Monday, July 15, 2013

Upstate New York, L - Z

It seems only fitting that the Empire State has three whole posts of weird town names.  Last week, we did Upstate A to K.  This week, it’s Upstate L to Z.  Next week?  Stay tuned for NYC and Long Island.

10. Neversink

And the award for most ironic town name in the State of New York goes to ...  Neversink!

Yup, would you believe the original town of Neversink is now beneath the waters of the Neversink Reservoir?  Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up.

There’s a couple of possibilities for the origin of this one.  The one I like best is that it’s from the Algonquian and means “mad river.”

The town’s website tells me that Neversink is known for its:

  • Little World’s Fair
  • Pumpkin Party
  • Time and the Valleys Museum
  • Barn quilts

Be sure to check out that website to figure out what the heck I could possibly be talking about here.


9. Truthville

From Yahoo Answers:

You are traveling by foot when suddenly there is a fork in the road.  You are trying to get to a town called Truthville, where everybody always tells the truth and never lies.  You know that one of the paths leads to Truthville, but that the other leads to Lieville, where everybody always lies and never tells the truth.  There is a stranger standing in the fork in the road, and they are from either Truthville or Lieville, but you can't tell which.  You can ask this person only one yes or no question to help you find your way to Truthville.  What do you ask?


Point to a path and ask, "Is this where you live?"

-  If you are pointing to Truthville, and the person you ask is from Lieville, he will say “yes.”
-  If you are pointing to Truthville, and the person you ask is from Truthville, he will say “yes.”
-  If you are pointing to Lieville, and the person you ask is from Lieville, he will say “no.”
-  If you are pointing to Lieville, and the person you ask is from Truthville, he will say “no.”
-  If you receive a “no,” go the other way.  If you receive a “yes,” go in that direction.

The real Truthville is in the northwest part of the state, right on the border with Vermont.  It’s basically a crossroads, with scattered homes and farms, and right next to the Mettawee River.

The 200-year-old Truthville Baptist Church

8. Tonawanda

Okay, so there’s this chick named Wanda.  And she happens to be a little on the heavy side …

This is actually most likely from the Tuscarora tahnawá•teh, which means “merging water.”  It could also mean “swift waters,” which would certainly describe the Niagara River as it heads towards those famous falls.  Too bad, though, it wasn’t named after its first settler, one Henry Anguish.

This metropolis of 15,000 is just north of Buffalo.  Wolf Blitzer went to high school here!

I understand it gets a little cold there

7. Saugurties

No, for the thousandth time, it’s not Socrates, it’s Saugurties!

The name comes from the Dutch word for “little sawyer.”  And what exactly is a “little sawyer”?  Well, it was actually just an affectionate way to refer to one Barent Cornelis Volge, an early settler who ran a sawmill here.

This city of almost 20,000 is up the Hudson, just north of Poughkeepsie.  Some Dutch guy bought it from the Indians for a piece of cloth, a blanket, some coarse fiber, a loaf of bread, and a shirt. 

In more recent times, Saugurties was famous as the location of Big Pink, the house where Dylan and The Band hung out and wrote and performed some great music .  The town also has a horse show and a garlic festival (or is that a garlic show and a horse festival?).

I’m not sure I totally get it,
but I do love old postcards

6. Schenevus

Go ahead, say it out loud.  Isn’t that wonderful?  (And, yes, that first syllable does start with a “sk.”)

It means “hoeing of corn,” in some Indian language.  Or perhaps “speckled fish.”  It could also be after one Chief Schenevus.  Heck, it might even mean “heart-shaped Jacuzzi,” or “pickled herring,” or “used snowmobile for sale.”  And that’s the beauty of the Internet, isn’t it?

Anyway, this town of 500 in the Catskills is a town of 500, in the Catskills.  (Honestly, that’s about all I could find out about it.)  Oh yeah, it’s just a little south of Cooperstown.

Chief Schenevus 

5. South Schroon

Oh man, schroons!  Last time I took some of them, I got so twisted.  I saw all these lights and these colors and …  Ah heck - it's pronounced "skroon."

Okay, so, what exactly is a “schroon”?  Well, a quick look around the Internets wasn’t encouraging:

  • “not precisely known”
  • “There is without question a problem of derivation with its name.”
  • “some believe …”
  • “said to be …”
  • “There is no documentary evidence to prove this conclusion.”

Given all that, there are two main candidates:

  • A Native American word for “large lake”
  • Named by French soldiers in honor of the Widow Scarron, who subsequently became the Madame de Maintenon and second wife of Louis XIV of France

South Schroon is at the southern tip of Schroon Lake.  It looks like a dozen houses or so and a few commercial buildings of some sort or other.

It’s pretty, but it’s not that pretty
(View of Schroon Lake, Thomas Cole, 1838)

4. Skaneatles

Dang!  I was so hoping this was pronounced “skuh-NEE-tuhls.”  Instead, it looks like it’s “skuh-nee-AT-liss.”  Kind of like “skinny atlas.”  That’s still pretty good though.

However you pronounce it, it means “long lake” in Iroquois.  We’re in the lake region here (and, yes, there is a Skaneatles Lake).  Looks very quaint and historic.  About 2,700 people.

