What's in a name?

Jerry Apps
This little wild rose has meaning and memories more than any other wildflower for author Jerry Apps.

It’s only a wildflower.  A little rose, a wild rose. It grows on my farm, as it does in many other places in the area. But it has meaning and memories more than any other wildflower for me.  

You see, I was born on a farm in the township of Rose in Waushara County, four and a half miles from the village of Wild Rose.

In 1973, I wrote a little book titled Village of Roses, the history of Wild Rose.  While writing the book I went searching for the source of the village’s name. The obvious answer, it was named after the wild roses growing in the area. Nope, that’s not correct.

Another possibility, an old-timer shared, with a grin on his face. “The village is named after this young lady, Rose. She was a bit on the wild side.”  Interesting idea, but also not correct.

With a little digging I learned that many folks who settled in around Wild Rose came from upstate New York, from a village named Rose, in Wayne County.

It just happened that the year I wrote the book, I also was doing some work at Syracuse University. I looked at a map and discovered Rose, was only about an hour’s drive from Syracuse, so I drove up there. 

I stopped at the Post Office and introduced myself to the elderly clerk as being from Wild Rose, Wisconsin. She greeted me like a long-lost son had returned. 

I soon discovered that several of the names receiving mail from the post office were the same names as people living in the Wild Rose area. The man who homesteaded my farm, in 1867, Tom Stewart, was from Rose, New York.

A surprising finding: Rose, New York was named after Robert Rose, an early landowner in the town, not after a flower.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The history of placenames often reveals surprising information.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to