The names of two lakes in the vicinity of the town of Florence – Cleawox and Woahink – have long been a little mysterious. Many people have assumed the names are from Siuslaw native names – but are they?
They probably are Siuslaw words, but in a garbled anglicized form. The earliest reference – and apparent source for the names Cleawox and Woahink to appear on subsequent maps – goes back to 1857 when Harvey Gordon was hired to survey this portion of the coast. Gordon hired a couple of Native helpers from Fort Umpqua. There were practically no white settlers in the vicinity at this time, so it appears Gordon wrote down, as best he was able (not being a trained linguist) the indigenous names he got from his assistant. Thus the names we know today, like Cleawox, Woahink, Tsiltcoos, and Tahkenitch were first noted on his maps. And are still with us today. (And also one name that did not make it – what today is called Clear Lake, just south of Reedsport, Gordon noted as Bonowahus).
All the names are anglicized – Gordon wrote down the names as best he could, but Siuslaw has sounds in it English does not. Thus, from later generations of Siuslaw and Coos speakers we learned that Siltcoos is close to the original – siltlkuus, and Tahkenitch is tsaxinich, the original names for Woahink and Cleawox were forgotten. J. P. Harrington asked Frank Drew & Spencer Scott about these place names but they did not know. Interestingly, in the case of Cleawox they thought it sounded like the Siuslaw phrase tli’uu’wawax, meaning they (two) have come.