Monday, July 29, 2013

North Carolina

North Cackalacky!  My home state.  Birth place of barbecue, NASCAR, Cheerwine, and Andy Griffith.  The Tar Heel State.  The Old North State.

Man, was this one hard!  I’m familiar with pretty much every town in this post – if I haven’t actually driven through them, eaten lunch there, gassed up, or stayed overnight.
And familiarity breeds content.  You see a place often enough, and you have to really think whether Erect is as obscene, Lizard Lick as odd, and Shelmerdine as funny as they all sound.
Oh well.  Wish me luck!
10. Zebulon *

Obscure Greek letter?  Bad guy from Battlestar Galactica?  Moon of Neptune?
This place was actually named after Civil War governor Zebulon Vance.  He was a pretty popular guy, so there’s also a Vance County and a Vanceboro.
Too bad his first name wasn’t Jack or something though - “Zebulon” is quite a mouthful.  It’s actually from the Bible.  It was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and means “dwelling,” or “habitation.”
Zebulon’s pretty big time for North Carolina.  I’m talking 4,400 people, as well as being the home of the Carolina Mudcats, the Class A+ team of the Cleveland Indians. 
Z-town (I just made that up) is just west of Raleigh, and officially part of the Research Triangle Park metropolitan region.
Formerly atop Leith Mercury,
this cougar is now at Howden Classic Cars
(and also gets a tip at

9. Chocowinity

This is just fun to say.  Go ahead, try it yourself.
Where this one comes from is a little up in the air.  I’ve got some sources saying it means “fish from many waters,” but others saying it means “otter” or possibly “little otters.”  Formerly, it was called Godley’s Cross Roads and Marsden.  As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with chocolate.
Chocowinity is in the eastern part of the state, and has 800-plus people.  The town’s official slogan is “the one and only” … which sounds like a pretty safe claim to me.
Cornhole tournament
Twin Lakes RV Resort
Chocowinity, NC
8. Boger City

I really wanted to put Boogertown here, but it’s unfortunately too tiny to make it onto my atlas.  So, Boger City will just have to do.
This one’s from the local textile mill owner, by the way – one Robert Boger.  And that surname is from the German for “bowman,” or “archer.” 
As for Boger City, it’s actually not too far from me, just a hop, skip, and a jump northwest of Charlotte.  It’s got about 550 people.  BC is best known as the home of NASCAR legend Dick Trickle (real name!)
By the by, the author actually watched a baseball game in Boogertown.
7. Bat Cave *

Holy ZIP code, Batman! 
Well, this one’s pretty self-explanatory.  Yup, there’s a cave nearby with a lot of bats.  Yup, it was named in the days before television and comic books.
The author has actually been to Bat Cave a couple of times.  It’s just up the Broad River Gorge from Chimney Rock State Park, one of my faves – great trails, views, waterfall, gift shop, elevator to the top, and more. 
A friend of mine used to live in a part of Charlotte whose ZIP code was the same as Bat Cave’s but with two numbers transposed.  Somehow or other, he got mail from Bat Cave all the time.  We thought it was really hilarious.  I guess we were pretty easily amused. 
I want one of these
6. Old Trap

So, I’m assuming there’s a New Trap out there somewhere, as well as perhaps a North Trap, or a West Trap, a Trap Acres, and maybe even The Villages at Trap Plantation.  (There actually is a Trap, NC.  I’m not sure, however, that there’s any relation between the two.)
This one comes from a Colonial era grog shop that served as a “trap” for the local Colonial males.  Supposedly, it got its name from the local Colonial females.
Old Trap is in the far northeast part of the state, on a little peninsula that juts into Albemarle Sound.  For such an ancient place (settled before the 1660s), there’s very little on it.  There’s certainly very little there today – basically, a crossroads, some farms, and some houses.
No, not that kind of trap
5. Toast *

I’m a  big fan too, but I’m not sure it’s worth naming a town after.
The Town of Toast is in the northwest part of the state, right to next to Mt. Airy, Andy Griffiths’ hometown and his model for Mayberry.  In fact, Toast is actually mentioned in The Andy Griffith Show – in episode 249, "A Girl for Goober."
Though there are almost 2,000 Toasters, I really couldn’t find anything on it.  If anyone can help me out – especially with the origin of the name – I’d be much obliged.
I thought this might also be a good place to mention that there is a Crisp in the Tar Heel State as well.
Cars made out of toast!  Imagine!
4. Spivey’s Corner *

