Monday, December 10, 2012


Delaware?  Oh yeah, Delaware.  Almost forgot about you. 

It’s still a state, right?  Somewhere over there on the East Coast somewhere, if I remember correctly.  Couple of thousand people?

Oh, hey, wait a minute …  Joe Biden’s from there, right?  Or is that Rhode Island?  Now, Biden – he’s the Vice President, right?

10. Bear

Would you believe it’s named after a tavern?  Yup, seems there was some Colonial-era place here called Ye Olde Beare Tavern, or At Ye Signe of Ye Beare, or something all quaint and Colonial like that. 

Back then, when the U.S. was a little bit more spread out, taverns were important landmarks, often serving as de facto community centers.  And, because not everyone back then was literate, the picture on the sign was of paramount importance.  “Hallo, Jedediah, shalt I meet thou at ye signe of ye Beare?” one Colonial Delaware dude would say to another.

Today, it’s just a sprawling suburb of Wilmington. 

Buy it right here!

9. Rising Sun

You’re not going to believe this.  This one was named after another damn tavern too.  I guess these Delawareans like to hit the ol’ bottle pretty hard, huh?

It makes me wonder what would happen if we named towns after taverns and bars today.  Dew Drop Inn, IN?  Cheers, MA?  Coyote Ugly, NY?  Moe’s, NT? 

And while we’re here, let’s not forget Red Lion, Cocked Hat, Blue Ball, and Cross Keys.  All same deal.

 See, I told you so!

(Wait.  It looks like this one is in New Castle, at the north end of the state, near Wilmington.  The town of Rising Sun is in the middle of the state, near Dover.  Never mind.)

8. Rodney Village

Not too far from Rising Sun, Rodney Village is a …  Ah, heck, nothing in Delaware is too far from anything else, is it?

I’m pretty sure Rodney Village is from Caesar Rodney.  Never heard of him?  I’m not too surprised.  He’s Delaware’s (very low bush league) equivalent of George Washington.  Rodney signed the Declaration, was President of Delaware (what governors were called way back then), was known for some famous ride (kind of a poor man’s Paul Revere), and made it onto the state’s quarter.

By the way, there is also A Rodric Village.

Go, Rodney, go!

7. Hardscrabble

There’s actually a lot of towns around the U.S. with this name.  You may also already be familiar with this term as a general adjective.  It basically means “characterized by chronic poverty and hardship.”  In other words, this is probably not the kind of thing you want to call your town if you’re actually interested in attracting any more settlers.

But, then again, maybe you don’t want to attract any more settlers.  Maybe you just want to keep it all to yourself.  S-n-e-a-k-y. 

Well, if that was indeed the case, it looks like the fine folks of Hardscrabble were successful.  I could find next to nothing on this place.  It is in the southern part of the state – which means in the middle of practically nowhere.

 Well, I did find something.
It just doesn’t make any sense though.

6. Shortly

Imagine the scene …  A bunch of founding-father types are sitting around somebody’s fireplace, dressed in knickers and tricorn hats, quaffing ale or mead or whatever people quaffed back then.  The time is late, the fire is low, and one of the local ladies sticks her head in the door, asking the gentlemen if they have finally come up with a name for the town.  “Shortly, my goodwife” one of them replies, “Shortly.”

You know, I don’t think so.  My guess is it’s from a surname. tells me that some Shortleys did indeed emigrate to this country.  It does not share the name’s origin, but my guess is that it’s a combination of “short” and “lee.”   The latter’s an old-timey name for a meadow or clearing.  You can contrast Langley, which would apply to the same thing, but be a lot bigger.  Other “lee” names include “Lee,” “Ashley,” “Bradley,” “Stanley,” “Buckley,” and on and on.

Once again, next to nothing on this little crossroads.  But would you believe Shortly is just six miles away from Hardscrabble?

5. Ogletown

Formerly known as “Bikini Beach,” the town was renamed when the local boosters finally had to admit that the place was indeed landlocked.

It was actually named after a local landowner, Thomas Ogle, way back in the 18th Century.  All you’d ever want to know about the early history of Ogletown you can find right here.

Once again, we’re back to the Wilmington suburbs.  Ogletown does seem to be a real place though.  In fact, it has its own (former) junior high school, mega church, and historic German singing group.

 The original Ogle house
(torn down for a new highway – I hate that!)

