|Home||Membership||Newsletter||Events||Calendar||Look_Back||History||Freedom For All Ireland||Links||Officers||Store||Contact|
Courtesy of Bob Corbett
There are two major competing stories one hears around Dogtown about the origin of the name itself. One is quite exotic and even bizarre, the other much more prosaic. Of course he exotic one tends to be a favorite in contemporary Dogtown folk-lore, but I think the evidence weighs more strongly with the second and earlier view. The views, and their arguments are:
- The Igorot Theory. In the 1904 World's Fair there was a group of Indonesian natives, the Igorots, who were housed in a village-like compound quite near the Hampton entrance to Forest Park. They were dog-eaters. The city and fair officials disapproved of this practice and forbade it. The story is that the Igorots would sneak out of their village at night and raid the near-by neighborhood to find dogs to kill, cook and eat.
The story may well be true! However, that doesn't mean that the neighborhood got its name from that fact.
- The Watch Dog Theory. In 1876 the City of St. Louis acquired the land for Forest Park. At that time there were a group of coal miners living in what is now the park and working a mine there. The mine was shut down and the workers evicted from their squatters cottages. They moved over into what is now Dogtown and built small shacks near the corner of West Park and Graham.
The men continued to work in near-by mines, leaving the women and children alone in this rather sparcely populated area. They had dogs to protect themselves, thus the name Dogtown.
This Watch Dog Theory was favored by P.J. O'Connor and I think that alone is some strong evidence for the theory. In his 1937 History of Cheltenham .... he says: "'Dog Town' was so called by squatters who built shacks in the neighborhood of Graham and West Park after they were evicted from Forest Park in 1876." p. 12.
P.J. has proven to be an accurate historian in all else he wrote, and he would have been in contact and conversation with people who were still alive at that period. I think it unlikely he would have gotten it wrong. If so, that would put the lie to the Igorot Theory.
I'm not sure when that Igorot Theory came into existence. In my growing up and hearing the neighborhood folk-tales, especially from my Grandmother Corbett, I had only heard the Watch-Dog Theory. It was when I was an adult that I first heard the Igorot Theory. Like many others I was attracted to the sardonic humor of it and sort of adopted it. Now that I'm looking more seriously into the matter, I suspect the Igorot Theory is a press-inspired tale to jazz up the history of Dogtown.
I would appreciate any leads on where the Igorot Theory might have appread in print for the first time. I have documented the 1937 version of the Watch Dog Theory. Now I'd like to know when the Igorot Theory came into existence.