But such names tell us little about the person. For all we know, each is “just another white guy” who lived or acted in the area some time ago. So what else is new? However, the name “Negro Bill” tells us that a black man had relevance in our area too! That is nice to know! It makes one stop and think about it. It is something that will be remembered. It might even stimulate some to look up the history of the man.
To be “offended” by that name, I say, is truly racist! What motive is there for wiping out reference to black people in our history? The man was visibly different from most in the area at the time and was readily distinguishable because his skin was darker than most. Is that something to be ashamed of? I think not.
People commonly use nicknames referencing personal characteristics for people – such as Billy the Kid, Big Ben, The Snake – all white people. So what is “offensive” about being “negro” (which just means dark-skinned)? That name was not offensive when given; why try to be offended by it now? Would offended people be satisfied with “Black Bill Canyon”?
I vote for letting the name stand. Making such a fuss about it now is simply unnecessary at best, and racist at worst!