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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Salt Lake City viewed through Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Just over a century ago, there was a brief effort to try to change some Salt Lake area geographical names "to add mystic charm" and avoid the usual titles.

The Salt Lake Herald newspaper of July 25, 1912, stated that Joseph E. Caine suggested a change in some titles for the area during a speech given at Liberty Park.

City Creek and Big and Little Cottonwood canyons were particularly mentioned as being too commonplace names for an area so rich in pioneer history and effort.

"With such a world of romance in our history we should not have given to that magnificent gorge of the Wasatch so commonplace a name as Big Cottonwood Canyon. City Creek, Big and Little Cottonwood and Mill Creek Canyons, Twin Peaks and Lone Peak are all misnamed," the story reported.

"There are a thousand cottonwood canyons in the western United States and as many mill creek canyons. Let us give to these and other great works of nature names that will mean something in the history of our state and that will carry with them the romantic charm of the days of the trail blazers."

Caine also suggested that Timpanogos be returned as the name for Utah Lake, as the Spanish explorers and Father Escalante had titled it.

He said more unusual name changers could "add to this state a mystic charm that will live forever in poetry, in painting and in song."

Caine's suggestions were not heeded, or perhaps the commonplace names he wanted changed were already too permanent in the minds of Utahns.

Perhaps the "lone" example of a name Caine suggested that actually had an extra effort to alter it was Lone Peak. For at least a few years in the mid-1910s, there was a temporary renaming of it as "Mount Jordan." (Lone Peak is a distinctive, solitary peak at the far southeast end of the Salt Lake Valley.) The new name didn't stick, but it was used in many newspaper stories of that decade, including the Salt Lake Herald of Sept. 6, 1915.

Another ‘what if?'

Kaysville was named for William Kay, first bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and pioneer settler in the area. However, the town was almost given a totally different name.

The Kaysville Ward was organized in January 1851 by President Brigham Young, with Kay as bishop. The town was then known as “Kay’s Settlement.”

However, when Bishop Kay left the area, there was a desire by some settlers there to change the community’s name to “Freedom” — and for a few years the new name stuck. For example, the Deseret News of Nov. 21, 1860, even referred to the town by its Freedom title, so the alternate name did gain some traction and recognition.

The official name proposal was taken to President Young, who bluntly asked, “When did Kay’s Ward get its freedom?” The idea was thus turned down and President Young suggested the Kaysville name instead.

Additional sources: “Utah Place Names,” by John W. Van Cott, published by University of Utah Press; and the Salt Lake Tribune, May 28, 1916.

Lynn Arave worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 40 years. He is a retired Deseret News reporter/editor, from 1979-2011. His email is: [email protected]

His Mystery of Utah History blog is located at http://mysteryofutahhistory.blogspot.co