This photo of a road sign was taken by FirstNerve reader MT while bicycling through the hinterlands of Illinois this summer. And yes, Aroma Park actually exists: it’s a village of 821 souls on the banks of the Kankakee River.
MT’s photo came with a challenge to the FirstNerve brain trust: “Any idea how the town got its name?”
Hah! Child’s play, my dear sir.
Founded in 1852 by Alvin and Slocum Wilber, who created the word Aroma by playing on the name of their friend and associate James L. Romer. Reportedly, possible confusion between Aroma and Aurora led to changing the name to Waldron in 1872. It was changed back to Aroma, and the word Park was added about 1915.Too bad there isn’t an olfactory tale behind this delightfully named town.
[Source: Place Names of Illinois by Edward Callary. University of Illinois Press, 2008]
The name Chicago, on the other hand, has fragrant associations—it was supposedly a local Indian word for “skunky smelling place” or, alternatively, “the river that smells like wild onions.”
UPDATE September 7, 2009
Here’s a link to the origins of “Chicago.”