What’s In a Name?

If you could meet anyone in Norwich, who would it be? Norwich offers a lot of names for us to choose from. Lately, I have been thinking about who would be at the top of my list.

Part of me thinks it would be fun to have tea with Marion Cross, just to get her thoughts on all the games and laughs and tussles and learning that have happened in front of her school. Lyman F. Pell, I wager, would be pleased about how we honor his ultimate sacrifice. Something tells me Jasper Murdock would drink the lot of us under the table, regaling us with stories from the 18th Century. After recounting his considerable achievements, Alden Partridge might pose on the bandstand on the green and wonder why Alden isn’t a more popular first name.

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Those people have all left us, and left us all a little richer thanks to their contributions to our town.

There are so many other names around town. I hope I won’t offend anyone – the Norwich Historical Society, ancestors, the person him or herself – when I confess my ignorance about the Jones of Jones Circle, the origins of Olcott, or the history of Hazen. I cannot be the only resident of this town to wonder whether Lary Lane forgot an “R” or if it is a last name. Doc Hardy sounds like Norwich’s version of Moonlight Graham, but I don’t know anything about him. Without any idea whether she is fictional or real, I speculate that Barbara Lee would be the world’s greatest dance partner. Unless, of course, Kate Wallace shows up. I’d like to ask Joshua why he gets his own road. Parcel 5 has Keith’s Connector. We’ve never met, but I want to thank you, Keith, for the connection. It helps my young boys love the woods. I often wonder if Bob White was (is?) a bird lover. For more than 30 years, I have been driving up Brigham Hill to the house where I grew up and where my parents still live, yet until recently I never knew that Norwich resident Paul Brigham was the second governor of our state.

When it comes to domiciles, there are literally thousands of other names out there. I like to cruise around with my boys in the back seat, mixing old and fresh, yelling out, “There’s Pete’s place! Gramma Lib’s old house! Coach Dave’s! That’s where Bunsy used to live!”

Mostly, my kids ignore me. I don’t blame them.

If you take the time to notice, you discover that names are everywhere in Norwich. They give our town its charm, its whimsy, its unique character. Take a look around and think of all the names you see and use without giving them much thought. What are the stories behind Simpson, Dutton, McKenna, and Willey? Did people lobby to get their names in certain places, or, perish the thought, attempt to bribe elected officials? If you changed the names, would you change the town in the process?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I am grateful the general store is not called Stan & Mitt’s. 


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