Leon Edward Seattle No. 3 Yukon Woodpile

Mollie Walsh

Mary “Mollie” Walsh was a young Irishwoman who operated a grub tent in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush. She was “known among the stampeders for her beauty and cheerfulness.”

One of Mollie’s suitors* was Mike Bartlett, who ran a pack train business out of Dawson City with his brothers. She moved to Dawson and married Mike in 1898.

In August of 1900, the couple welcomed a baby boy while traveling on a steamboat. His name? Leon Edward Seattle No. 3 Yukon Woodpile Bartlett. “Leon” was Mollie’s choice, “Edward” was in honor of an uncle, and the rest of it was thrown in by Mike (and others):

Seattle No. 3 was the name of the boat on which he was born, and the crew insisted on it being a part of the name. Yukon was inserted out of deference to the icy river, and Woodpile because of the fact that on the day he was born the boat was taking on a pile of wood from a big woodpile, 73 miles above Rampart.

Poor Leon wouldn’t have his parents around for long, though. In 1901, Mollie left Mike for a packer named John Lynch. In October of 1902, after an attempted reconciliation, Mike shot and killed Mollie. In late 1903, Mike went on trial for murder, and was acquitted by reason of insanity. (The newspaper coverage of the trial noted that little Leon had “only recently succeeded in memorizing his own name.”) Finally, in 1905, Mike killed himself via hanging.

At the time of the 1910 Census, orphaned Leon was living with his uncle Edward Bartlett in Seattle. By the time Leon got married in 1931, he was living in Washington state and his occupation was “soldier.” Notably, none of the later records I found for Leon included the middle names “Seattle No. 3,” “Yukon,” or “Woodpile.”

Sources:

*Decades later, in 1930, one of Mollie’s other gold rush suitors, Jack Newman, commissioned the bronze bust of Mollie above. It’s still on display in Skagway, Alaska.

The Emergence of Makeba

miriam makeba, singer, baby name, 1960s
Miriam Makeba

The baby name Makeba started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1960s:

  • 1966: 8 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1963: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

It saw peak usage in the early 1970s.

What launched the name?

South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was born near Johannesburg in 1932 to a Xhosa father and a Swazi mother.

Her birth name was actually Zenzile, nickname Zenzi. (The English name Miriam was adopted later for career purposes.) According to Makeba, the name Zenzile means “you have no one to blame but yourself” or “you have done it to yourself.”

But “Zenzile Makeba” wasn’t her full name. Her full name was Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekcli Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Kkabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.

Why so long?

The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling; about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story. This may sound most unusual to Americans, but it is the custom of my people.

Miriam Makeba began singing professionally in the early 1950s. In the late ’50s she met famous Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte, who introduced her to American audiences. Her fame grew (both in the U.S. and in Europe) during the ’60s, and she became “the first African artist to globally popularize African music.”

I haven’t had any luck tracking down the etymology of Makeba, but I know the name came from Miriam’s mother, Nomkomendelo Christina Makeba. The name Nomkomendelo means “the one whose father was commandeered” (as she was born on the day her father was forced to join the British army to help fight the Second Boer War).

Do you like the name Makeba?

Sources:

Image: from the movie Come Back, Africa (1959)

P.S. Here are a few more names inspired by the Second Boer War

Two Babies Named Ivernia

The British ocean liner SS Ivernia (1899-1917) made many voyages between Europe and North America during the early 1900s. Various babies were born on board during these years, and at least two of these babies were given names to honor the ship.

The first was born in May of 1906, while the Ivernia was sailing from Liverpool to Boston. A Polish passenger (“Mrs. Micholius Pacer”) welcomed a baby girl named Pauline Ivernia Pacer.

ivernia, baby, news, 1906

The second was born in April of 1914, when the Ivernia was sailing from Naples to New York City. A Hungarian passenger (“Mrs. Sandor Szentkiraly”) welcomed a baby girl named Gazilla Ivernia Szentkiraly.

The word “Ivernia” is a version of the geographical term “Hibernia,” which was used by ancient Greek and Roman writers to refer to the island of Ireland.

Sources:

  • “Ivernia Met Fogs and Gales.” Boston Evening Transcript 11 May 1906: 3.
  • “Two Babies Born on Ship.” New York Times 27 Apr. 1914.

Baby Named “Nimrod Shackleton”

Years before the the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Ernest Shackleton led the Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica. The party set sail from Lyttelton, New Zealand, on January 1, 1908.

A few months later, a New Zealand newspaper reported that a local baby had been given an expedition-inspired name:

What would the infants say if they felt the full weight of the names that are put upon them? Since Lieut. Shackleton left for the Antarctic with the Nimrod a baby — presumably a boy — at Lyttelton has been christened “Nimrod Shackleton.” Shall we hear of a dainty wee girl being dubbed Mollymawk, and will these islands be by-and-bye picturesque with Albatross Jones, King Edward VII Land Smith, Penguin Peterson, Antarctica Adams?

I can’t find any record of the baby, but I can tell you that a “mollymawk” is a type of albatross whose name comes from the Dutch word mallemok (from mal, “foolish,” and mok, “gull”).

Sources:

The Baby Name “Burjoice”

I found the following story in a 106-year-old newspaper article about Southern names. No doubt many of the names/stories in the piece were made-up (urban legends, perhaps) but this one had such weirdly specific details that I’m hoping it was true.

Around in the next cove was the boy, Burjoice Robbins, whose mother derived even greater satisfaction from his curiously un-Christian Christian name. The Cumberland Presbyterian preacher who christened the child insisted on calling him “Rejoice,” and that is the way it is written in the church record. The explanation is simple in the extreme. That summer a learned man ran away from the city to the seclusion of the mountains while he was reading proof on a profound work that was being printed in Chattanooga. Every few days a youth would come out from the printing office with a bunch of galley proofs and there was always a discussion of the type. The learned man wanted some paragraphs set up in small pica, for emphasis, and certain foot notes set up in nonpareil, but the body of the text was to be in bourgeois, which the printer’s helper invariably pronounced “burjoice.” Whenever the writer said anything about “bourzhwa” the youth repeated it after him, making the correction in pronunciation, “burjoice.” The mother of the little boy was convinced that this wonderful thing, which was to play such an important part in a learned book, would make the grandest name her son could possibly have. Even when the preacher said it was heathen she did not yield, writing it in the family bible, in defiance of the church record.

The words “pica,” “nonpareil,” and “bourgeois” refer to letter sizes that predate the point system we use today (e.g., 12-point Times New Roman, 10-point Arial).

And here’s a twist: In the world of printing, the word “bourgeois” was indeed pronounced burjoice. So the printer’s helper was correct in making his correction. :)

Source: “Peculiar Names Found in the Southern States.” San Francisco Call 28 Sep. 1912: 2.