Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 18, 2021
What’s in name, maybe it’s time for a change

There has been much said about names lately. 

Schools with mascots that may be offensive to Native Americans have been asked to reconsider their mascots. Likewise around 64 Utah landmark names have been found that are offensive to Native Americans.

The 2021 state Legislature spent time discussing the name of Dixie State University. The university’s board and some students have asked for a name change. 

Some recent graduates of Dixie State said they have had to explain the name of their university during job interviews. 

While Utah’s Dixie gets its name from early settlers that were sent their by Brigham Young to try and grow cotton, the name “Dixie” to others connotes the old American south and slavery.

I remember singing in elementary school, “I wish I was in the land of cotton, old time there are not forgotten, Look away! Look away! Look Away, Dixie’s Land!”

I can’t imagine today’s school rooms ring out with those words.

While we are looking at names, maybe we should look at Tooele County’s name.

Most histories of Tooele County start out with saying nobody knows how Tooele got its name.

Maybe this would be the time for Tooele to get a name that people know where and why it came from … or at least one that can be pronounced.

Captain Howard Stansbuty assigned the name Tuilla to the valley that we live in. That was the name used by “the Mormons” for our valley, he said.

The name Tuilla was assigned to the county by the state of Deseret Legislature in 1850.

According to local historian and author Orrin Miller, some historians say the Tooele Valley was named after a Goshute Indian Chief named Tuilla.

If that’s the case maybe we should revert the name back to Tuilla, to properly honor the chief and the Goshute Indians.

However, according to Miller, the Goshute Indians had no ordinary chieftainship hierarchy and the word tuilla appears to not be proper name in the Shoshone and there is no record of a prominent chief with that name, according to Miller.

There are other rumors as to how Tooele got its name. Some say tuilla was the Indian name for the tall grass that grew in the valley. Others say an Englishman looked at the mountains in the valley and declared the place was “too hilly.”

Another obscure theory I’ve heard recently was that Tuilla is the name of a village in northern Spain. Although there is no record that Father Escalante ever explored the Tooele Valley, this person suggests that maybe Escalante wandered into the valley long enough to leave the name here.

Even if we could agree on where the name came from, is it possible to agree on how to pronounce the name.

Listening closely to people that have lived in Tooele for most of, if not all, of their lives and you will hear: too-will-uh or too-well-uh or too-ell-uh or sometimes a quick slurring sound like twilluh.

I’m not a linguist, but it depends on how you divide the syllables and where you put the accent.

Don’t ask me how I pronounce it. That’s like asking a man which leg he puts in his pants first when he gets dressed. 

The next morning he sits on the side of his bed with his pants on the floor. Unable to get dressed, he just  mumbles “left, no … right” over and over.

But when you’re trying to get something like Tuilla out of Tooele, you’re going to have problems.

So what do you say? Should we stay with Tooele, or is it time to take advantage of the name changing climate and score a new name for the county?

What would you suggest as a new name for Tooele County? Tuilla, Stansbury, Lake Point, Black Rock, Salt Flat, Bonneville, Military, Sandbar, Steptoe, Conner … email me your idea — keep it clean and positive.

But then maybe there is something about living in a place with an obscure name that nobody can pronounce.


Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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