Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I was a little embarrassed to learn the other day that Callao is not just a crossroads town on the Northern Neck, it's also an important Peruvian city. I'm pretty sure I learned this from Jeopardy, and I'm certain it wasn't pronounced like the Virginia town of the same name.

I'd always wondered about the town name, and figured it was a family name, or maybe an Indian word. According to The Heritage of Virginia: The Story of Place Names in the Old Dominion, by James Hagemann (Norfolk, Va. : the Donning Company, 1986), the first instinct was closer. A new postmaster, Jacob H. Callaway, wanted to name the place for himself, but Franklin County already had a Callaway, so Callao was his second pick. The brief entry doesn't suggest that he knew the Peruvian city. Mystery therefore only half-solved.

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