Picture this: You're on a Minnesota road trip, minding your own business and having a good time, when you see a sign for Climax. Or maybe one for Nimrod, Nowthen or Fertile. Who named these towns? And more importantly, why?
That's the latest question for Curious Minnesota, our community-driven reporting project fueled by questions from inquisitive readers.
We rounded up five of the state's most head-scratching town names and discovered how they came to be.
Nimrod: You can just imagine the quips that follow after you tell someone you're from a town called Nimrod. While most people probably think of the word as a synonym for "idiot," the real origin is quite the opposite. This tiny community is named for the biblical figure Nimrod, who appears in the Book of Genesis. Nimrod is described as a "mighty man" and a "mighty hunter before the Lord," descriptions that might have appealed to the pioneers who settled the area.
Climax: This community was named after a brand of chewing tobacco back in 1896. If you meet someone from this little town of just under 300, keep the jokes to yourself — they've heard them all.
Savage: The town of Savage was originally named Hamilton until residents were swept off their feet by a local celebrity. In 1902, Minneapolis businessman Marion Willis Savage bought a plot of land in the town and soon after purchased the standardbred pacer Dan Patch, who went on to break the world record in the mile at the 1906 Minnesota State Fair.
If you haven't figured it out by now, the real celebrity was the horse, although the town bears the name of the man who brought residents their beloved Dan Patch. In 1916, both the horse and owner became ill, and Savage died just one day after Dan Patch.
"The claim is that he died of a broken heart, or the shock of losing his beloved horse," said Emily Gunderson, city of Savage communications manager.
The city is still pretty enamored of the dynamic duo, and in 2018 it erected a statue of man and horse in front of the public library.
Fertile: Minnesota settler John LaDue migrated to Polk County from Fertile, Iowa, and thought the land looked so similar to his hometown that he decided to name the new settlement after it. A more recent fun fact: Fertile was just named the nicest place in Minnesota by Reader's Digest.
Nowthen: This community was named by accident. Before Nowthen was a town, it was part of the unincorporated area known as Burns Township. The first postmaster, Jim Hare, wrote to the Post Office Department requesting to establish the Burns Post Office, but his application was rejected because it was too similar to the Burnstown Township Post Office. Hare had a habit of starting and ending his sentences with "nowthen." So when he suggested several new names and ended his letter with "nowthen," postal officials mistook it as a suggestion. Thus the Nowthen Post Office, and eventually the city of Nowthen, was born.