Louisiana Cities and Towns: What’s In the Names Part III

Here are more Louisiana places with really unusual stories behind their names.

Jeff Richard
Jeff Richard is a public information officer with the Louisiana Office of Tourism. As a Louisiana native, when he’s not assisting travel journalists from around the world in their efforts to promote Louisiana, Jeff likes to explore Louisiana swamps (preferably in an airboat) and venues, festivals and attractions showcasing Louisiana music. Jeff, his electric guitar collection, his wife, children and their three Chihuahuas reside in Baton Rouge. You can reach Jeff at [email protected]
Audubon Bridge

The gateway to New Roads is the Audubon Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Continuing from Part I and Part II, here are more Louisiana places with really unusual stories behind their names.

  • A touring dignitary’s endorsement: Zwolle in Sabine Parish was indirectly named by a respected Dutch businessman who visited the former railroad logging town in the 1800s. He told local officials the region’s scenic beauty was similar to that of his hometown—Zwolle, Holland.
  • Nearby natural resources: Saline in Winn Parish originated as a mining community, named for the large salt dome on which the town sits. Sulphur in Calcasieu Parish was another large mining site early in its history that was named for its rich sulfur deposits.
  • Transportation arteries: In the case of New Roads, it was named for a highway that was to connect its local lake, False River, with the nearby Mississippi River. Cut Off gets its name from a proposed canal that would serve as a shortcut between Bayou Lafourche and New Orleans. The canal never materialized but the name stuck to the community at the canal’s planned starting point.

And those that are even more unusual.

  • A child’s nickname: A then-new railroad depot in Avoyelles Parish was named Bunkie by a prominent landowner in the late 1800s. It is said the wealthy man’s young daughter had a pet monkey but her unpolished vocabulary skills resulted in her calling the pet “bunkie” instead of “monkey,” much to the amusement of the family. When the rail company asked the landowner to name the depot which sat on his land, he chose “Bunkie,” which had become the family’s nickname for his little girl.
  • A steamboat captain’s sarcastic remark: Local lore says that Waterproof in Tensas Parish got its name from a Mississippi River captain who was meeting an early community resident, Abner Smalley, to get cordwood to fuel his steamboat. It’s said when the ship captain met Smalley on a very small isle, surrounded on all sides by the river, the captain joked “Well, Abner, I see you’re waterproof.” Whether that story is fact or fiction, there’s no question the name Waterproof carries irony: It’s said the current town is about three miles from its original location and that the town moved twice during its history to avoid being swallowed up by the mighty river.