18 Town Name

Competencies: Social Studies, Social Studies

Social Studies Skills 5.1: Uses critical reasoning skills to analyze and evaluate positions.

Social Studies Skills 5.1.2: Evaluates if information is clear, specific, and detailed.


Objective: Students discover the fascinating history behind the four names that people have called the area that is now known as Issaquah.

Materials: three newspaper articles “Name Game – What to Call the City?”, “What the ‘Squak’ is all about”, and the article from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!


  1. Start this activity by reading the first sentence from the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! article, “Four members of the Cowell Family all were born in the same house but in different towns.”  Ask the class how they think this could be possible.
  2. Ask the class if they would believe that the house mentioned in the article is here in Issaquah and that the Cowell family lived here at the turn of the century.  Ask if anyone has ever heard any of Issaquah’s previous names.  Does anyone know how many names Issaquah has had?  Does anyone know what the current name, Issaquah, means or where it came from?
  3. Brainstorm reasons why names of locations sometimes change.  (Different focus at different times in history based on occupations or environmental surroundings, named for important or influential people, nick names that catch on, etc.)
  4. Write the names of the children in the Cowell family on the board, the dates they were born and the town name at the time.
  5. Explain to the students that they can find out more information about the name of their town and why it has changed from other newspaper articles.  Read the article “Name game – what to call the city?”
  6. Does anyone in the class have the same name as someone else or a similar name?  Does it ever get confusing?  This is why the name changed from Gilman to Olney at the post office.  There was a town in Washington State already called Gilmer.  This name was so close in spelling to Gilman that they changed the post office name to Olney.  Has anyone heard of an area called Gilman?  Gilman Village is a modern shopping area.  The buildings in Gilman Village are historic homes, stores and barns turned into shops.
  7. Do we know all about the names that our town has had?  Actually, there is much more to the original name that Squak came from.  We can find more information by reading other articles.  Read the article “What the ‘Squak’ is all about.”
  8. If you were to rename the town Issaquah.  What name would you choose and why?


Activity 18 (DOC)
Activity 18 (PDF)
Supplemental articles

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