5. What's in a Name?

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

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Anyone who lives in Blawenburg will be quick to tell you where Blawenburg got its name. "Those guys," they might say. "The ones that started the mill. The Blaws." Well, that's almost right. One man, John Blaw (1677 – 1757), who came to Montgomery Township by way of Brooklyn, knew a good deal when he saw one. He heard about some land that was for sale in some good farming country, so he purchased 495 acres on the south side of what is now Blawenburg. He split this parcel between his sons. Michael took the eastern side of what is now Great Road and Frederick took the western side. Michael built a mill and we presume that Frederick ran a farm.

Most people around Blawenburg in those days were yeoman farmers; that is, they owned the land and worked their own farms. They all needed the services of a mill to turn their wheat, rye, and corn into flour. We aren't sure if Michael had any experience in either building a mill or running one, but he went for it. He found the power to turn the milling wheel in the waters of Bedens Brook. If you’ve looked at Bedens Brook on a dry summer day, you probably wonder how anyone could get enougn water to power the mill. People were very resourceful when they had to do everything for themselves, so Blaw probably built a sluice gate that used brook water to turn a wheel that turned the mill stone to grind the grist that became flour.

This grist mill is not Michael Blaw’s, but the same principles are used to turn the water wheel to power the millstone. This is the Glade Creek Grist Mill in West Virginia.

Photo credit: Gabor Eszes, Creative Commons license

So, it was just a guy, one guy, Michael Blaw, who ran the mill that gave notoriety to the name Blaw. As the family were early residents to the community, we’re sure that father John, brother Fredrick, and a host of offspring also helped to lend credence to the name.

The Blaws, Blues, and Other Names

All names have meanings which may or may not reflect the people who hold them. In Dutch, Blaw means blue…the color, not the mood. Blauw is another Dutch spelling for the word blue. In Scottish, the verb blaw means to blow and as a noun, it refers to a person who operates bellows to keep the fires going. A German form of the same word is spelled Blau, but it still means blue.

When they came to America, many of the Blaws, Blaus, and Blauws changed their name to its meaning in English – Blue. If you look at the genealogy of the Blaw name, you start to see lots of people named Blue in the family line. John Blaw, the first of the Blaws to settle in this area, Anglicanized his name when he remarried and went by John Blue. It was not uncommon to see offspring of the same family with some named Blaw and others named Blue. It must have been very hard to keep up with the Blaws and the Blues. We don’t think that the Blues Brothers came from Blawenburg.