A small settlement and wheat-shipping point hugging the railroad tracks. The following story is told in connection with the town’s name: during grading of the Northern Pacific line in 1889, a freshet resulting from heavy rains washed out the grade, undoing weeks of labor. A disgusted Cockney worker commented that there would be “ ’el to pay!” The construction crew nicknamed the camp “Hell to Pay.” Railroad headquarters accepted the name, but when the finished map of the surveyed district was returned, the “H” had been dropped and the word written “Eltopay.” Later, the name was converted into the more soothing Eltopia.
The town’s name is also attributed as the Native American name for the place, El- To-Pai.
Dust storms here are frequent and severe. A dark, wall-like cloud appears on the horizon and moves leisurely nearer until its gritty substance can be clearly detected, rolling inward and down; then suddenly everything is enveloped in a black suffocating blizzard of dust that filters through the most cautiously tightened window-frame.