DIVOT, Texas – A dirt road, a dusty, crumbling school house, and a small church with a cemetery marks what was once the thriving farming community of Divot. Today, there is not much left of the town, which sits at the intersection of farm roads 1581 and 117 in Frio County.
But the name does jump off the map. Considering the closest golf course is some 50 miles away in Carrizo Springs, how would a town get such a name? We decided to investigate.
As the story goes, Divot was originally called Pivot. The name was given because it sat at a Pivot in the road. However, paperwork officially declared the town as Divot, thanks to a “clerical error”. So, Pivot had to pivot and stick with Divot.
For more clarity, we turned to historian and curator of South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum, Bruce Shackelford. As he explained, the misspelling of place names back in the day was more of an issue than you might imagine.
"These [town names] were handwritten. They're old enough towns that wasn’t a typewriter stamp, which would have cleared up a lot,” explained Shackelford. “But write “P” and a “D” ten times fast and see how it comes out."
In other words, many town names were lost in translation. Add in the fact that officially naming a town was not an easy process, and you end up with some unintended, interesting results.
"It goes through a legal division, it goes through, you know, a map division, the railroad company... and all it takes if for somebody to write funny, or their pen gives out because its dip ink and they cross it out,” said Shackelford of the process in the 1800s.
In other cases, small towns had something else to blame.
"Post offices were often the reason towns were named,” said Shackelford. “They assign the name and they misspell somebody's name. It was the name of a person and they didn't spell it right."
No matter the reason, Pivot is now Divot and it is not alone when it comes to town names that face grammatical issues.