Researching Arizona’s place names

place names 3Questions regarding colorful Arizona place names often take place on the highways, where exit signs point to places like “Bloody Basin Road.” If curiosity survives the miles, where can someone look up how these places get named?

There are two standard works for such research: Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes and Arizona’s Names: X Marks the Place by Byrd Howell Granger, and both have a place in the State Research Library’s ready reference collection due to frequent use. The library’s copy of original edition of Barnes’ book is heavily annotated and the first few pages are falling apart.

The two books have an intertwined history: Arizona Historian Will C. Barnes’ book was first printed in 1935. Granger revised Barnes’ book for the University of Arizona Press in 1960. Granger published her own book in 1983, and the current edition of Arizona Place Names was published in 1988, and remains in print.
place names 2
The bibliography for the current Barnes book is two pages. Granger’s book contains nine pages of cited publications and three pages of persons interviewed for oral history. Granger explains “Where a family name is cited, the reference is to information learned during visits with “old timers” or those knowing local history. During the early years of research, the oral sources were most important, for the true pioneers were increasingly being silenced by time.”
Both Barnes and Granger give the location of the place name. Sometimes more than one place in Arizona has the same name!

So to answer the question of Bloody Basin, according to Barnes, it is “Said to have been so called because of the many battles with Indians that took place in this region.” (Barnes,54). Granger repeats this, but also adds that “Fred Henry and four other prospectors were attacked here by Apaches in May 1864 and all were wounded. Henry went for help despite having been wounded in both legs.” She also notes the story of a bridge over a gorge where Bloody Basin is: “During one of these crossings, the suspension bridge collapsed and the sheep fell to a bloody death in the “basin” below.” (Granger, 76).

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