Friday, January 3, 2014

West Virginia, A-L

Poor West Virginia. Around these parts, it seems WV is the butt of all jokes. 

Let me explain. I-77 basically funnels any West Virginian looking to relocate down South straight through Charlotte. My hometown is bright and bustling and shiny and often ends up as someone’s brand new home.

Unfortunately, Charlotte is just a little bit too, um … er … sophisticated and cosmopolitan for some of these newcomers. 

Okay, enough background. Let’s take a look at some of the places these folks are hailing from.

10. Burnt House

Surely, there was more to this place than this. A nice meadow perhaps? Some body of water of some sort? How about two roads that crossed? I mean, anything other than a burned down house, right?

Well, there is a pretty good story at least. It involves a tavern, a slave mistress, some disappeared lodgers, a terrible fire, and a dancing ghost.  

What’s there now? Well, not a whole lot. Mapquest shows me a string of buildings along a state road a little southeast of Parkersburg. The place has got some great neighbors though – Nobe, Goffs, Slab, Thursday, Racket, and Fonzo.

I'm sure there's a Burnt Church
out there somewhere too

9. Lost City

I’ve heard this used before. You know, the lost city of the Incas, the lost city of Atlantis, the lost city of Sheboygan …

This place is along the Lost River. Fittingly, both are in the middle of absolute nowhere (i.e., far eastern WV).

That’s not, however, where the name comes from.  The Lost River actually disappears, at a place called the “The Sinks,” then reappears 10 miles later (but, this time, as the Cacapon). 

8. Left Hand

How sinister.

This has to be the left hand, or fork, of some creek, right? Sure enough, the town is right along Left Hand Creek. 

I’m afraid I couldn’t find a Right Hand Creek though. I did, however, find another little “unincorporated community” with the wonderful name of Big Right Hand. Not that it’s anywhere near Left Hand …

LH has 350 people, but looks like no more than a handful of houses and an elementary school. Maybe they just counted the kids. It’s just a little up I-79 from Charleston.

Left Hand is also sometimes refered to as Lefthand, Justices, and Knights. 

From Mrs. Reynolds’ homepage,
Left Hand Elementary School

7. Blennerhassett

That’s fourteen big ones, folks. B-L-E-N-N-E-R-H-A-S-S-E-T-T.  Fourteen!

Would you believe it’s some poor guy’s name? Some poor Irish guy? Yup, Harman Blennerhassett settled here at the very end of the 1700s. He sounds like quite a character.

B-town (I ain’t typing that in again) is a “census-designated place.” I have no idea what that is, but I assume it’s a step up from an “unincorporated community,” as B-ville has over 3,000 people. It’s just down the Ohio from Parkersburg.

Harman’s reconstructed manse

6. Boomer

I had no idea there were so many boomers out there, including:
  • An adult male kangaroo
  • The mascot of the Indiana Pacers
  • An advocate for the opening of the Unassigned Lands of Oklahoma Territory for settlement
  • The redhead tomboy from the Burger King Kids Club
  • An anthropomorphic tug boat from the 1989 TV series Tugs
  • A fictional synthetic life form developed by Katsuhito Stingray in the anime series Bubblegum Crisis
I’m guessing it’s the last one. 

Seriously, Boomer is also a last name, and that’s what I’m guessing is the real source. We’ve got two possibilities for this one. It could be Dutch, and signifying someone who worked a boom, or gate, on a canal. The other possibility is German, from the name Baumer, which basically means a customs official.

Boomer is an old coal company town. It’s got about 200 people, and is on the Kanawha River, about 30 miles from Charleston. It has a fair amount of Italian-Americans, including one Dominic Pesca, who mined 52 tons of coal in one day.

A Boomer is also “a bloated infected that can spit vision-impairing bile on the Survivors, attracting hordes of infected, and explodes on death, spewing more bile in the immediate area. They emit burping and vomiting like sounds when close by.” (from Left 4 Dead, a video game)

5. Bozoo

It’s after Bozoo the Cloon, of course. Why do you ask?

