How Peculiar Got Its Name

Peculiar Name Letter

Taken in part from “Welcome to Peculiar, Missouri” by Tori Wiseman

In pre-Civil War times the pioneer settlers decided their drowsy, maple-shaded hamlet ought to have a name. After several sessions in the general store they narrowed the choice to three names, but couldn’t settle on any one.

All three names were sent to the post office for consideration. All three were in use elsewhere. They decided to appeal directly to the postmaster general, agreeing to let him make the final decision. ‘We don’t care what name you give us,’ they said, ‘so long as it is sort of peculiar.’

Probably with tongue in cheek the postmaster general wrote a long and courteous reply. He said he had given their predicament grave consideration. ‘My conclusion.’ he wrote, ‘is that in all the land it would be difficult to imagine a more distinctive, a more peculiar name than Peculiar.’ and Peculiar it has remained ever since. {Found in a clipping courtesy of Gladys Stanka.}

The post office was thus established June 22, 1868. It was located in a trading center that served the new community. Mail would arrive every few days by a carrier on horseback, to be dumped on a table for residents to retrieve. The Pleasant Hill postmaster, Henry Younger, father of the noted Younger Brothers, blessed the establishment of the Peculiar Post Office.

In later years Judge Edelen recalls when he was 18 or 19 years old, and carried the mail that stopped at the post office in Peculiar. The trail went from the home of O.E. Reid, across the creek east of the Peculiar Cemetery to the west edge of Young’s place, west of the new bridge. The trail was 50 years old at the time, however, it really stood out on the Wills place.

The old post office was located on property formally called ‘Yankee Hill’. When the Fisks, Hawkins, Craigs and other New England families settled closely together it brought an apt response from those families already established. Consequently, since 1883, no further mention has been found of ‘Yankee Hill’.

Since the post office received the name Peculiar, Peculiar has been a small community 25 miles south of Kansas City. A pleasant town with a strange name, and therefore stories have appeared in Sunday newspaper supplements for years. But, not until Charles O. Finley, in the mid-1960's, threatened, while squabbling with Kansas City officials, to move his A’s to a cow pasture in Peculiar, did Peculiar have even a close brush with fame.

For years Peculiar has just been Peculiar, with a few old time residents hating the name, but most being fiercely proud of its peculiarity. At one time it was suggested that more tourists should be attracted and items such as post cards, with a Peculiar postmark, could be mailed to their folks back home. Also talked about were coffee cups, T-shirts and caps with sayings such as ‘I’ve been to Peculiar’. Some items are around today promoting Peculiar, but the old items are true treasures.

Peculiar is different from a hundred other small towns. With roadways being changed to accommodate increased traffic and railroads no longer needed as in the past, small towns were being left behind. We are evolving once again, and with overcrowded cities; the suburbs, with more land, trees, better school systems, recreational facilities and close knit atmosphere; small towns are becoming more appealing and are growing at an alarming rate.

Information on Peculiar Missouri History, Geography, and Demographics on Wikipedia.

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      City of Peculiar | 250 S. Main Street Peculiar, MO 64078  |  Phone: 816-779-5212  |  Fax: 816-779-1004
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