boys, girls, it didn’t matter. One man, Jeb Robbins of Wisconsinapolis City, WI could see how dumb this was and sarcastically and bitterly proclaimed his town should henceforth be called Madison, saying “why don’t we name the city Madison!” But people took him seriously and said what a cool name Madison was and so was Sonoma and Dakota. Next thing you know there’s Madison, WI and not one, but two states buying into the Dakota fad. Robbins hung himself in a Denny’s broom closet and to avoid notoriety his children changed their names to Sonoma and Dakota Madison.

Cheyenne, WY – Funny story, this capitol is actually named for Indians making it the first and only town or state whose name has anything to do with Native Americans. You’d think there’d be more, but nope.

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