Friday, December 13, 2013

Virginia M-Z

Carry me back to ol’ Virginny / That’s where the corn and the sweet potatoes grow / No place on earth do I love more sincerely / Than ol’ Virginny, the place where I was born

I can’t believe I can remember that much after all these years (and even if I didn’t get it all right). I’m not a native son, but I did spend most of my youth in the Old Dominion – in particular, in Purcellville, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, population 2,000 (at least when I lived there). 

This week, we’re featuring Virginia towns from M to Z. Last week, it was A to L.

10. Max Meadows *

So, who was this guy? And why did they name a town after him?

Well, we may never know. There’s just not a lot on this town of 500 or so in the southwest corner of the state. That’s surprising, as the place is right off the interstate, where I-77 and I-81 meet (I drive by it at least once a year on my way to go hiking, biking, or skiing).

I did find MM on the Virginia is for Lovers site though. And they recommended some high-end lodging options (Fort Chiswell RV Campground and Pioneer Village RV Park and Campground), as well as some excellent fine dining choices (Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Little Caesar). Things to do? How about Porter Furniture Restoration? Not your cup of tea? Well, there is always the Fort Chiswell RV Campground (which offers amenities such as a swimming pool, playground, basketball and volleyball courts, gameroom, and pay fishing pond).

It’s kind of odd, though, that they didn’t mention the Graham Mansion (a 19th Century landmark visible from the interstate) and the New River Trail State Park (an old railroad grade that was turned into a bike trail). I’ve probably been on the latter at least 20 times. Absolutely beautiful!

The Popes, Max Meadows
O. Winston Link, photographer

9. Stuarts Draft

It was just a draft. Stuart would go on to build a real town a few miles to the north.

So, the Stuart part of this is undisputed. Basically, some dude named Archibald Stuart was one of the original settlers in the area. As for the “Draft,” well, we’ve got two choices, including:
  • For the document drafting the land sale to Archibald
  • A reference to the nearby South River (“draft” being an old-timey word for a river or creek, and appearing several times in the local area)

This major metropolis of 9,000-plus people is in the Shenandoah Valley, just south of Staunton. This is where I-81 & I-64 meet, which may help to explain SD’s nickname of “warehouse capital of the U.S.” There’s also a Hershey’s Chocolate plant here. 

8. Spotsylvania Courthouse

Would it help if I told you the first part of this was a partial Latin translation of the surname Spotswood? No? Really?

So, who exactly was this Spotswood guy? And why did he translate half of his name into Latin?

Well, I can actually answer that last one for you. A full translation would have given us Maculasylvania Courthouse, which – you have to admit – is just a bit much. 

Anyway, Alexander Spotswood was a noted Colonial governor of Virginia, serving from 1710 to 1722. He had a county, then the county seat, named after him. 

Taking the county name and appending “Court House” to the end of it is actually pretty common in the Old Dominion. Other examples include Amelia Court House, Charlotte Court House, and the rather wordy King and Queen Court House. I’m not sure any other state really does that.

The town has about 4,200 inhabitants, and is just a little south of DC. It was the site of a major battle in the Civil War, with other nearby battle sites including Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Fredericksburg.

Battlefield tourists

7. Rustburg

Detroit? Cleveland? Buffalo? Pittsburgh?

Nope – it’s Rustburg, VA, town of 1,400 and seat of Campbell County. It’s real near Lynchburg, at the foot of the Blue Ridge. It’s also the home of Concrete World, the “world’s largest collection of cement collectibles,” and subject of this Roadside America page.

R-burg is actually named after – once again – some guy. In particular, I’m talking about one Jeremiah Rust, who donated land for the village in 1784. 

Now, why would someone be named Rust? Well, it’s probably Scottish, and basically denotes someone with red hair. Kind of like nicknaming somebody “Rusty.”

By the way, there is also a Brokenburg, VA.

Some of the “art” from Concrete World

6. Mangohick

Mango: a fleshy yellowish-red tropical fruit that is eaten ripe or used green for pickles or chutneys. Hick: a person who lives in the country, regarded as being unintelligent or provincial. Put ‘em together, and you get … um … er …You get … 

Why, a small crossroads of maybe 20 houses, just northeast of Richmond. It was named after a church that was built way back in 1730. 

What does it mean? Well, apart from that it’s obviously Native American, we’ve got another mystery on our hand, I’m afraid.

You’d think they would have 
at least explained the name

5. Pungo

So, I think we’re pretty safe to say this one’s Native American as well. Yup, it’s from the Machipugo, a local tribe.

The town is part of Virginia Beach, but don’t let that fool you. Because VB is such a huge city (area-wise, that is), little places like Pungo can be part of the city yet still be surrounded by farm fields. 

Pungo does have more than its share of attractions however, including:
This last one is particularly interesting. Grace Sherwood was a local woman who was accused of witchcraft around the turn of the 18th Century. She was one of the few accused witches to survive a dunking. There’s a statue of her in Virginia Beach.

By the way, there is also a Pungoteague.

Strawberry Festival’s
First Lady, Mayor, and “Honorary Witch”
(yup, that’s what those sashes say)

4. Nutbush

I couldn’t find anything along these lines on Google, but wouldn’t this be a great thing to call somebody? “You total nutbush!” “What a nutbush thing to say!” “I’m afraid Leonard’s gone a little nutbush on us here.”

Interestingly, there is also a Nutbush in Tennessee, as well as North Carolina. The first one is famous as the birthplace of Tina Turner (who wrote a song called Nutbush City Limits). The second is famous for the Nutbush Address, a speech that helped guide the Revolution in that state.

