St. Valentine’s Day and #Arizona have long been connected, as the state became the last of the 48 contiguous United States on February 14, 1912. In this special holiday edition of #AZNameStories, a look at Arizona towns whose names (though not their history) are fitting for the season of love.
As romantic as the name seems, the story of the former Mohave County town of Valentine is anything but. Established in 1910, Valentine, AZ was named after Robert G. Valentine, who was U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1908-1910. Before being called Valentine, it went by the name Truxton, according to Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes. Route 66 went through the town, bringing a gas station and hotel to the area, but when I-40 was made, the town was virtually abandoned. Just like with Christmas and Santa Claus, Arizona, the town was once a popular place to send mail to have it postmarked with a special holiday greeting.
The name Valentine comes from the old Roman family name “Valens,” meaning “strong, vigorous, healthy” in Latin. According to BehindTheName.com, the name became associated with love because Saint Valentine’s “feast day was the same as the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia.” Lupercalia, it just so happens, was celebrated February 13-15, according to an NPR story on the history of Valentine’s Day. St. Valentine’s Day was established in the 5th century by the Catholic Church to honor three martyred men (named Valentine or Valentinus), according to History.com.
The heartbreak continues in Love, Arizona in La Paz County. A former stop on the Santa Fe Railroad, Love was once called Lockhart. But it was renamed in memory of Earnest A. Love, who had been a Prescott High School football star prior to being killed in World War 1. Love’s father, Allan Love, “was a Santa Fe engineer for many years,” according to Barnes’ book. Prescott, Arizona’s airport (Earnest A. Love Field) has the same namesake. The Arlington National Cemetery’s website says Earnest Love attended Stanford University where he studied mechanical engineering in 1914, until he went to serve the U.S. war effort and became a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Service. His plane “was shot down near Verdun, France on 16 September 1918.” The last name “Love” doesn’t come from romantic notions, either. The Surname Database says Love is an English last name that is likely a derivation of the Norman French word “louve,” which means female wolf. Louve was often a complimentary nickname given to soldiers known for being fierce. (This is also the same origin as the last name Luff.)
The founding of Date, Arizona precedes any romantic association with the word date. It wasn’t until the 1890s that the word “date” gained any ties to courtship, according to Etymology.com. Instead, the Yavapai County area’s name comes from the Spanish word “datil” (meaning “date fruit”), from which Date Creek, which runs through the area, was named. Etymology.com says date fruits get their name from the Greek word for finger (daktylos), as the fruit looks like fingers hanging from the tree. However, the “date fruit” they were referring to are in fact the Opuntia fruit (also known as prickly pear cacti). Arizona Place Names says Yavapai first called the area “Ah-ha-cassona” (meaning “pretty water”). In 1866, the area was named Camp McPherson by California military volunteers who established an outpost there. A year later it was renamed Camp Date Creek after the military post was abandoned. On March 1, 1872, a post office was established there by George H. Kimball, which officially gave the area the name Date Creek. When the Santa Fe Railroad company added a stop there, it shortened the name to just Date. Though technically still called a “populated place” on Arizona maps, there’s no “town” really there.
- Book: Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes, 1935, reprinted in 1988.
- Behind The Name
- Surname Database
- The Rise and Fall of a Valentine’s Day tradition at Valentine, Arizona by Ty Brennan for Fox 10 Phoenix.
- Arlington National Cemetery website article “E.A. Love”
- NPR’s “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day” by Arnie Seipel from February 13, 2011.
- History.com’s “History of Valentine’s Day”
- The National Archives Center for Legislative Archives “New Mexico and Arizona Statehood Anniversary (1912-2012)”
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 AZnamestories.com. We welcome your participation. (Not all stories from the Instagram page will be posted on Names Redefined.)