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Bob Lind, Published May 12 2013

Lind: Readers inquire about city names

Bowman and Havana are North Dakota towns on opposite corners of the state. But Neighbors has received inquiries about how both of them got their names.

First, Bowman, in southwestern North Dakota.

A note about Bowman comes from a woman named, of all names, Bowman.

She’s Bonnie Bowman, now of Moorhead. But she grew up in Bowman, in the county also named Bowman.

“When we were kids,” Bonnie writes, “we always said, ‘Yes, everything was named for us.’ However, that is not the case.

“I believe,” she says, that “like so many North Dakota towns, it was based on a railroad man’s name.

“My grandfather, John Bowman, did homestead in Bowman County in 1908, coming from Otter Tail County, Minn. But alas, the name thing is purely coincidental.”

Well, according to the book “North Dakota Place Names,” by Douglas Wick, there is a question concerning how Bowman got its name.

Wick’s book says the town was called Twin Buttes when it was founded in 1907, then apparently was called Eden and later Lowden.

But in late 1907, the postmaster changed the name to Bowdon for territorial legislator William Bowman.

Wick says, however, that others say the town was named for E.M. Bowman, an official for the Milwaukee Road, which would bear out Bonnie’s understanding of the origin of the name.

Heading for Havana

Now to southeastern North Dakota and Havana.

John Maus, Fallbrook, Calif., writes that while both he and his wife, Betty, were born in Britton, S.D., he grew up and went to school in nearby Havana.

“I had been told that Havana meant ‘heaven,’ ” John says, “but I’ve never been able to confirm that or find out why the name Havana was chosen.”

Again, Wick’s book to the rescue: It says the Great Northern Railway established a station there in 1883 and called it Weber, but the name was changed to Havana in 1886.

The name was suggested by Lewis Jones, a local Realtor who came from Havana, Ill., which was named for Cuba’s capital city. Havana is Spanish for haven, or harbor.

John didn’t know all this, but he’d long been curious about Havana, Cuba, so recently he and Betty went there on a cultural exchange under a State Department license.

There, he got a different story on the meaning of the name. “I found out that Havana, or ‘Habana,’ as they spell it in Cuba, was named after a tribe of early inhabitants, and has no other meaning.”

“Needless to say,” John says, “there are no similarities between the two towns,” the Havana in Cuba and the Havana in North Dakota.

Probably not, John.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com