Arizona Name Stories: Flagstaff

flg_mapThe story of how the city of #Flagstaff got its name relates to a simple fact of description. The city erected a monument in 1985 at the location where a famous-to-pioneers old flagstaff once stood, and the town took root.

IMG_5884The monument is northwest of present day downtown Flagstaff, just south of Frances Short Pond, down the street from Marshall Elementary. The recreated flagpole monument juts into the almost-always blue sky from a meadow with a view of the San Francisco Peaks.

IMG_5878A plaque on the monument reminds citizens how the city got its name. It reads: “Historians generally agree that Flagstaff derives its name from a flag-raising ceremony held July 4, 1876 by a group of settlers from New England.”

According to Will Barnes’ Arizona Place Names book, Flagstaff was also once called Antelope Spring and Old Town Spring, even Flagpole Spring. When a post office was established there in 1881, they had to officially name the town. Barnes quotes Ed Whipple, a Flagstaff resident, from the December 7, 1928 Coconino Sun newspaper, who credited “Doc Brannen” with suggesting the name. He became the town’s postmaster May 23, 1881, according to Barnes.


  1. Plaque on the Flagstaff Park monument. Placed at the historic site on July 4, 1985.
  2. Book: Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes, 1935, reprinted in 1988, p. 163-164.

A version of this story first appeared on the Arizona Name Stories Instagram storytelling project page:@AZnamestories. This story is part of the project that explores the history of names in Arizona and that is also asking citizens of Arizona of all ages, cultures, backgrounds to share their own name story. If you’d like to submit your name story (and you’re from AZ or currently are a resident), read the instructions at We welcome your participation. (Not all stories from the Instagram page will be posted on Names Redefined.)

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