Way We Were: Rossie or Rossi — who’s to blame for butchering the name?
Park City Museum researcher
On Aug. 25, 1983, The Park Record published a terse one-sentence letter to the editor scolding the paper for calling the hillside community east of Old Town “Rossi Hill.”
Here’s what it said:
“The correct spelling is ROSSIE HILL (named after the town of Rossie, New York), you idiot!!!”
It was signed by Dave Thomson, “Member, The Rossie Hill Gang.”
Following the letter was a snarky editor’s note complimenting Thomson for his command of the English language. It pointed out that the “Rossi Hill” spelling had been used by local newspapers for years and had even appeared on maps produced by the U.S. Government Printing Office.
However, the note went on to concede that local historians were unanimous in using the “Rossie Hill” spelling and it ended by saying, “We stand corrected.”
Recently, with the help of the Marriott Library’s search engine (Utah Digital Newspapers), I found evidence to support Thomson’s version of events. An 1887 article in The Park Record mentioned a Park City man who had previously lived in Rossie, New York. And “Rossie Hill” as the name of a Park City neighborhood started to appear in print in 1892.
Many years have passed since Thomson’s letter appeared, but the “Rossi Hill” misspelling is still widely used, even by at least one member of the present Park Record staff. And I have to take part of the blame.
You see, I was the editor of the paper in August 1983, so I was the “idiot!!!” that Thomson was addressing. I had helped spread the false gospel of Rossi Hill. I wrote that snarky editor’s note, and I have been trying to set the Record straight, and atone for my role in disseminating that falsehood, ever since.
As far as I can tell, “Rossi Hill” first cropped up in The Park Record in 1967, when the paper was owned and edited by H.C. “Mac” McConaughy of Morgan. So maybe we can assign at least some of the blame to Mac.
That was not the first time the local newspaper played a role in adulterating the name of an area landmark, however. Historian Charles L. Keller tells us that a would-be community near what is now Jeremy Ranch was originally christened “Gogorza” in honor of a New York businessman, Mr. E. Gogorza, who had invested in a railroad being built from Salt Lake City (up Parleys Canyon) to Park City in the late 1800s.
Well, the name “Gogorza” didn’t stick. In one Park Record article in September 1922, the name is spelled three different ways: “Gorgoza” in the headline, then “Gogorza” and “Gorgorza” in the story itself.
Over the years, “Gorgoza” became the preferred spelling for a community that barely materialized, and local folklore turned the railroad benefactor into an exotic Spanish millionaire. More recently the name was appropriated by a Pinebrook water company, a street in Jeremy Ranch, and a popular tubing park (now Woodward) south of I-80.
For more insights, look online for Keller’s 1996 Utah Historical Quarterly article, “Gorgoza and Gogorza: Fiction and Fact.” And learn more about the people who lived on Rossie Hill, and the bridge they had built over Chinatown, at the Park City Museum.
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