Texas Indians and Texas Place-Names

Tracing place-names derived from Indian words, or associated with Indian groups or places, is not always easy. The Spanish explorers and missionaries, who were the first Europeans to enter Texas, often adopted Texas Indian names for rivers and other natural features. But the Spaniards translated the place names into Spanish, and many of the Indian origins for place-names have been lost. This selection of Texas place-names includes names derived from Indian words as well as names that are associated with Indians or their activities.

Anadarko Creek for the Anadarko Indians, a Caddoan group. Also known as Barnhardt Creek, this stream is in Rusk County.

Anahuac either from an Indian word meaning "high plain water," or from an Indian chief, Anahwa, or from an ancient Mexican Indian place name. The town is in Chambers County.

Anaquitas Creek the stream, in Duval and Jim Wells counties, derives its name from the Anaqua Indians, a group first described by Cabeza de Vaca.

Angelina River named for a Caddoan Indian woman whom the Spaniards called Angelina, "little angel." The county and the national forest derive their names from the river.

Apache Mountains these mountains, in Culberson County, are located in country that was the last stronghold of the Apache Indians in Texas.

Ayish Bayou the stream, in San Augustine County, derives its name from the Ais, or Ayish, Indians, a Caddoan group.

Bedias for the Bidai Indians, a Caddoan group whose name meant "brushwood." The town is located in Grimes County. Bedias Creek, in Madison and other counties, also gets its name from this group.

Bois d'Arc Bayou from the bois d'arc tree, so named by the French because the Indians favored the wood of this tree for manufacturing their bows. The bayou is in Grayson and Fannin counties.

Bowles Creek probably for Chief Bowles, a leader of the Cherokee Indians; two creeks bear this name, one in Cherokee County and one in Rusk County.

Caddo Lake named for the Caddo Indians, the lake is in Marion and Harrison counties. Other place names derived from these Indians are Caddo Creek (four creeks, mostly in East Texas), Caddo Mills (Hunt County) and Caddo Peak (Johnson County).

Cherokee County from the Cherokee Indians who, under Chief Bowles, lived in East Texas in the early 19th century. Other places to which they gave their name include Cherokee Bayou (Rusk County) and Cherokee Creek (one in Briscoe County, one in San Saba County).

Comanche County for one of the most famous tribes of Plains Indians, the Comanches. Other place names include Comanche Creek (eight different streams), Comanche Peak (one in El Paso County and one in Hood County) and Comanche Springs (Pecos County).

Delaware Bend from the Delaware Indians, who were closely associated with the Cherokees in East Texas. The town is in Cooke County. Other place names probably derived from this group are the Delaware Mountains and Delaware Spring, in Culberson County.

Nacogdoches County from the Nacogdoche Indians, a Caddoan group. The main town in the county also is named Nacogdoches.

Navasota River probably called Nabatsoto by Indians. It was recorded as "Navasoto" by the Spaniards in 1727 and has had that name ever since. Navasota, a town in Grimes County, gets its name from the river.

Quanah from Comanche leader Quanah Parker. The town, which was visited many times by Quanah Parker, is in Hardeman County. A historic depot for the Quanah, Acme & Pacific Railroad, also named for Quanah, is located there.

Seminole from the Seminole Indians, who were associated with the Cherokees in East Texas and who later settled at Eagle Pass in the 1870s. The town of Seminole, Seminole Canyon (famous for its prehistoric rock art) and Seminole Draw are in Gaines County. Another Seminole Canyon is in Terrell County.

Shawnee Creek from the Shawnee Indians; a group of these Indians settled on the upper Sabine River in the 1820s. There are at least three creeks with this name, in Angelina, Red River and Rusk counties.

Tahoka from an Indian name for nearby Lake Tahoka, meaning "fresh water" or "deep water." The town and the lake are in Lynn County.

Tehuacana from the Tawakoni Indians, who lived in this area until the 1840s. The town, the Tehuacana Hills and Tehuacana Creek are in Limestone County.

Waco the city, in McLennan County, is named for the Waco Indians, a Wichita group that entered Texas in the early-18th century and occupied this region in the 19th century.

Wichita County from the Wichita Indians, who once lived in this area. Other place names derived from this group are Wichita Falls and the Wichita River.

Excerpted from Texas Archeology in the Classroom, compiled by staff of the Archeology Division, Texas Historical Commission, (1998).

Sources include The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, Austin (2014).