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Know the West

Nevada names

  JARBIDGE (Elko). A Nevada post office, established March 5, 1910, and town (the most isolated mining camp in the state) ... According to Jarbidge legend, the name ... comes from a Shoshone Indian word Jahabich, meaning "devil," or from Tswhawbitts, the name of a mythical crater-dwelling giant who roamed the Jarbidge Canyon for many years.

* Helen Carlson,

Nevada Place Names

Here are the answers to all of those idle road-trip questions: Isn't there an "r" missing in Jarbidge? Were the Ruby Mountains named after a jewel, a sweetheart, or a daughter? Is the swimming really that bad in Puny Dip Canyon? A brand-new edition of Nevada Place Names untangles the stories behind Nevada's quirky and not-so quirky place names - from Deeth to Providence, God's Pocket to Devil's Throat - and, along the way, tells the many-layered history of the state. Native American names like Tonopah and Pahrump are still on the Nevada landscape, thanks to a very few people like Captain James Simpson, who made a practice of preserving Shoshone and Paiute place names during his explorations in the 1850s. Mormon settlers and hopeful miners have also left their mark on the state, with names like Emigrant Valley, Mission Canyon, and Lucky Hobo and Burning Moscow mines. It took author Helen Carlson nearly 14 years of research to complete the original 1974 edition. Fortunately, she persevered, and her painstaking work has produced a book that's as delightful as a dictionary can possibly be.

*Michelle Nijhuis

Nevada Place Names, by Helen S. Carlson, University of Nevada Press, Reno, 1999, 282 pages, $21.95 paperback.