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Published August 02 2012

Benshoof: What’s in a name? For Snoop, at least, quite a bit

Maybe Snoop Dogg had the right idea.

Earlier this week, the, ahem, musical artist formerly known as Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., announced that he would be changing his name to Snoop Lion.

Of course, celebrities changing names is pretty common. But, what’s a little bit rarer – and more interesting – is when an actual city goes through a name change (after all, even old New York was once New Amsterdam, to borrow a line from a song).

This reminded me that Wikipedia’s Fargo entry (the most reliable of source) says that our great city once changed names, too. Prior to being called Fargo, it was Centralia.

So, earlier this week I called Andrew Nielsen, curator at the Cass County Historical Society to find out more.

Turns out, before becoming Centralia, the city actually had two names, according to Nielsen. The colony near the Red River was known as The Crossing, and the area on the prairie was sometimes referred to as Tent City.

Then, around 1871, the two parts of the city apparently combined under the Centralia name.

And while that might have a nice ring to it, Nielsen says there probably wasn’t much rhyme or reason behind the name other than it being a common designation for a new city or settlement.

“I think it just meant a central meeting place,” Nielsen told me.

Centralia, N.D., wasn’t meant to be, though. Just about a year later, in 1872, the city’s name was changed to Fargo, after William George Fargo, a president of the Northern Pacific railroad.

Interestingly though, Nielsen says Fargo (the man) had never been to Fargo (the city) before the name change.

“And I don’t think he ever visited before he died (in 1881), either,” Nielsen says.

Some namesake.

Even so, residents of Centralia apparently felt strongly enough about the influence of the railroad on their inchoate city to rename it after one of NP’s presidents.

Over in Clay County, Moorhead has always been Moorhead, named for William Garroway Moorhead, a member of Northern Pacific’s board of directors, according to Mark Peihl, an archivist at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County.

But sometimes, as Snoop showed us this week, it’s just necessary to actively reinvent yourself through a name change.

In his case, the new ‘Lion’ moniker has to do with the importance of the animal in the Rastafari religion, of which Snoop now claims himself a member.

If Fargo were to go the way of Snoop and adopt an animal as part of their name, the obvious choice would be bison, I think.

However, if it were up to me, I’d rather go with the most popular animal on the Internet today: the honey badger.

Fargo Honey Badger. That has a nice ring to it.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535