The Town With No Name

With nearly a million residents, Austin is the fourth-largest city in the state of Texas by population. The state capital is also the largest municipality in Travis County despite the fact that it spills into a couple of other counties as well.

But drive about a half an hour north-north-west of Austin and you’ll find a town of nothing — no people, no businesses, and not even a name. It’s literally nameless. Nameless, Texas.

See? Literally, it’s called “Nameless.” Even the main roads are “Nameless Road” and “Nameless Ranch Road.”

How does a town become a paradox like this? A town with a name that suggests it has no name? In this case, all it took was a bit of frustration and a government official who simply didn’t want to deal with it. (Or maybe he just had a really stellar sense of humor.)

The area was first settled in the 1850s or 1860s and grew at a reasonable pace. By 1880, it had grown large enough to warrant having its own post office. The townspeople asked the postal service to establish a branch and the department agreed. The next step was to give the town a name — after all, if your town doesn’t have a name (and ZIP codes hadn’t been invented yet), how can the postal service deliver your mail? 

So they picked a name — but for some reason, the postal service rejected it. The second name befell the same fate, as did the third, the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth. (“Cross Creek” and “Fairview” were apparently among the rejected names; it’s unknown why the postal department took issue with either of those or with the other four, for that matter.) Instead of taking a seventh shot at coming up with a name, the people, frustrated, lashed out at the authorities. According to the state historical survey committee (as memorialized by this town history marker), the townspeople wrote back, “let the town be nameless and damned!” The postal department agreed, but not in the way the people expected. Instead of letting the town’s moniker remain undefined, the postal department dubbed it “Nameless.” 

The postal service omitted the “Damned” from the name, but perhaps that would have been a more prudent approach. By 1890, the town had all but evaporated and the Nameless post office stopped serving the area. Today, Nameless is found on maps, as seen above, but you won’t have much reason to go there. It’s a ghost town; no one lives there and only a disused schoolhouse remains in good condition. The schoolhouse, seen here, is nameless.

Bonus fact: For most of the 1800s, Antarctica was nameless. Prior to that century, the then-unexplored landmass was only rumored to exist, but mapmakers and the like gave it a name anyway: “Terra Australis,” which literally translated to “south land.” That name quickly became shortened to “Australia.” But when the continent/country we now call Australia was discovered by Europeans in the early 1800s, the name “Australia” quickly became attached to it, leaving what we now call Antarctica temporarily nameless. For decades, the area around the South Pole didn’t have a name at all — mapmakers would describe in whatever way they found individually convenient. In the 1890s, the world agreed to call the region “Antarctica.”

From the Archives: Nothing There: There’s a town of nothing in Arizona named Nothing, Arizona.