Babies Named for Malvern Hill

Battle of Malvern Hill

The Civil War’s Battle of Malvern Hill was fought on July 1, 1862, near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

And, as with the battles of Fort Sumter and Gettysburg, Malvern Hill had an influence on baby names. I’ve found dozens of U.S. babies with the name “Malvern Hill” — though many got the combo decades after the fact, which is interesting.

Here are the Malvern Hills I found from the 1860s specifically:

  • Malvern Hill Lash (Virginia, 1862)
  • Malvern Hill Barnum (New York, 1863)
    • Union soldier Henry Barnum, the father of Malvern Hill Barnum, was declared dead following the Battle of Malvern Hill. After his family held a funeral for him, he was discovered alive in a Confederate prison. He was rescued and sent home in mid-July. Baby Malvern arrived the following September.
  • Malvern Hill Logan (Georgia, 1864)
  • Malvern Hill Watts (Missouri, 1864)
  • Malvern Hill Foster (Virginia, 1865)
  • Malvern Hill Hill (Virginia, 1868) — yes, Hill twice

Speaking of Hill twice…the name Malvern can be traced back to the Welsh words moel and bryn, meaning “bare, bald” and “hill.” So, if you take etymology into account, the place name Malvern Hill is redundant, and Mr. Malvern Hill Hill’s name contains Hill thrice.

Source: Battle of Malvern Hill – Wikipedia, Notes for Henry Alanson Barnum, Malvern Hill Barnum – Find a Grave

Babies Named for Fort Sumter

Bombardment of Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter — the sea fort near Charleston, South Carolina — wasn’t fully built yet in the spring of 1861 when the Battle of Fort Sumter kicked off the Civil War. The Second Battle of Fort Sumter, two years later, reduced the never-finished fort to rubble. (It has since been restored and is now a National Park.)

As with the Battle of Gettysburg, the two Fort Sumter battles had a small influence on baby names. I found about a dozen U.S. babies — all male, all born in the South — named “Fort Sumter”:

  • Fort Sumter Williamson (North Carolina, c1861)
  • Fort Sumter Roebuck (Virginia, c1861)
  • Fort Sumter Richards (South Carolina, 1861)
  • Fort Sumter Earle (Alabama, 1864)
  • Fort Sumter Sparrow (Alabama?, 1867)
  • Fort Sumter Liscomb (Texas, 1869) — but buried as a “John
  • Fort Sumter Brooks (Georgia, 1877)
  • Fort Sumter Sumter (Louisiana, 1881) — yes, Sumter twice
  • Fort Sumter Black (Georgia?, 1881)
  • Fort Sumter Cannon (Georgia, 1884)
  • Fort Sumter Everett (Virginia, 1900)
  • Fort Sumter Falls (North Carolina, 1910)

Notice how only half of them were born in the 1860s. A few — like “Fort Sumter Cannon” and “Fort Sumter Falls” — may have gotten the name simply because of the play on words.

Source: Battle of Fort Sumter – Wikipedia

The Baby Named Astralabe

Here’s the story of an unusual baby name that was bestowed way back in 12th-century Paris.

The parents were French philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard and his brilliant student, Héloïse d’Argenteuil. They started their infamous love affair (“one of the best known love tragedies of history,” according to Britannica*) in the year 1115, and in 1118 they welcomed their only child, a son.

Because he was illegitimate, it fell upon Héloïse to do the naming, and she chose Astralabe — after the Astrolabe, a sophisticated navigational device being used at that time in the Islamic world (which included much of Spain). Astrolabes coud “locate and predict the positions and risings of the sun, moon, planets, and stars.”

In Catholic France, where most babies were named after saints, “Astralabe” was a highly unconventional choice. (One science writer, in 2008, compared Héloïse’s choice to “a woman in a sci-tech backwater today naming her son iPod.”)

Abelard and Héloïse soon married and legitimized Astralabe, but that didn’t stop Héloïse’s outraged relatives from attacking and castrating Abelard. Both went into religious life, though they technically remained married. No one is certain what became of Astralabe, but name-based evidence (a “Canon Astralabe” at Nantes cathedral circa 1150, for instance) suggests that he entered the church as well.

The word “astrolabe” is ultimately derived from the ancient Greek compound noun astrolabos organon, meaning “star-taking instrument.” Astrolabos is made up of the elements astron, meaning “star,” and lambanien, meaning “to take.”

Sources:

*The encyclopedia, not this person.

Arctic Baby Named Charlie Polaris

polaris, boat, north pole, baby name
The Polaris in 1871

The Polaris Expedition (1871-1873) was one of the many ill-fated early attempts to reach the North Pole.

In November of the first year, the ship’s captain, Charles Francis Hall, died — possibly from being poisoned. In October of the second year, the ship’s company accidentally broke up: 19 people were stranded on an ice floe while 14 remained on board.

Among those on the floe were Inuit hunter/interpreter Hans Hendrik (Greenlandic name: Suersaq), his wife Mergut, and their four children — including a newborn. The baby boy had arrived in August of 1871, while the family was still aboard the ship.

No doubt his parents gave him a Greenlandic name, but all the accounts of the expedition only mention the baby’s English name: Charlie Polaris. “Charlie” was for the late captain, and “Polaris” was for the ship.

Baby Charlie and the others were finally rescued in April of 1973 off the coast of Newfoundland, having drifted some 1,500 miles.

Sources:

P.S. The ship’s original name was Periwinkle, and it was part of the Potomac Flotilla during the final months of the Civil War.

Miss Zane Grey

According to a newspaper article from 1911, many people assumed that Zane Grey was a woman because of his first name:

Zane Grey, who is spending the summer at Cottage Point, Lackawaxen, Pa., complains that his unusual first name is the cause of much misunderstanding and that he has received numerous letters addressed to “Miss” Zane Grey and requests for the lady’s photograph.

But “Zane” wasn’t his actual first name. It was his middle name, taken from his mother’s maiden name.

His full name at birth was Pearl Zane Grey. He was born in early 1872 in the Ohio town of Zanesville, which was named after his maternal ancestor Ebenezer Zane.

The name “Pearl” is usually considered feminine, but it seems to have been used for males in Zane’s family; he had a male cousin named Pearl. He disliked the name and dropped it when he began his writing career.

Various sources claim the name “Pearl” was chosen because, around the time of Zane’s birth, newspapers were describing Queen Victoria’s mourning attire as pearl gray. (He was born a few weeks after the tenth anniversary of Prince Albert’s death.) I did some research, though, and couldn’t find a single American newspaper from that era that mentioned pearl gray in association with the queen.

What are your thoughts on the name Zane? Do you view it as masculine or feminine?

P.S. The Zane Grey-inspired television show Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961) gave rise to five (!) other TV shows. These spin-offs were behind several baby name debuts, including Hoby, Case and Cully.

Source: “Authors and their work.” Sun [New York] 14 Jul. 1911: 7.