4. Jimtown

Jamestown I can believe.  Jimtown?  Not so much.

It looks like there are a ton of Jimtowns out there.  A quick count gives me Delaware, California, Indiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Montana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I guess ol’ Jim really got around.

Our Jimtown has next to nothing on it.  I did find an article reporting that Jimtowners were objecting to an equine therapy center because it would be smelly and increase traffic.  You can find these caring folks in southern Delaware. 

Local real estate
(thanks, Google Images!)

3. Pepperbox

Another crossroads in the middle of nowhere down in the southern part of the state.  It is, however, known for one thing – the Pepperbox Peeper.  Yup, he’s a peeping Tom who’s been sited along the old Pepperbox Road, but has recently spread out to Maryland as well.

Sleuthing about the Internet to find out more, I found the following additional links on Pepperbox:
  • Single Men in Pepperbox Delaware
  • Single Women in Pepperbox Delaware
  • Kinky Sex Fetishes in Pepperbox, Delaware, United States
Hmm, something’s going on down there, for sure.

Haven’t a clue where the name comes from.  Another tavern???  I do know Pepper, DE isn’t too far away, so maybe they’re a pair.

 Pepperbox School, ca. 1930

2.  Shaft Ox Corner

Well, here we are in southern Delaware again.  I swear, the place is like the state’s Bermuda Triangle of strange names. 

As for Shaft Ox Corner, I couldn’t even find a peeper.  I did find the following though:
  • Shaft Ox Corner, DE Travel Guide
  • Quality Jobs in Shaft Ox Corner, Delaware
  • Youth Sports in Shaft Ox Corner, DE
  • eCigarettes in Shaft Ox Corner
  • Webcams in the Region of Shaft Ox Corner, Delaware, USA
  • Ramadan prayer times for Shaft Ox Corner
  • Gay Men in Shaft Ox Corner, Delaware, United States
  • Shaft Ox Corner swingers
Oddly, none of these actually showed anything in Shaft Ox Corner.  Isn’t the Internet great?

The name?  According to A Place Called Peculiar, a shaft ox is the one “on the inside on a two-ox cart going around a corner.”  Why someone would want to name their town after said beast, though, is not so obvious.

By the way, other Delaware Corners include Anthony’s, Dinahs, Stumps, Packing House, and Cabbage.

1. Slaughter Beach

Nightmare at Slaughter Beach! The Horror of Slaughter Beach!!  The Slaughter Beach Massacre!!!  I’m pretty sure I saw at least one of these at some drive-in in the 1970s.

Turns out the origin of this name is no way near as scary.  Once again, it’s somebody’s last name.  And that somebody was someone really boring – the local postmaster.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of more colorful stories out there - stories involving scary things such as Indians, and cannons, and horseshoe crabs.  Wait, horseshoe crabs?  Damn, those things are scary!

With that said, there does seem to be a definite horror theme in the southern section of the sleepy state of Delaware.  Slaughter Beach happens to be only 14 miles from Broadkill Beach, and even closer to the Murderkill River.  And only a half-hour drive away is the  beach resort currently known as Lewes – but formerly known as Whorekill.


Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Delaware Heights, Delaware City, Centerville, Middletown, Midway, Alms House, Brick Store, Old Furnace
  • Just a little out of place – Newark, Atlanta, Houston, Wyoming, Mt. Cuba, Glasgow, Petersburg, Odessa*, Smyrna*, Lebanon, Angola, Green Acres
  • Orthographically challenged – Sharpley 
  • Abnormal nouns – Mermaid, Mission, Viola, Cannon, Blades, Blackbird*
  • A plethora of portmanteaux  – Marydel, Delmar
  • Fun to say – Minquadale
  • Just plain weird – Bryans Store, North Star, Woodenhawk, Hour Glass, Tuexdo Park, Seven Hickories, Kitts Hummock, Little Heaven
  • I’d like you to meet – Christiana, Frederica, Vernon, Milton, Penny Hill, Henry Clay

* - author has visited


  1. Hey, I live about 25 miles from that first sign in your blog header!

    Besides those 1st 4 risque town names, Pennsylvania also has places named Mars, Moon, Apollo, and Jersey Shore.

  2. I'll be doing Pennsylvania in the future. At one state a week, and going alphabetically, that one should appear in a couple of months. Stay tuned!

  3. Jim:

    Finally made it to PA: