All in a Name
by Gary Wright
“Names have power.” —Rick Riordan, ‘The Lightning Thief ‘
Indeed, there are some unusual place names around the world, but, here in the South we have more than our share of unusual, comical, strange, and downright weird names of places. Some of these names were intended to be funny from the outset, some were named in the context of the past, and passing time has rendered them amusing or completely out of context. Others were titled for family names that were common at the time, but, are considered archaic or curious nowadays. The origin of some has been lost in the midst of time.
The town of Hell For Certain, Kentucky is located in Leslie County and takes its name from the nearby Hell For Certain Creek. The entire area is so hilly and forested that it is quite inhospitable. It was dubbed so when a preacher found his way into this area. When he went home his peers asked him where he went. His reply was, “I have no idea, but it was hell for certain.” This story has been passed down for generations, though likely the remoteness of the area may be to blame.
Hot Coffee, Mississippi is located in Covington County where, in 1870, L.J. Davis built a store and hung a coffee pot over his door, advertising “the best hot coffee around.” He made his coffee in a particular way, from pure spring water, New Orleans beans, and molasses drippings for sweetener. He never served cream with his coffee, believing it ruined the taste. Local politicians would visit Davis’ store and buy coffee for constituents and passing travelers. When it came time to name the town, the best known sign in town was used.
War, West Virginia is located in Ware County and was incorporated in 1920. It is the only place in the United States with this name. War was formerly known as Miner’s City and is named for its location on War Creek, which was named from the frequent battles between Native Americans near this stream. It has the distinction of being the southern-most city in West Virginia.
America’s most unfortunately named town
The origin of the name Toad Suck, Arkansas is disputed, as you might suspect. Some hold it received the name when idle river men would congregate at the local tavern where they would “suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Located in Perry County, it was voted in a global poll America’s most “embarrassing or unfortunate” town name. Little remains of the community except for an operation ferry which regularly crosses the Arkansas River.
Ugly Creek, West Virginia is in Lincoln County. Locals will tell you this creek was named due to an early settler who is said to have lived at the mouth of the waterway who was . . . shall way say, “unpleasing to the eyes!” Likely it was named for nearby Big Ugly Creek which meanders back and forth for some twenty miles, making it an ugly (crooked) creek.
Monkey’s Eyebrow, located in Ballard County, Kentucky, when looking at a map of Ballard County, does indeed, resemble a monkey’s head. Monkey’s Eyebrow is located where the monkey’s eyebrow would be located.
There were originally two Monkey’s Eyebrows, commonly known as Old Monkey and New Monkey. One was at the top of a small hill, the other at the bottom. According to an article nearly 30 years ago in the county newspaper, the Advance Yeoman, the area acquired its unique name around the turn of the 20th century. A common put-down joke in the region is to provide directions to the disliked city of Paducah.
Santa Claus, Georgia is one of the Peach State’s lowest populated incorporated cities, with only 165 residents. The city has several Christmas-themed street names: Candy Cane Road, December Drive, Rudolph Way, Dancer Street, Prancer Street, and Sleigh Street. Located in Toombs County, it was incorporated in 1941.
Big Butt Mountain, North Carolina is really an officially named place in the western part of the state. North Carolina actually has several Big Butt Mountains, which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the fact that the state is has the highest elevation east of the Mississippi. North Carolina counties that have Big Butts include Buncombe, Haywood, Macon and Madison. At least in some instances, the name is believed to be a corruption of “Butte” from the French. Others, oh well, they’re just big mountains!
88, Kentucky is another unlikely but real place. Located in Barren County. The town’s biggest claim to fame was the celebration of August 8, 1988 (8/8/88.) People with an affinity for the number 8 descended upon the town from various parts of the nation and world, and the celebration was televised on national television. A similar celebration was held August 8, 2008 (08/08/08.) A New York Times article tells us the town was named in 1860 by Dabnie Nunnally, the community’s first postmaster. He had little faith in the legibility of his own handwriting and thought that using numbers would solve the problem. He then reached into his pocket and came up with 88 cents, thus solving the problem of naming the town.
The origin of the name Two Egg, Florida is obscure at best. It is located in Jackson County. Some believe poor families during the Great Depression would trade eggs for goods at the local store, while others say two eggs were dropped by accident, causing the name to be selected. Two Egg is the childhood home of Academy Award winning actress Faye Dunaway; a woman over the age of 100 from Two Egg was one of the first senior citizens to pursue a college degree in Florida, and we even have our own monster, a “mini-Bigfoot” called the Two Egg Stump Jumper!
All images from Google Images