In my lifetime the “N-word” became an unacceptable descriptor, replaced by “colored,” which in turn became incorrect and was replaced by “negro” then “afro-american” then “black” and, most recently, “African American.” Apparently, our society still requires a racial descriptor. But one that is fashionable.
Would residents of Grand County in 1885 be more likely to identify William Grandstaff or Nigger Bill? And for what? Settling the wilderness? Building a community? Leaving a legacy?
Here’s what I’ve heard: He was found squatting in the old Mormon fort when the first “real settlers” arrived. He ran cows in “Negro Bill” Canyon for a short while. He moved away. He died last century. He is, at present, completely unimportant. Really, he just plain doesn’t matter in 2013.
So let’s just relegate old Brother Bill to a historical footnote list and choose a new name for that creek that we all can agree upon. The Romans called a direct vote of the people a “plebiscite.” Grand County should have a plebiscite to decide once and for all the acceptable name for said canyon; and then everybody can just shut up about it.
I propose “Denigration Deniers Gulch.”
I like the idea of a plaque explaining why a plaque is necessary.