World’s End in Hingham was most likely named for its natural scenic landscape and stunning harbor views. No one has ever lived on the 251-acre peninsula, according to the Trustees of Reservations, which manages the property. That distinction makes it even more deserving of its apocalyptic title.
Intriguing stories lurk behind many other addresses.
The Merrymount section of Quincy received its name from the mischieviously creative mind of Thomas Morton, a fun-loving adventurer who settled in that part of Quincy in the early 17th century. Morton was popular among traders and Native Americans in the area, but his carefree ways quickly made him an enemy of the Pilgrims in Plymouth. (Morton enjoyed nicknaming his rivals; he referred to Myles Standish, the military captain of Plymouth Colony, as “Captain Shrimp.”) In 1627 Morton installed a maypole at his settlement. Morton made his maypole from an 80-foot pine tree and decorated it with ribbons and garlands, and a pair of antlers attached to the top. He hosted huge parties at which everyone danced and drank liquor, and he renamed the area “Ma-re Mount” — a play on words that he knew would surely irk his puritanical neighbors in Plymouth. John Endicott, a Puritan and the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, later cut down Morton’s maypole, and there were attempts to deport Morton to end his merrymaking. Today, the Quincy neighborhood is still known as Merrymount, and Maypole Road and Maypole Park stand as testaments to Morton’s legendary dance party.
While some names have fallen out of fashion — Madagascar and Donkeyville, for example — others have stuck around, if not in everyday language, then in the form of businesses and landmarks. In Bridgewater, for instance, you’ll find Scotland House of Pizza and the Olde Scotland Links municipal golf course. In Whitman, there is the Little Comfort General Store. In Scituate you can go to Egypt Beach for a swim or stop by the Egypt Country Store. You can drive down Egypt Beach Road and Egypt Avenue. There are even streets called Cairo Circle and Pyramid Lane.
Why is part of Scituate called Egypt? According to one theory published in the Boston Journal in 1874, that area had fertile soil, so corn grew more easily there. One day, a group of men who were on their way there to buy corn stopped at Esquire Pierce’s store for a drink. They waited for Pierce to come down and open his shop, and when he finally appeared, he said: “Well, boys, are you going down into Egypt to buy corn?” From that point on, whenever anyone stopped for rum at Pierce’s or went to North Scituate for corn, they said they were going to Egypt to buy corn.
The passage of time shrouds the linguistic origins of some places, such as Plymouth’s White Horse Beach. Over the years, several books have purported that its name was inspired by a lovelorn woman named Helen who rode a white horse into the waves and drowned in 1778. However, there are no records of this really happening, according to Peggy Baker, former executive director of the Pilgrim Society and Pilgrim Hall Museum.
“It has absolutely no historical basis — it’s what we call a romantic legend,” said Baker. That particular myth was derived from a poem called “Helen of White Horse,” which was written by Timothy Otis Paine around 1890. The true story behind the beach’s name remains unclear to this day.
“It’s a mystery,” said Baker.