It’s main claim to fame may be a utopian community that was started here, by The Society of Universal Inquiry and Reform, in 1843.  Though it only lasted three years, it sounded pretty interesting – basically a bunch of early commies.

A Skaneatles High School tradition

3. Poughkeepsie

As if the name weren’t bad enough, would you believe that Poughkeepsie came in at number 18 on Forbes Most Miserable Cities 2013 list?  Here’s what they had to say:

Poughkeepsie residents must endure crummy weather and long commutes to work.  Their average commute of 31.9 minutes is the sixth highest in the U.S.  Property tax rates are also onerous.

Poughkeepsie does have the following things in its favor though.  In particular, it’s:

  • Known as the “Queen City of the Hudson”
  • A former capital of New York state
  • The home of elite Vassar College, as well the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, by the way)
  • The birthplace of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the worst movie director of all time

Oh, the name?  It’s from the Native American Wappinger language, from the phrase u-puku-ipi-sing. And that means “the reed covered lodge by the little-water place.”  Catchy.

If you say so

2. Killawog

Has Al Qaeda heard about this? 

Haven’t a clue on this one.  I figure it’s something Native American, long lost in the mists of history.  Interestingly, it was once called the much more prosaic “Union Village.”  Unfortunately, there was already one of those.  Locals appear to call it “The Wog.”

“The Wog” is just north of Binghamton, along I-81.  It’s got a fire department, a post office, a church, and maybe about 100 Killawoggers.

By the way, there is also a Kilowog out there.  He’s a fictional hero from DC Comics, part of the Green Lantern Corps – i.e., not a town New York.

Downtown K-Wog

1. Lackawanna

There is no absolutely no truth to the rumor that the motto of this town is, “Do it, Lackawanaa!”

As a matter of fact, Lackawanna means “stream that forks,” in Lenape.  What’s interesting about that, though, is that it actually applies to a river in Pennsylvania.

Lackawanna the New York town was actually named after the Lackawanna Steel Company.  Said company was headquartered in Pennsylvania, but had a big mill in Lackawanna (the New York town, that is).  All clear?

Lackawanna the New York town is just south of Buffalo.  It’s got 18,000 Lackawannians / Lackawannites / Lackawanners.

Honorable Mention: 

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Rapids, Tunnel, New York Mills, State Line, State Bridge, Town Line, Middletown, Model City, New City
  • Short & sweet – Pike, Lee, Sun, Oran, Obi
  • Just a little out of place – way too many
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Orchards, Three Rivers, Three Mile Bay, Orleans Four Corners, Pamelia Four Corners, Number Four, Thousand Island Park
  • Native American mouthfuls –  Ticonderoga, Unadilla Forks (“meeting place”), Oswegatchie, Mamaroneck, Schenectady (“beyond the pines”), Shagticoke
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Upper Red Hook, Sabbath Day Point, South New Berlin
  • Atypical adjectives – Orange, Moody
  • Abnormal nouns – Sundown, Vesper, Veteran, Marathon, Triangle, Ushers, Towners, Pitcher, Pavillion, Paradox, Pyrites, Graphite, Surprise, Severance, Speculator, Sheds
  • Unconventional verbs – Stow, Rush, Purchase
  • Alliterative apotheosis – Loon Lake, Lime Lake, Vine Valley, Pillar Point, Prendergast Point, Painted Post, West Windsor, West Webster, North Norwich
  • Fun to say – Preble, Pifford, Tarrytown, Sloatsburg, South Otselic, Shongo, Queechy, Riparius, Sempronius, South East Owasco, Shinhopple, Slingerlands, Verplanck
  • Just plain weird – Reading Center, Middle Hope, Quaker Street, Olivebridge, Natural Dam, New Bolt, Vestal Corner, Mount Vision, Mohawk View, Owls Head, Retsof (“Foster” backwards), Swan Lake, Stormville, Steamburg, Sanitaria Springs, Sugar Loaf, Sugar Town, Oniontown, West Almond, Short Tract, Penn Yan (world's largest pancake griddle), Tuxedo Park, Weedsport
  • Too far north – North Victory, North Western, North Wilmurt, North Pole
  • Too many villes – Lampville, La Fargeville, Normansville, Pultneyville, Portlandville, Vermontville, Mechanicville, Messengerville, Lawyersville, Wellsville, Smartville, Shortsville, Starkville, Speedsville, Stittville, Swormsville, Wampsville, Whippleville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Wayne (and Wayne Center), Randolph, Roscoe, Sherman, Otto, Ovid, Virgil, Romulus, Plato, Medusa, Lily Dale, Sandy Pond, Sharon Springs, Tracy Creek, Stacy Basin, Paul Smiths
  • Ghost towns (in NY?) – Love Canal (hint, hint, nudge, nudge, know what I mean? know what I mean?)


  1. The Culinary Institute is NOT in Poughkeepsie, it is in HYDE PARK.

  2. You missed Coxsackie!!!!!! Not to mention Ramapo.

  3. Coxsackie is under New York A-L. Wouldn't leave something like that out!

    I didn't realize there was a Ramapo NY? I thought it was in NJ. Good one!

  4. Seriously? You didn't mention Horseheads?

  5. Damn! Horseheads is a nice one/ It may not, though, have been big enough to make it onto my atlas.