SLOAN COLUMN: From Prosperity to Poverty Hill
In my more than 30 years as a journalist, I have logged in many miles traveling the back roads of Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. In doing so, I’ve come across some of the most unusual city and town names that one can imagine.
How can you not be amused or just plain curious when you pass a sign on I-40 in Tennessee that reads “Welcome to Bucksnort?” So many things come to mind: What does one do in Bucksnort? What do residents of Bucksnort call themselves? Had to look it up, but they go by the obvious – Bucksnorters.
Years ago while working at The Coalfield Progress of Norton, Va., I wrote a column on odd town names in Virginia. Some of the notable entries were Cuckoo, Fries, Frog Level, and the carefully pronounced municipality of Bumpass near Charlottesville. The big winner was Tightsqueeze, which got its name in the late 1800s after two competing businesses – one a general store and the other a blacksmith - opened shop directly across from one another. This left a narrow road for carriages traveling between the two to pass. And just like that, the town of Tightsqueeze was born.
My little tradition of writing about quirky town names continued at The Anson Record in Wadesboro, N.C. The Tar Heel State has some real doozies. I watched Fourth of July fireworks while sitting on the tailgate of my truck in Frog Pond. Not far down the road from Frog Pond is another quaint little town called Big Lick.
Also making the list were Whynot (which is in desperate need of a neighboring town called “Why”), Meat Camp, Bandana and Polka Dot.
My personal favorite is Boogertown. Legend has it the town was named either after moonshiners who warned visitors that the “boogeyman” would get them, or a man known as “Booger” who’s murder was never solved.
I’ll let you guess how you should refer to a resident of Boogertown.
I’ve lived in South Carolina for close to 14 years and worked as managing editor at five different newspapers. I have never written about the peculiar names of places in the Palmetto State – until now.
I had no doubt there would be a truckload of unusual, odd-sounding, and strange names to choose from and I was right. I decided to narrow my list to 10 and then pick my favorite, but first I want to share some places with names worthy of consideration.
Honorable mentions: Alcolu, Bee Tree, Burns Down, Coosawatchie, Crooks, Coward, Climax, Dog Bluff, Bug Swamp, Due West, Eagle Butte, Fair Play, Fairwell Corner, Fingerville, Frogmore, Gator Field, Gayville, Golight, Gopher, Happytown, Hurls Rock, Kingdom, Mechanicsville, Mudlick, Mayo, Mud Butte, Munster, Nine Times, Ninety Six, North, Olar, Olanta, Pea Ridge, Prosperity, Poverty Hill, Possum Town, Pumpkintown, Round O, Six Mile, Skull Shoals, Smoke Rise, Snoddy, Spiderweb, Texas, Thicketty, Tickle Hill, Tip Top, True Blue, Wattacoo, Welcome, and Wide Awake.
Making the top 10 are:
• Happy Bottom (Barnwell County) – No hemorrhoids here.
• Bucklick (Fairfield County) – I’m hoping it didn’t get its name from a hunter with an unusual fetish.
• Hell's Half Acre (Barnwell County) – While there, be sure to try some of the heavenly barbeque from Scott’s.
• Sugar Tit (Spartanburg County) - “Scots-Irish farmers in the region needed women to work in the fields. The ladies would take their babies in the fields with their blankets. They’d put sugar cane in the blanket, dip it in water, and that would help them keep those babies in the field while mom would work. They called it a sugar tit. It’s like the first pacifier.”
Now get your mind out of the gutter.
• Quarantine (Georgetown County) – Could not pass this one up, considering the present state of our society.
• Guess (Williamsburg County) – Located on U.S. 521, halfway between Manning and Andrews. What’s there? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Again, I couldn’t resist.
• Tooter Town (Greenville/Spartanburg counties) - The 14-acre “town” near Greer grew from a service station opened in 1963 by the late Wayne “Tooter” Durham. Tooter Town even has a business district.
• Coosawatchie (Japser County)- The name originated from the Coosaw band of Native Americans and “hatchie,” their word for river. The area also served as the headquarters for General Robert E. Lee during the early part of the American Civil War.
• No Man's Land (Union County) – Home of the annual No Man’s Land Film Festival. The scary-sounding place is a popular tourist attraction around Halloween.
And finally my personal favorite … Ketchuptown in Horry County. Remember, I have already visited this place’s sister town of Fries in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Sadly, it did not derive its name from the condiment. Local legend has it that during the 1920s, farmers in the community about ten miles north of Aynor would say to one another, “Let’s go catch up on the news.” They would do just that at the local store and somehow the name stuck. The spelling was changed later, probably by a visitor from Fries.