Monday, September 30, 2013

Eastern Pennsylvania

Heck with those western Pennsylvanians!  Everybody knows that all the action is happening in the eastern part of the state. 

Now, unfortunately, most of that action occurs in Lancaster County, primo Pennsylvania Dutch country.  I’m actually going to cover those places next week. 

Luckily, though, there seem to be plenty of candidates in the rest of eastern PA as well.  So, here we go …

10. King of Prussia *

We don’t typically name our towns after taverns anymore, do we?  I guess that explains the dearth of Chiles, Ruby Tuesdays, and Applebees out there on the typical road map. 

Back in the 18th Century, though, taverns were more like pubs – happening places where the whole town congregated.  And naming your town after the local tavern was actually pretty common in the broad area around Philly – and that includes Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, as well as eastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to the locals, the King of Prussia Inn also catered to a number of travelers as well.  In fact, it was exactly a day’s ride from Philadelphia on the main road heading west. 

The tavern, which dates back to 1719, is still standing today (though moved from its original location). 

These days, the town is mostly suburban sprawl.  It’s known for its shopping, which includes the K of P Mall, the largest in the US. 

Like I say, large

9. Forty Fort

You mean Forty Four, right? 

Well, actually, the town’s founders actually did mean Forty Fort.  Turns out forty people from Connecticut settled the region and then built a fort there.  The fort played a prominent role in the Pennamite-Yankee War.  Surely you remember the the Pennamite-Yankee War?

Where are we?  Across the river from Wilkes-Barre, basically.  In fact, Forty Fort is the location of the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport.  Some of FF’s other neighbors include Plains, Pringle, Swoyersville, Trucksville, and West Wyoming (all of which, see below).

Forty Fort, ca. 1949

8. Korn Krest

Well, this place really does exist.  I was able to find it on both Wikipedia & MapQuest.  I was also able to learn that it’s 1) between Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke, and 2) is the former site of the San Souci amusement park.

Other than that, though, it appears to be one of those places that have a reality only on the many service directory websites that include a separate page for every friggin’ place in the U.S., no matter how small or whether that place has the service in question or not.  Here are some of the things that came up for Korn Krest:
  • Limousine service
  • Psychologists
  • Italian tutors
  • Bagpipers

My favorite, though, was this one for auto shows, which begins:

If you are looking for a great time then you might want to think about looking up a Korn Krest PA car show to see if there are any local shows in your area.  A Korn Krest Pennsylvania car show can be a great way to pass some time and if you are a car enthusiast then you will likely love spending time at a Korn Krest PA car show.  Therefore, you might want to think about heading online to read up on Korn Krest Pennsylvania car show options in your area.  It is not that hard to find shows if you actually put some time into searching for the right type of Korn Krest PA car show to attend.

7. Shunk

This seems like some obscure swear word.  “Oh shunk!,” one might say.  Or, “You’re full of shunk!”  Perhaps even, “Go shunk yourself, mothershunker!”

Actually, the name comes from Pennsylvania’s tenth governor, Francis Rawn Shunk.  The good folks of Fox Center renamed their tiny burg after him when he died of TB 10 days after leaving office.  The surname means either “long legs” or “piglet” – neither of which seem satisfactorily  august and gubernatorial in tone, to me at least.

This place looks like a couple of dozen buildings in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Williamsport and Elmira, NY.  Everything you’d ever want to know about it you can find right here.

Old Kaiser-Frazer dealer in Shunk
(the company name was obsolete after 1952!)

6. Shickshinny

“I’m sorry, sir, could you repeat that?”  “Shickshinny.”  “Sickskinny?”  “No, Shickshinny.”  “Er, Shinksicky?”  “Shickshinny!”  “Did you say ‘Stinkcity?’”  [silence …]  “Could you spell that please, sir?”

You’re not going to believe it, but this one is Native American!  It means “five mountains,” or perhaps “five streams.”  Who knows, maybe it means “five guys,” or “five easy pieces,” or “five finger death punch.”  Suffice it to say, it’s five of something or other.

The town of Shickshinny has 800 people.  It’s right on the Susquehanna, just south of Wilkes-Barre.

By the way, eastern Pennsylvania has enough Native American names to rival New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.  My faves include: Towanda (“burial ground”), Meshoppen (“glass beads”), Shamokin, Shehawken, Nescopeck, Tunkhannock, Wyomissing, Nesquehonig, Hokendauqua, Nanticoke, Chillisquaque, Conshokocken (“pleasant valley”), Mehoopany (“place of wild potatoes”), Lackawaxen (“where the road forks”), Wilawana (“big horn”).

Interestingly, one town name that I thought for sure was Native American, Hosensack, is not.  It’s actually German, and means “pants pocket”!

Senior portrait,
Jeff Diets Photography,
Shickshinny, PA

5. Virginville

Why is this one not in Lancaster County?

Well, it is right next door.  And that means that V-ville’s neighbors include such worthies as Kutztown, Shoemakersville, Windsor Castle, Basket, and Moselem.

There are several theories behind this one:
  • It was virgin territory
  • It was named after the Comte de Vergennes, a foreign minister to France’s Louis XVI
  • It’s a translation of an Indian name meaning "virgin" or "pure"

Personally, I wonder if there isn’t some connection to Maiden Creek, which runs through town.

However it got started, today it’s now a town of 300, home of the quaint Virginville Hotel, and “a place where it is tough to hang on to road signs.”
Get this on a T-shirt right here

4. Loyalsockville

Just plain weird.  But I have to wonder …  Why did anyone feel that they had to append “ville” to the end of this bizarre combination?  Is there a Loyalsockburg out there as well?  An East Loyalsocktown?  The Villages at Lake Loyalsock?

Well, as it turns out, there is a Loyalsock!  So, I guess Loyalsockville at least makes some sense (though I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it Pleasant Grove or Oakdale or something totally innocuous like that).

“Loyalsock” comes from the Native American lawi-sahquick, which means “middle creek.”  And Loyalsockville is indeed on Loyalsock Creek. 

We’re talking the northern part of the state here, near Williamsport.  I spot a goodly amount of houses and trailers.  Google says the town is known for its tractor show and also for flooding.

By the way, Loyalsockville comes in at 14 letters.  I have no idea why, but Pennsylvania (12) sure does have its share of monsters:
  • Salladasburg (12)
  • Birchrunville (13)
  • Klecknersville (14)
  • Sunderlinsville (14)
  • Sassamansville (14)
  • Fivepointville (14)
  • Montgomeryville (15)
  • Shoemakersville (15)
  • Plumbsteadville (15)
  • Applebachsville (15)
  • Kleinfelterville (16)

Wait, it has three exits???

3. Upper Black Eddy

So, I’m assuming there’s a Lower Black Eddy and maybe just a Black Eddy, as well as a White Eddy and perhaps even an Upper Asian Jose as well.

Interestingly, there actually is some logic behind this one.  First, let’s take a pool in the Delaware River.  That’s your “eddy.”  Next, let’s put a family named Black on it.  There’s your “black.”   Finally, let’s find another one of these pools, a little up the river from that first one.  And that’s your “upper.”  Put ‘em all together …  Voila: Upper Black Eddy!

Oh, almost forgot …  What you’ll finally want to do is build a canal.  That’ll turn your pool and farm into a growing village.  Final result: one quaint, scenic, and historical place.

By the way, there is a Skinners Eddy in eastern Pennsylvania as well.


2. Jersey Shore *

Whoa, I told you we shoulda taken that exit back in Loyalsockville!

It’s hard to believe, but this one actually makes some sense too.  (And, no, it has nothing to do with the TV show.)  Turns out a bunch of folks from Jersey settled here, along the shore of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. 

JS is known for:

By the way, there is also a West Wyoming in eastern Pennsylvania as well.

Local citizens on vacation

1. Wawa

Named for the Philadelphia area’s popular Wawa Marts, this town is famous for its cuisine of day-old hot dogs and coffee that tastes like paint thinner, inhabitants who barely speak English, and extremely high rate of armed robbery. 

I’m joking, of course.  It’s hard to believe, I know, but the c-store was actually named for the town.  Well, to be honest, it was named after Wawa Dairy, which was itself named after the town.  The town, in turn, was named after the estate of some 19th Century dude.  He claimed “wawa” was Ojibwe for goose, and that he named his estate after all the geese that congregated there.  I don’t know – I think they may just be having us on here.