Well, gollee!  This sounds like something straight out of Mayberry RFD.  Hmm ...  But was it Gomer or Goober who was originally from Spivey’s Corner?
So, would you believe there was a guy named Spivey, who lived at a crossroads here?  “Spivey” is actually from the Scots, and means “cripple.” 
The town was formerly West Crossroads, which, actually, sounds just fine to me.  Hey, if it ain’t broke …
This burg of 400 and some is in the eastern part of the state, between Raleigh and Wilmington.  In fact, I used to drive through it constantly on my way to college.  There wasn’t much then, and there isn’t much now.
SC’s main claim to fame is the National Hollerin’ Contest.  Wikipedia puts it well, stating that the contest:
was inaugurated to revive the almost-lost art of “hollerin’,” a sophisticated [sic] vocal tradition that served as a means of long-distance communication between individuals as well as an amusing form of entertainment, before the widespread adoption of the telephone.
They’re not shy in Spivey’s Corner, NC
3. Fuquay-Varina

They’re both bad enough, but put ‘em together … 
The Fuquay comes from an early local settler.  And that surname comes from the French Fouquet, which comes from the German Volker, which means “people.”
The Varina comes from the wife of the local postmaster.  Its origins are probably just straight white trash.  By the by, Varina was also the name of Mrs. Jeff Davis.
The two started out as separate towns, but grew together over the years.  Today, little F-V is all growed-up.  It’s got over 87,000 people, is one of NC’s fastest growing towns, and acts as a bedroom community for Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park.
The author had chem lab with Miss Fuquay-Varina, Duke University, fall semester, 1976
2. Nags Head * / Goat Neck

Nags Head is the much better known of these two, but I’m really not sure why anyone would want to name their town after any part of the anatomy of farm animals.
The name “Nags Head” may possibly come from the lights that “wreckers” used to place around the necks of horses, which they would then lead across the sand dunes along this bit of coastline.  The idea was to have ships think they saw the lights of other ships in a safe harbor.  The ships would then wreck on the beach, and the “wreckers” would descend on the ships.
Goat Neck was simply a peninsula of land where goats congregated.  By the way, there are also a Gum Neck and a Scotland Neck in North Carolina.
Today, Nags Head is a very popular beach town, with a population of 2,700 full-time residents and God knows how many in the summer.  The author spent several enjoyable summer vacations here as a young boy. 
Goat Neck, on the other hand, seems to be a wide spot in the road on a peninsula sticking out into Albemarle Sound.  I can spot a couple of houses and lots and lots of pine trees.  So, if you’re looking for vacation spots named after the anatomical parts of farm animals, you might want to try Nags Head first.
Only $4.75 per pound
1. Kill Devil Hills *

