Name change fanciful or possible

Kai Hagen

May 16, 2003

I'd like to make a couple of proposals. One is a flight of fancy, I suppose, somewhat impractical and very unlikely. The other is, I think, entirely sensible and certainly possible.

My fanciful notion is that we change the name of Frederick County to Monocacy County.

The odds are long, I realize. But you never know. We have made other such name changes from time to time. One of my favorites was when congress changed the name of Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska to Denali National Park. Rather than memorializing an obscure and undistinguished U.S. president who never set foot in Alaska, the park was bestowed the original Native American name for the nation's tallest mountain, Denali, which means "great one."

As it is, our county is named for Frederick Calvert (1731-1771), the sixth and last Lord Baltimore, who was born in England and never set foot in Maryland. When he is remembered at all, it is more for his immense wealth, considerable political connections and abuse of the colonists. Or for his extravagant lifestyle, illegitimate children, charges of abduction and rape, and for having a private harem. The best thing that can probably be said about Frederick Calvert is that he contributed to the unrest in Maryland that led to the Revolutionary War and American independence.

Frederick County is not unique in this way, of course, When the colonies rebelled against English rule, the colonists obviously had other things to worry about than renaming those counties which recalled and honored English princes and princesses, lords and ladies, earls, barons and the like.

Queen Anne's County was named for, well, Queen Anne who ruled Great Britain and governed Maryland as a royal colony. Prince George's County was named after Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne.

Anne Arundel County was named for Lady Anne Arundel, the daughter of Thomas, Lord Arundel of Wardour. Lady Anne was 13 when she married Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. Calvert inherited from his father George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, the title of "Absolute Lord of Maryland and Avalon" along with rights to the new colony.

Talbot County was named after Lady Grace Talbot, sister of Cecilius Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore, and wife of Sir Robert Talbot. Caroline County was named for Lady Caroline Eden. She was the wife of Maryland's last colonial governor, and the daughter of Charles Calvert, Fifth Lord Baltimore; and the sister of Frederick Calvert, Sixth Lord Baltimore. Dorchester County was named for the Earl of Dorset, a family friend of the Calverts.

And so on.

On the other hand, Carroll County was named after Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Howard County was named after John Eager Howard, the Fifth Governor of Maryland Montgomery County was named after Revolutionary War hero General Richard Montgomery.

The rest of the counties in western Maryland were formed after the American Revolution, and their names reflect that.

Of course, Washington County was named for George Washington, commander of the Continental forces during the Revolutionary War, and first president of the United States.

Allegeny county was formed from Washington County in 1789. Allegeny comes from the Delaware Algonquian word, oolikhanna, meaning "beautiful stream."

Nearly 100 years later, in 1872, Garrett County was carved from the western portion of Allegany County. The County was named for John Work Garrett, railroad executive, industrialist, and financier. Garrett served as president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1858 until his death in 1884. Not quite as impressive as our first president or as appealing as a "beautiful stream," but an improvement over distant monarchs and other ruling royalty.

Maryland itself was named to honor Henrietta Maria, wife of England's King Charles I. If not for the whim of some unknown bureaucrat, we would be living in the state of Henrietta. Not that I have anything against the name Henrietta. My great grandmother was named Henrietta, and she was a remarkable woman, who I was fortunate to know briefly.

Queen Henrietta Maria was the daughter of Henry IV of France (1553-1610) and his second wife, Marie de Medici (1573-1642). She also was the sister of Louis XIII (1601-1643) of France. In 1644, Henrietta Maria left England for France. Her husband was beheaded in 1649.

I think I'll stick to suggesting we change the county name, however!

But, it anyone else wants to get to work on changing the state name, I'll point out that around half our states have names derived from native American words, including Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

Many of our counties notwithstanding, our region is rich with familiar place names derived from native American descriptions and word. And lovely names they are, too, such as Susquehanna, Patuxent, Patapsco, Assateague, Accokeek, Anacostia, Quantico and Mattaponi. And, of course, closer to home Potomac, Catoctin and Monocacy.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad it isn't the King Henry River that winds the length of Frederick County. Thank goodness it isn't the King Charles River that flows past our nation's capital.

If nothing else, the name Frederick County has a lot of momentum going for it. So, I wouldn't place any bets on a switch to Monocacy County anytime soon. But...just for the heck of it...try it on a few times.

One benefit to changing the name of Frederick County to Monocacy County...or even of discussing the that if it was the name of the county, we might be a little more likely to protect the it's namesake, the Monocacy River.

Which brings me to my second, and much more reasonable and realistic proposal, which will be the subject of my next column, in two weeks.

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