Where’s do they all come from? Again, we have two choices. One, it could mean the hazelnut tree. Two, it could be somebody’s surname (and probably related somehow to said tree). 

The Virginia town? Well, it looks like a hour and a half southwest of Richmond. And that’s about all I could find on the place.

Oops, wrong state!

3. Short Pump

Is this like a “short fuse”?

According to Wikipedia, this town “was named for the short-handled pump beneath the porch of a tavern located there.” Why it was named after something like that is another question entirely.

The town, which is a suburb of Richmond, has a whopping 25,000 Short Pumpers. And that means all kinds of signs of civilization, like Cheesecake Factories, Apple Stores, Whole Foods, IMAX theaters, and Baby Gaps.

Shopping center logo,
Short Pump, VA

2. Meadows of Dan

Dan was known for his meadows. People came from miles around just to stare at them.

Actually, Dan was a river. And this place started out as some inviting meadows along said river. QED.

M of D is in the southwest part of the state, near the NC border, and almost right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mabry’s Mill, probably the most photographed place on the Parkway is just a mile away.

This teeny town has no less than four festivals, including a Folk Fair and Crafts in the Meadow. There are also three wineries nearby. In town, you’ve got a fudge shop, knife store, ice cream parlor, craft stores … 

… Ah! Run for your life! It’s a tourist trap!

Look familiar?
(I thought so)

1. Mouth of Wilson *

Pure poetry. Surrealist poetry that doesn’t make a lick of sense, mind. But pure poetry nonetheless.

Well, it’s another riverine feature, I’m afraid. Yup, M of W is where the Wilson River empties into the larger New River. So, you could think of this place as the mouth of the Wilson River. 

We’re in the southwest again – actually, less than an hour from Meadows of Dan on the Jeb Stuart Parkway. 

Unlike M of D, though, M of W is not a tourist trap. I’ve been through the place dozens of time on my way to have fun in the mountains, and I can vouch for the town’s isolation, scant number of inhabitants, crumbling building stock, and total lack of any pretension whatsoever. I love this place!

One thing I didn’t mention, though, is the nearby boys school, Oak Hill Academy. If you’re anything of a college basketball fan, you’ve probably heard of this place. Basically, they take all these talented kids from the inner city and plop ‘em down in the middle of nowhere. That way, they can stay out of trouble and eat, breathe, and sleep hoops. They’ve won seven national championships in the last 20 years. Alumni include Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Jerry Stackhouse, and Rod Strickland.

Of course it’s also the name of a band
(C’mon, what didja think?)

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Oldtown, Newtown, Newville, Northwest, The Plains, The Hollow, Virginia Beach*, Virginia Hills, Virginia City, Middletown, Middleburg*, Midland, Village
  • Short & sweet – Vera, Sago, Zuni, Nain, Nace, Pons, Snell, Stott, Wirtz, Zepp
  • Just a little out of place – Washington, New Baltimore, West Point, Yale, South Boston, St. Paul, Yuma, Tacoma, Monterey, Scotland, Vienna*, Verona, New Bohemia, Warsaw, Petersburg*, Moscow, Sparta, Troy, Syria, Shanghai, Osaka
  • Orthographically challenged – Tabb, Winfall, Shortt Gap, Phenix, Savedge, Purdy, Pardee
  • Numerically oriented – Seven Mile Ford, Tenth Legion
  • Native American mouthfuls – Meherrin, Mattaponi, Massaponax, Nottoway, Onancock, Wicomico, Wachapreague, Tappahannock, Nassawadox
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Rockbridge Baths, Temperanceville, Greenbackville
  • Atypical adjectives – Wise, Major, Minor, Orange, Radiant, Tiptop, Studley
  • Unconventional verbs – Paces, Passing, Rescue, Narrows
  • Abnormal nouns – Wood, Wilderness, Raven, Pound, Painter, Pilot, Peaks, Prospect, Quarry, Mineral, Slate, Saltpetre, Supply, Snowflake, Sun, Moon, Dawn*, Orbit, Orchid, Valentines, Sharps, Soles, Skippers*, Sliders, Triangle, Triplet, Tyro, Topping, Mayo, Mollusk
  • Fun to say – Saxis, Nelsonia, Weems, Quinby, Melfa, Mustoe, Mobjack, Varina, Virgilina, Sylvatus
  • Hard to say – Occoquan, Quinque
  • Just plain weird – Sunnyside, Rural Retreat * (grave of Dr. Pepper), Mechanicsburg, Mechanicsville, Timberville, Locustville, Old Tavern, Republican Grove, Red House, Red Ash, Paint Bank, Newport News *, Sweet Hall, Sugar Loaf, Viewtown, Nicelytown, Quicksburg, Plasterco, Woolwine, Winterpock, Skipwith, Star Tannery, St. Joy, Ruther Glen, Modest Town, Tight Squeeze, Stinking Point
  • Whites only – White Hall, White Stone, White Marsh, White Gate, White Post
  • 100% natural – Natural Well, Natural Bridge (big-time tourist trap), Natural Tunnel
  • Possessive puzzles – Weavers Cave, Steeles Tavern, Solomons Store*, Toms Creek, Toms Brook, Singers Glen
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Susan, Maggie, Myrtle, Marvin, Norman, Stuart, Stanley, Mike, Prince George, Princess Anne, Patrick Springs, Vernon Hill
  • Ghost towns – Wash Woods

* - author has visited


  1. I'm not sure if there's a Weavers Cave, Virginia, but there IS for sure a "Weyers Cave" about 10 miles from where I live, so perhaps that's what you meant (and even stranger)?

    Also, interesting to see Timberville make the list. We also have a Montezuma and a New Hope in this area.

  2. Weyers Cave it is. Thanks for the catch