What's in a Name?
By Ranger Lisa
Names fascinate me - where they originate, what they mean, how they sound, and why they sometimes change. I looked into Brunswick, one of the largest towns along the canal, known for its rich railroad history. Dating back to a 1753 royal land grant, Brunswick has undergone many name changes. Each gives us a glimpse into the town's history.
Imagine living in 'Merry Peep O Day', 'Buffalo Wallow', or 'Eel Pot'. Do they evoke images of a cheerful sun peeping over Catoctin Mountain, buffalo cooling off in the mud flats of present day Route 17, or of Native Americans hauling eel pots from the Potomac River? These were all names once used to identify Brunswick.
What about 'Coxson Rest' or 'Tankersville'? How would you like to live in a town named after the local landowners? Although less visually descriptive, both tell a story of status and influence.
Around the Civil War, Brunswick was referred to as 'Berlin'. However, this was changed to 'Barry' by the U.S. Postal Service because of another Berlin on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Can you imagine being told that you had to change your name because someone else already had it?
In the 1890's, the B&O Railroad built its eastern switching center in Barry. Thousands of immigrants working on the project came from Brunswick, Germany. Imagine how proud they felt when the town was renamed 'Brunswick' after their homeland.
Today, Brunswick continues to preserve its rich transportation heritage not only in its name, but also through the Brunswick Railroad Museum, the C&O Canal Visitor Center, annual festivals, and by revitalizing the historic downtown area.
But next time you visit Brunswick, imagine living in 'Merry Peep O Day', 'Eel Pot', or Brunswick's other previous names and ponder their legacies too.