Wawa is an “unincorporated community,” with rather porous boundaries.  A Philadelphia Inquirer article puts the population at between 5 and 265 families.  The article goes on to state that “the most remarkable thing about Wawa is that no one can agree on where it is, really.”  A c-store executive who claims he lives there concludes that “Wawa is a state of mind. If you want to be in Wawa, you can be in Wawa.”  Once again, I think these people may just be having a little fun with us.

“You mean, I hand you this piece of plastic,
and then you hand me that sausage cookie,
or whatever’s it called?”

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Rock, Marsh, Plains, Centralia, Central, Middletown Center, Centerport, Homesville, Hometown
  • Short and sweet – Pen Mar *, Mar Lin, Nay Aug, Ono, Oley, Vira, Wila, Zora, Avis, Hebe, Elam, Rye, Rote, Neffs, Yoe
  • Just a little off-color – Butztown, Honey Hole, Balls Mills, Dickville
  • Beaver patrol – Beavertown, Beaver Springs, Beaver Brook, Beaver Lake, Beaver Meadows, Tamaqua (Indian for “beaver”)
  • Numerically oriented – Two Taverns, Five Points, Five Forks, Seven Stars, Mile Run
  • Orthographically challenged – Kreamer, Watrous, Moselem, Hawleywood
  • Atypical adjectives – Urban, Orange, Good, Lucky, Lofty, Bermudian
  • Abnormal nouns – Ravine, Railroad, Panther, Trooper, Windfall, Lawn, Lemon, Media, Chrome, Forks, Furlong, Effort, Obelisk, Overshot, Gravity, Asylum, Brogue, Basket, Pillow (after Mexican-American War general Gideon Pollow), Maze, Drums, Angels, Unicorn, Chinchilla, Seltzer, Stalker
  • Unconventional verbs – Exchange, Rush, Falls, Host, Ransom, Grill, Shaft
  • Give me some sugar – Sugar Run, Sugartown, Sugarloaf, Sugar Notch
  • Fun to say – Shindler, Kunkle, Cresco (Latin for “I grow”), Mongul, Moosic, Paupack, Paxtang, Pringle, Pecks Pond, Paoli, Tioga, Cleona, Zerbe, Nauvoo, Norberth, Dornsife, Wysox (Indian for “place of grapes”), Wassergass, Womelsdorf, Cocolamus, Equinunk, Throop, Fricks
  • Hard to say – Caln, Macungie (Indian for “feeding place for bears”), Pen Argyl (Jayne Mansfield’s grave), Bryn Athyn, Bryn Mawr (Welsh for “big hill”), Quakake, Uwchland, Toughkenamon, Urcildour, Bala Cynwyd
  • Just plain weird – Fairplay, New Freedom, New Era, Old Forge (formerly Mudtown), Mechanicsburg, Mechanicsville, English Center, Nantmeal Village, Longswamp, Standing Stone, Picture Rocks, Ancient Oaks, Trooper Oaks, Cherry Flats, Black Walnut, Walnut Bottom, Hop Bottom, Port Carbon, Porters Sideling, Jobs Corners, Chadds Ford, Lightstreet, Green Lane, Yellow House, Eagles Mere, Birdsboro, Bedminster, Minisink Hills, Sunnyburn, Myobeach, Crackersport, Fearnot, Leck Kill, Rough and Ready, Choconut
  • Too many towns – Flourtown, Fritztown, Kutztown, Quicktown, Hummelstown, Linglestown, Yocumtown, Coffeetown, Cashtown, Bunkertown
  • Too may villes – Lumberville, Factoryville (birthplace of baseball HOFer Christy Mathewson), Friendsville, Shortsville, Stormville, Starkville, Spinnersville, Swoyersville, Koonsville, Krumsville, Trucksville, Turbotville, Airville, Grimville, Bittersville, Biglerville (national apple museum), Flicksville, Frackville, Schnecksville, Schwenksville, Stonersville
  • Too many burgs – Hublersburg, Cleversburg, Wormsleyburg, Mummasburg
  • Pottheads – Pottstown, Pottsville (oldest brewery in US), Potts Grove
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Glen Roy, Rich Hill, Russell Hill, Jim Thorpe, St. Nicholas
  • Ghost towns – Gold Mine, Celestia, Rattling Run, Ricketts, Pandamonia, Free Love Valley

Great article with lots of name origins for this part of the state right here.


  1. How about Puseyville?

  2. That one's a winner, definitely. I just don't think it was big enough to meet my original criteria - big enough to make it on a Rand-McNally atlas.