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A Geographic Encyclopedia
We use place names every day, thinking about where we are going, not where the names came from. This web site provides quick access to the stories behind the names, thousands of miniature histories that capture the lost lore of familiar places.

Author Warren Upham The stories on these pages unfold in the idiosyncratic, antiquarian voice of their compiler, Warren Upham, a compulsive collector of minutiae who gathered Minnesota's geographic names from 1879 until his book was first published in 1920. While fans of the book will be pleased to meet an old friend again, Internet users may be surprised by Upham's distinctly nineteenth-century tone. His voice, speaking from an era when massive projects of this type were compiled, draws readers into his world and his passion.

Minnesota Place Names is both a book, published in a revised and expanded third edition, and this searchable, expanded web site, which includes the text of the book and a wealth of further links to information about Minnesota places. Both resources, like the original volume, will continue to settle arguments, delight browsers, and satisfy researchers.

But Minnesota Place Names offers users more than an amusing list of stories from the past. It suggests a personal connection to history. Naming a place is a way of connecting to it, of making it more familiar, of taking ownership of it-of developing a true sense of place. These names still help Minnesota's communities to establish identity and to honor those who came before them, both Indian and white. The names sometimes even reveal the namers' dreams for the future. By knowing those stories, we share in that honoring and in those dreams. It is the way we say, "This is our home."