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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

A procedure at once meaningless and dense


a climber of a mountain does,--on,

on, till a continent is white with the tents of millions. But the Indian aborigine, for whom the tepee was portable habitation, and the stretch of plain and hill and lake and river, hunting-ground or battle-ground,--the Indian is mainly the reminiscence of an old man's straggling speech; and these names he has left, clinging to lake and river and hamlet, are his memorial. In Montezuma's empire, where once a barbaric splendor held court and set in tragic splendor, lurid even yet at these centuries' remove, what is left save a vocabulary or a broken idol lying black and foreboding in some mountain stream? Or those discoverers whose adventurous deeds are part of the world's chosen treasure, what but their names are written on the streams or hills? The import of these observations is this, that from American geography we may, with reasonable accuracy and detail, decipher this romantic history. In those newer parts of our continent names have too often lost the flavor of history; have, in truth, done so, save in isolated instances. The "Smithtons" and "Griggsby Stations" are monotonous and uninteresting, and the Tombstones are little short of sacrilege. In the crush of movers' wagons there appeared to be a scramble for names of any sort. Places multiply, imagination is asleep, and names nearest at hand are most readily laid hold of; yet, even in such a dearth of originality and poetry, scant names flash out which remind you of the morning names in our continent's history.
A Springdale reminds you that colonists here found a dale, gladdened with living springs; or an Afton suggests how some exiled Scot salved his heart by keeping near his exile a name he loved. Our day will, in the main, attach names for simple convenience, as they put handles on shovels. Such names, of course, are meaningless. The day for inventing names is past, or seems so. We beg or borrow, as the surveyor who marched across the State of New York, with theodolite and chain and a classical atlas, and blazed his way with Rome, and Illyria, and Syracuse, and Ithaca,--a procedure at once meaningless and dense. Greece nor Rome feels at home among us, nor should they.

History is a method of remembrance, and names are a method of remembrance also, the two conspiring to the same end. When the Saxon, sailing across seas, found a rude home in England, he named his new home Saxonland, and there are East and West and South Saxons; and so, Essex and Wessex and Sussex. In like manner, emigrants from various shores across the grim Atlantic kept the memory and names of that dear land from which they sailed; and by running your eyes over those earlier colonies, you shall see names--aboriginal and imported--and so learn, in an infallible way, who first pitched tents on that soil. This tracking dead races over seas by the local designations they have left has always fascinated my thought. Those names are verily planted in the earth, and grow like trees that refuse to die. Through centuries of turbulence and slaughter and racial transplanting, see how some Roman words stay and refuse to go, knowing as little of retreat as a Roman legion! "Chester" and "coin," as good old English terminals, are tense with interest, since they as plainly record history as did minstrels in old castle hall. Chester is the Roman "castra," camp, and where the name occurs across Britain, indicates with


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