What’s in a name?

By: Compiled Duke Davis
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In a debate that’s spread over the better part of a century, the argument of just where the name Roseville originated is still unresolved. Theories and tales of who and what Roseville was named for are numerous and in many ways entertaining and educational. The following is a list (compiled in no particular order by Roseville historian Leonard “Duke” Davis) that presents the many theories of how the name Roseville came to blossom: Rose Taylor This account was published in the Roseville Historical Society’s May, 1992 newsletter. It was proposed that the city was named for the daughter of Cyrus W. Taylor, the first train station manager in town. It was determined that Rose was too short so a “ville” was added. This version is widely dismissed due to a variety of reasons. The original account was written 35 years after the name was selected and secondly there is no record of Taylor ever having a daughter named Rose or being married. Taylor died in 1880 and is buried in the W.A. Thomas Family plot at the Roseville Cemetery. No other Taylors are buried there, and it is assumed Cyrus was a bachelor. Rosie the Waitress Another theory presented by Davis is the well-versed story of Rosie the railroad café waitress. Rosie first appeared in local lore in a historical piece published in 1924 and is remembered as possessing both good looks and a strong sense of humor. However, according to Davis, the name Roseville dates back from 1864, when the city was still just an obscure blotch on a planner’s paper. The Rose Mayberry Tragedy A story that was published in a 1947 edition of The Press-Tribune suggests the city was named for Rose Mayberry, a young child who died during a wagon train journey crossing pre-Roseville in 1835. According to the article, her parents buried the little girl in a grave near the area that would later become Roseville. According to the records, wagons didn’t pass through the area until 1841 and furthermore no overland route has ever been recorded as traveling through the location. In 1954, Davis met with the writer and discovered the tale was actually a fictional account. Pretty Girl at a Picnic One of the most popular of all the theories in circulation is a girl at a local picnic (date unknown), which has never been backed by any concrete evidence. While the name has varied from Rose Marie to Rosemary to Rose Ann, the woman in question is most often referred to as Rosie. Whether she was a wife, mother, daughter the woman’s stunning good looks supposedly captured the attention of a crowd at a large community picnic. Nevertheless, while several “Rosies” have been found to exist, no evidence has ever been presented to support a specific one or that any picnic of that nature ever took place. The Rose Spring Ranch Sprawling over much of Eastern Roseville, the Rose Spring Ranch was name was merely a coincidence with the ranch being settled in 1860 and seeing little change until 1867, long after the name Roseville was coined. No evidence has ever been presented to support this theory. However, the following was written in “The History of Placer County” (1882, Thompson & West Publisher). The name Roseville is derived from the neighboring ranch or Rose Spring, formerly the property of Judge James McGinley. While the previous accounts are equal parts entertaining and informative, the most logical and evidence-backed theory is that of the region’s wild rose population, which at one point dominated the local scenery. According to Phoebe Astill, curator of Roseville’s Carnegie Museum and a member of one of the city’s oldest families, this story, while not nearly as colorful, does make the most sense. The Astills settled a piece of land across the street from the current Press-Tribune building (188 Cirby Way) in 1851. According to Astill, native roses could still be found in the family garden as late as 1948. “There wasn’t a whole lot left,” she said. “But I’ve heard stories that at one point they (the roses) were everywhere and of all the stories going around, that one seems to be the most logical.” According to Davis, the wild rose account is the only one of the five or six in circulation that is backed by solid evidence. Newspapers, personal accounts and journals from settlers, ranchers and railroad workers from the 1860s, describe roses in full bloom at a variety of locations throughout the area.