Wheeler Point, Mill and Annisquam Rivers, circa 1950 Don Felt/ ©Fredrik D. Bodin
You say Wheeler, I say Wheelers;
You say Wonson, and I say Wonsons;
Let’s get the whole thing right…
My friend Cliff McCarthy and I disagreed on whether it’s Wheeler Point or Wheelers Point. We based our opinions on what we’ve heard people say and maps we’ve looked at. Who’s right? The United States Board of Geographic Names (US BGN) is right – they define the official names of everything geographic. Their database holds the Federally recognized name of every feature’s location by state, with USGS topographic map, geographic coordinates, altitude, and even includes undersea features. This is the gold standard for place names. In the American West after the Civil War, rapid westward expansion led to confusing names for geographic features. This was a serious problem for surveyors, map makers, and the military. In 1890, President Harrison created the US BGN to standardize geographic names.
The final word on Wheeler(s) Point and Wonson(s) Cove is here: http://geonames.usgs.gov/domestic/index.html
Click on Search Domestic Names
, type in what you’re looking for in the Feature Name
box, select the State
, select the County
, then press the Send Query
button. You’ll see that Wheeler Point is correct (with Wheelers Point as a variant name))and so is Wonson Cove (with Wonson’s Cove as a variant name). Cliff, you were right!
Here are some interesting official names on Cape Ann: Cressy Beach (with Cressys Beach as a variant name), Dog Bar (an underwater bar), Dog Bar Breakwater (a dam) , Dog Bar Channel, and Dogtown Common ( listed as a Populated Place with an elevation of 79 feet). Some places we know are not listed, such as Cripple Cove. The US BGN invites any person or organization to propose new names, name changes, or names that are in conflict.
Printed from the original 4×5 inch film negative in my darkroom. Image # A9245-546
Fredrik D. Bodin
Bodin Historic Photo
82 Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930