Saturday, December 13, 2014

Backwards towns

People not from East Texas often think that our people and our places are backwards. Sometimes our towns are too! In the county where I work -- Nacogdoches County -- and just to the south of where I live -- in Rusk County -- we have three towns whose names were created by spelling a name backwards -- Mahl, Reklaw, and Sacul. 

Reklaw and Sacul are results of changing the names to suit the postal service. Reklaw was intended to be Walker, for Margaret Walker. She donated the land for the town site. But there was a Walker, Texas elsewhere (where, I don't know), and they resubmitted the name, simply spelling it backwards. The same with Sacul. The town site was laid out on land that was owned by the Lucas family. But there was already a Lucas in Collin County, Texas. The application for a post office was accepted when resubmitted as Sacul.

Mahl (rhymes with "ball") was founded circa 1902 when the Texas & New Orleans Railroad was brought through this area. This name looks funny forwards or backwards! It is supposed to be the reversal of the last name of a T &NO railroad official -- Lham. Though Mahl once had a school, two stores, a church, a blacksmith shop, and a cotton gin, only the church and (very small) cemetery remain. 

These are the "backwards towns" I know of. I searched online and found a few more:

* Byspot, Texas. According to Bob Bowman, Byspot (in San Jacinto County) was a community named by J. O. H. Bennett for his wife Topsy. Topsy B. (first name and initial from last name) was spelled backward. Probably never much more than a logging and farming community, Byspot nevertheless had a post office until 1921. 
* Notla, Texas in Ochiltree County began as Half-Way "in 1906, when Bud Westerfield and Frank L. Hamilton purchased land in that vicinity." A few years after Hamilton moved to his land in 1916, a post office was obtained under the name Notla. That was a backward spelling of Alton -- for the Alton Grocery Company of Enid, Oklahoma, of which Hamilton was a part owner. (from
* Remlig, Texas in Jasper County in now considered a "ghost town". A mill town was established here by Alexander Gilmer in 1905. A post office was established that year with the reversed spelling of Gilmer's name -- since there was already a Gilmer, Texas in Upshur County. (from
* Saxet, Texas. Yes, there was once a Texas town that was Texas spelled backwards. Saxet, in Shelby County, developed around a spur of the Santa Fe railroad line. After the spur was removed the community eventually died out.
Semordnilap (palindromes spelled backward) was coined by Martin Gardner to name/stand for words that spell a different word backwards (e.g. stressed/desserts). Some have used this term to refer to town names developed by spelling a word in reverse -- though there is some difference between the two ideas. Others call such words "reversible anagrams." Regardless, the development of town names by spelling other words backwards has a unique and interesting history.

Do you know other town names that were created by spelling another name in reverse?

Note 1: In searching the total of Find-A-Grave (all countries) I did not find the last name "Lham" listed.
Note 2: Of these towns, Notla in not in East Texas. Ochiltree County is in the Panhandle, bordering...wait for it...Texas County, Oklahoma.

No comments: