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Sharing names with Oregon and Idaho

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Place Names


NAMES OF COUNTIES IN WASHINGTON, OREGON, and IDAHO

Rather than merely listing the Northwest’s 119 counties, we dropped them all into a Venn diagram.

All three Northwest states formed during the same era when many of the same people were held in esteem by lawmakers. It’s no surprise, then, that eleven names got repeated once or twice when those lawmakers were carving out counties in the second half of the nineteenth century. Washington state shares ten of those eleven names with its neighbors.

Ironically, the only repeated Northwest county name not in Washington is Washington. Yes, there’s a Washington County, Oregon (west of Portland) and a Washington County, Idaho (northwest of Boise), but not a Washington County, Washington.  It may seem unreasonable that a county and state share a name, but it happens — look at Idaho County, Idaho.  (Or Utah County, Utah or Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, etc.)

  • Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were honored with counties in all three states.
  • The twice-used county names are memorials to Presidents George Washington, John Adams and Ulysses Grant, Senators Stephen Douglas and Thomas Hart Benton, scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and the Columbia River on which Lewis and Clark navigated.
  • Local figures and Indian tribes comprise most of the remaining county names that were not repeated.

So that’s today’s list: we were just looking for names neighbors thought worth repeating.

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