Well, actually, I haven’t a clue what it’s after. There are some poor people with the last name of Bozoo out there, so maybe that’s it.

Bozoo the toown is in the far, far southern part of the state. Actually, it looks like it’s about a mile and a half or so from the border with Virginia. It’s on a ridge above the New River. I count about a dozen buildings of some sort or other. 

This place is known for one thing, though, and that’s rock climbing. So, here’s some valuable advice I found on a climbing site for any of you out there who are interested in tackling the heights of Bozoo:

This route is a classic, with awesome bouldery moves. Start below a large obvious hueco about ten feet up. Very powerful moves lead you out of the roof, but into difficult campusy moves before reaching a few good left hand side pulls. A cruxy move out right to a crack gets you a good hold...but it [sic] not over yet ...

Now, if I could only figure out what language this is in, I could probably translate for you.

I don’t know if this the bouldery,
the campusy, or the cruxy part

4.  Cucumber

You know, I think they’re really ought to be more towns out there named after vegetables. I, personally, think cauliflower and eggplant should be so honored – not to mention the brussel sprout.

We’re back in the southern part of the state again, maybe ten miles from VA this time. There are about 100 Cucumberians … er, Cucumberites .. um, Cucumberers? Big time coal country.

Not totally sure where this one came from. My personal guess, though, would be the cucumber tree (magnolia acuminata). By the way, Cucumber is the only community In US with that name.

Get your letter stamped right here

3.  Droop *

So, there are multiple towns in the U.S. with the name of Droop???

This barely-there crossroads is in the southeast part of the state. Much more famous than the town, though, is nearby Droop Mountain, site of the last significant battle of the Civil War in the state (the Yankees won).

The town derives its name from the mountain. And the mountain was originally called Drooping Mountain. And to droop means to “sink, bend, or hang down.” So, I guess it all makes sense …

Either a park ranger
or a member of the Taliban

2. Big Otter / Big Chimney / Big Isaac

And I thought everything was big in Texas

Big Otter is along Big Otter Creek. And, yes, there is a Little Otter and a Little Otter Creek as well. There actually seems to be some people in Little Otter (unlike in Big Otter), so Little Otter is actually bigger than Big Otter (which is littler). Both Otters, Big and Small, are in the center of the state.

Big Chimney is just a little west of Big and Little Otter. Unlike those, though, it really is big time. I’m talking 600-plus people, as wells as a “fast-food restaurant, a drug store, hardware store and grocery store” (that’s from the Wikipedia entry). The name comes from the tall chimney of a former salt works.

Big Isaac is a little further north. Like Big Otter, Big Isaac doesn’t look too big. What little there is appears to be on the wonderfully named Meathouse Fork Rd. Not sure where this one comes from, but – yes – there is a Big Isaac Creek as well.

Sorry, this big otter is actually
in Fergus Falls, MN

1. Forks of Cacapon

So, we’ve already established that there is a Cacapon River (see #9, above). Further, any time we see “forks” in this blog, we can safely assume we’re talking about the branches of a river – and not silverware. So, I’m assuming we’ve got a town along the Cacapon River where said river forks. 

Yup, this tiny hamlet is indeed where the Cacapon and North Rivers meet. By the way, it looks like there are more ways to spell this one than there are people in this place:
  • Capon 
  • Cacopon
  • Cacapon 
  • Cacapehon 
  • Cackapohon 
  • Capcappin
  • Capecapon
  • Cape Capon 
And it looks like Microsoft Word wants me to change all of them to “cacophony."

Sound like there’s some good paddling and fishing nearby. Oh, almost forgot … However you might spell it, “cacapon” means “medicine waters.”

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt!

Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Flat Rock, Hilltop* (Hank Williams’ last stop), Borderland, Central Station, Center Point, Centralia, Junction, Hometown
  • Short & sweet – Fola, Boaz, Czar, Chloe, Clio, Coco, Coit, Asco, Ajax, Ada, Amma, Alma, Alto, Alvy, Avon, Enon, Eglon, Etam, Jolo, Halo, Hico, Hix, Hines, Bays, Boggs, Dunns, Dink, Dott, Duo, Gem, Gill, Glen, Glace, Cass*, Kirk, Leet, Linn, Bud, Buck, Bim*
  • Mouthfuls – Arnoldsbrug, Hubbardstown, Amherstdale, Horse Shoe Run (tiny church), Green Sulphur Springs *, Blue Sulphur Springs, Camden on Gauley
  • Just a little out of place – Cleveland, Buffalo, Bunker Hill, Arkansas, Dallas, Denver, Hollywood, Greenland, Ireland, London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Berlin, Genoa, Athens, Bethlehem, Israel, Cairo, Congo, Eden
  • Just a little off color – Fraziers Bottom, Beaver, Hookersville
  • Orthographically challenged – Curtin, Alkol
  • Numerically oriented – Big Four, Four States, Century, Hundred
  • Abnormal nouns – Justice, Guardian, Hurricane, Cyclone, Core, Cotton, Crystal, Cranberry, Clothier, Canvas, Cabins, Booth, Beard, Bias, Brink (after Brinkley M. Snodgrass), Frame, Flat Top *, Gypsy, Institute, Heaters, Auto, Job, Joker
  • Atypical adjectives – Grassy, English, Frank, Friendly, Gay, Junior, Given, Extra, Dingy
  • Unconventional verbs – Levels, Exchange, Echo, Duck
  • Fun to say – Bemis, Kegley, Eccles, Erbacon (for E.R. Bacon), Gamoca, Alpoca (for the Alpha Pocahontas Coal Co.), Algoma, Ameagle (for American Eagle Colliery), Arbuckle, Smithers, Fenwick, Follansbee, Burgoo, Cumbo, Muddlety*, Gormania, Dorcas, Dingess
  • Hard to say – Hubball, Cuzzart, Lizemores
  • Just plain weird – Lead Mine, Mount Carbon, Cool Ridge, Green Bank, Jumping Branch, Letter Gap, Crab Orchard, Elk Garden, Elkwater, Gassaway, Dellslow, Clemtown, Kansooth, Kanawha Head, Ikes Fork, Knob Fork, Bald Knob, Cheat Neck, Fort Gay, Hacker Valley, Great Cacopon, Crum, Looneyville, Smoke Hole
  • Just plain weird, villes – Fellowsville, Jerryville, Jetsville
  • Company towns – Craneco, Fireco, Havaco, Clearco (Clear Creek Coal Co.), Charmco (Charleston Milling Co.)
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Leon, Lester, Chester (world’s largest teapot), Kermit, Gilbert, Filbert, Albert, Arthur, Calvin, Carl, Adolph, Leopold, Helen, Ethel, Eleanor, Lynn Camp, Jane Lew *, Clifton Mills, Glen Daniel, Glen Rogers, Glen Jean *, Glen White, Bob White, Cinderella
  • Ghost towns - Alaska, Export, Elmo, Gaymont

* - author has visited


  1. Awwww, how in the world did you miss Pinch and Quick? :D I grew up on Isaac's Creek, if you mean the creek aka "crick" at Tichenal, near Good Hope. My great grandparents lived at Avon, and being a youngster, not sure if they lived on Meathouse road, but I remember seeing the name when we visited. They had no electricity and it was great fun to visit. Quiet and peaceful and only hills and trees to see from their house.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Una. Pinch and Quick actually are in here. Just try the West Virginia, M-Z post.

  3. The rise and fall of Harman Blennerhassett is directly tied to his brief association with Aaron Burr. He had quite the spread going on an island in the Ohio River for about a decade or more. Burr came along visiting and eventually gained his confidence enough to convince him to support the Mexicans in some conflict against the U.S. This soon led to U.S. troops pillaging and seizing the estate.

    As for the other part of it: a census-designated place is an unincorporated community by definition. You can thank Wikipedia for doing their damndest to confuse that and propagate said confusion across the web, just to satisfy a scant few editors who hold curious views about the Census Bureau's way of looking at things and have abundant time on their hands to do something about it.