In my last post on my visit to Hanover College, SzélsőFa commented, "It never ceases to amaze me how the names of European cities appear and STAY on the map of the USA." Most of the European city names come from the hometowns of the first white settlers. Lots of Londons, Bristols, Hamburgs and Amsterdams. I think the many Milans (almost all of which are pronounced to rhyme with smilin') and Parises were named because those cities had class and sophistication which the founders hoped would rub off on their towns. Some of Parises and other French-named towns may have been named by the voyageurs who plied the rivers of North America in the years before the French and Indian (Seven Years') War. In what would become the Louisiana Purchase, the French had even more time to name towns. Warsaw, Indiana, county seat of Kosciusko County, was named not by Polish immigrants, but for the capital of Poland, the home country (though not at the time a nation-state) of Thaddeus Kosciusko, the Polish patriot who had fought in the American revolution. A lot of the Spanish names in the Midwest are named for battles in the Mexican-American War--Churubusco, La Paz, Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, etc.
But I came across one European name that has nothing to do with the region in Europe. While at Hanover, Kathleen and I met some very nice people from Kentucky. We were talking about colleges at lunch, and the Kentuckians were talking about "Transy." I asked if this was Transylvania University, and whether there was any connection between that institution and the Carpathian mountains.
It turns out that Transylvania University was founded in 1780, in Danville, Virginia, and moved to Lexington (now Kentucky) in 1789. What would become Kentucky was known as the Transylvania Colony, from the Latin, "across the forest." So the name came independently of the European region, though from the same Latin root. (According to Wikipedia, the European Transylvania is a Latinization of the Hungarian Erdély, which is derived from Erdő-elve meaning "beyond the forest.")
Thanks to Bram Stoker, the name Transylvania conjures up images of dark castles and vampires, at least in the minds of Britons and Americans. But when Transylvania University was founded, the novel Dracula was more than a century in the future. For Virginians, it just meant the land to the west of the great forest.