Kill Devil Hills is just up the coast from Nags Head.  If you go a little further north, you’ll run into the wonderfully named Kitty Hawk and Duck.  South, you’ll hit Whalebone, Waves, Salvo, and Frisco.  And on the barrier islands south of the Outer Banks, you’ll run into Salter Path.  In addition to having wonderful beaches that stretch from the Virginia to the South Carolina border, the NC coast also has some pretty funny town names.
The name “Kill Devil Hills” dates back to Colonial times, when powerful rum was nicknamed “kill devil” (i.e., it was strong enough to “kill the devil”).  The most likely story was that locals here really liked to drink the stuff.
Apart from being a great beach town, KDH’s main claim to fame is being the site of the first powered flight in human history.  Yup, this is where Orville and Wilbur first took off.
Some Kill Devil Hills trivia:
  • There’s a band out there named Kill Devil Hill
  • Grave Digger monster truck driver Greg Anderson (no relation) lives here
  • KDH hosts a wooden bat collegiate summer league team called the Outer Bank Daredevils
Orville and Wilbur (I’m assuming)
Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g –  Acre, Flat Rock*, State Road*, Centerville, Middletown, Townsville (after one Edmund Towne)
  • Short and sweet – Ash, Elf, Ela (Cherokee for “earth”), Eno*, Enka (short for Nederlandische Kunstzyde Fabirken), Enon, Nebo, Bina (formerly Berlin), Faro, Fig, Cid, Surl*, Chip, Spot (formerly Hog Quarter)
  • Just a little out of place – too dang many
  • Just a little off-color – Cheeks, Bottom, Climax, Hookerton, Hornytown, Erect
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Springs, Seven Paths, Seven Devils*, Old Hundred*, Fourway (from the name of a gas station)
  • Orthographically challenged – Askin*, Bunyan, Winfall*
  • Native American mouthfuls – Tomotla, Tusquitee, Junaluska*, Altamahaw, Nantahala* (“land of the noonday sun” – a gorge), Lake Toxaway* (“red bird,” in Cherokee), Rockyhock (“where combs are made”), Scuppernong, Cooleemee* (“where the white oak grows”)
  • Atypical adjectives – Democrat, Republican, Royal, Oriental, Marble, Wood, Wise*, Hasty (after a local landowner), Quick (formerly Kill Quick), Small (a railroad official), Micro
  • Abnormal nouns – Bath, Fountain, Ocean*, Gulf (geographic center of NC), Globe, Star, Intelligence (site of Rockingham County’s first school), Cycle, Welcome* (formerly Hinkelsville), Warbler, Pilot, Guide, Maiden*, Cashiers* (pronounced “cashers”), Spies (pronounced “speece”), Farmer, Walnut*, Almond, Cranberry*, Hothouse, Stem, Fork, Finger*, Ledger, Day Book, Coats, Suit, Tuxedo, Bandana, Relief, Riddle (after Charles Riddle, postmaster), Cricket, Calypso*, Baton, Burden, Husk, Speed (after Mr. E.T. Speed), Flats
  • Unconventional verbs – Advance, Comfort, Blanch (after one Blanche Moore), Bluff, Butters*, Supply*, Spear*, Spray (formerly Splashy), Flay
  • Fun to say – Virgilina, Norlina*, Pineola*, Skibo, Cerro Gordo* (after a Mexican-American War battle), Pactolus, Pfafftown (after one Peter Pfaff), Pungo, Cumnock (formerly Egypt), Conetoe, Coinjock, Crumpler (Civil War hero), Momeyer, Misenheimer*, Shelmerdine
  • Just plain weird – Spindale*, Tramway, Topnot, Gamewell (from Mr. Gamewell Tuttle), Gumberry, Windblow, Jugtown, Shacktown, Poortown, Lovejoy (formerly Queen), Paint Gap, Pink Hill, China Grove*, Snow Camp, Silk Hope, Half Moon, Level Cross, Tin City, Texaco Beach, Old Dock*, Swanquarter, Black Jack, Birdtown* (after the Bird Clan of the Cherokee), Boomer (from the nickname of the local postmaster), Bunnlevel, Burnt Mills, Bear Poplar, Bear Grass, Bee Log, Banner Elk*, Blowing Rock*, Bug Hill*, Bald Head Island*, Frying Pan Landing, Pumpkin Center*, Vade Mecum (Latin for “go with me”), Meat Camp, Shoofly, Stumpy Point, Lizard Lick, Loafers Glory, Grabtown, Needmore, Whynot
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Ruth, Mable, Mamie*, Mollie, Lizzie, Bettie, Bertha, Stella, Otto, George, Earl, Clyde*, Stanley*, Frank*, Faust*, Hamlet*, Yorick*, Montezuma (formerly Bull Scrape), Trent Woods, Maggie Valley*, Bonnie Doon*, Kitty Fork, Jenny Lind, Eli Whitney
  • Ghost towns – Buffalo, Mortimer*

You’re probably asking yourself how I managed to become such an expert on NC town names.  Well, I owe it all to distinguished North Carolina historian William Powell.  In addition to his landmark history of the state, he also put together a pretty neat gazetteer. 

* - author has visited


  1. You forgot Fort Barnwell (my hometown)

  2. Oh I don't know ... That one doesn't sound so bad - especially compared to the Whynots, Lizard Licks, and Toasts.

  3. Yup, got it covered under Just Plain Weird, in Honorable Mention

  4. Would have put that one in "Just a little out of place" if there weren't so darn many of those.

  5. Why are there several towns/communities with level in the name (bunn level, green level, and juniper level)?

  6. A level was just a flat field. Something like that could stand out in a mountainous or hilly area or an area that was just nothing but pines. I believe there are several others out there. The only other one I can think of off the top of my head would be Frog Level (too small to make it in this post though). There's a Scalp Level and Grasshopper Level in PA.