The Arizona city of Sedona was named after the first postmaser’s wife — but only because all the other names he’d submitted to the U.S. Post Office Department got rejected.
The wife in question is Sedona Arabella Miller, born in Missouri in 1877. She pronounced her name “see-dona” and went by the nicknames Donie (as a kid) and Dona (as an adult).
Sedona was the only one in her family with an unusual name; her siblings included Lillie, Edna, Minnie, Noah, and Edward. Her mother said simply, “I liked the sound of it.” It is possible that she had heard the Creole name Sedonie, used among free women of color in the South.
[Sedonie is probably a variant of Sidonie, which is a French feminine form of the Latin name Sidonius, which means “of Sidon.” Sidon was an ancient Phoenician city-state.]
Sedona married Theodore Carlton “T.C.” Schnebly on her 20th birthday, and in 1901 she and T.C. moved to Arizona with their two young children.
Not long after they arrived, T.C. decided the settlement needed a post office, so he applied for a post office name. But all the names he sent in — Schnebly Station, Red Rock Crossing, Oak Creek Station — were rejected, as they were too long to fit on the cancellation stamp beside “Arizona Territory.”
Finally, at the suggestion of his brother, T.C. tried his wife’s name. The relatively short “Sedona” was approved. By mid-1902, T.C. had the Sedona post office up and running “in the back of the Schnebly home.”
So the baby name Sedona existed before the city did, but it’s never been popular enough to rank in the U.S. top 1,000.
Here’s how many U.S. babies have been named Sedona since the year 2000:
- 2013: 38 baby girls named Sedona (7 in AZ)
- 2012: 55 baby girls named Sedona (9 in AZ, 9 in CA)
- 2011: 51 baby girls named Sedona (6 in AZ, 7 in CA)
- 2010: 60 baby girls named Sedona (8 in AZ, 12 in CA)
- 2009: 69 baby girls named Sedona (8 in AZ, 11 in CA)
- 2008: 91 baby girls named Sedona (18 in AZ, 11 in CA)
- 2007: 75 baby girls named Sedona (17 in AZ, 7 in CA)
- 2006: 76 baby girls named Sedona (14 in AZ, 8 in CA)
- 2005: 58 baby girls named Sedona (6 in AZ, 9 in CA)
- 2004: 77 baby girls named Sedona (12 in AZ, 10 in CA)
- 2003: 66 baby girls named Sedona (16 in AZ, 10 in CA)
- 2002: 76 baby girls named Sedona (14 in AZ, 7 in CA)
- 2001: 62 baby girls named Sedona (12 in AZ, 9 in CA)
- 2000: 69 baby girls named Sedona (8 in AZ, 10 in CA)
Baby names that coincide with city names tend to be less popular among locals (i.e., Brooklyn and Madison are less popular among New Yorkers and Wisconsinites, respectively) but that’s not the case for Sedona.
Of the 923 baby girls named Sedona since the turn of the century, 155 (17%) were born in Arizona, making Arizona the state with the most Sedonas.
In second place is California with 120 Sedonas (13%). In third is Texas with 24 Sedonas (3%).
Arizona’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider that both California and Texas welcome several times as many babies as Arizona does per year.
[This post was inspired by an Eponymia post about Arizona names.]