Friday, January 10, 2014

West Virginia M-Z

West Virginia has got more than its share of crazily named places. It’s too bad that many of these are so small that I can’t – under the rules of this blog, at least – honestly include them here. Here’s a small sampling of the nuttiness we’re missing out on:
  • Festus
  • Shock
  • Cutlips
  • Scary
  • Black Betsey
  • Hoo Hoo
  • Lick Fork
  • Big Ugly
  • Booger Hole

Ah well. We’ll just have to carry on with the following.


10. War

Sounds violent.

And it is. War was named after the nearby War Creek, the site of a battle between local Indians. It was also in the news recently for the murder of the mayor by his daughter-in-law, for drug money.

War’s got about 900 people, and is the state’s southernmost city. They’re definitely counting on you tourists out there, as evidenced by this classic line from the town website:

Some call War the "Gateway to Recreation" and say that Berwind Lake is a portal to the gateway.

Got that straight? Gateway, portal. Don’t mix ‘em up, okay?

By the way, War is where some of the film October Sky was filmed.

See, just like I said

9. Man

The explanation for this one, from this wonderful site, isn’t really helping out all that much here:

from the last syllable of the name of Ulysses Hinchman, member of the House of Delegates from Logan County

I mean, why didn’t they just call it Hinchman? Or even just Hinch, for that matter?

Well, I guess that’s just the way they do things in West Virginia. Man has 750, um … er … men? 

There is a Man High School. They’re the Hillbillies. Too bad. I kind of like the Man Men myself. The Hillbillies name is suiting, though, as this is prime Hatfield-McCoy country.

Redneck Santa 
(Man, WV)

8. Nitro

Yup, this one owes its name to nitroglycerine. A large federal explosives plant was established here during World War I. When the town was incorporated in 1923, Nitro seemed like a perfectly reasonable reasonable thing to name the place, I guess.

The town continued to be a large producer of chemicals up until the current day. And that means, well …  I kind of like the way Wikipedia puts it: “Due to manufacturing activities, Nitro was becoming known for a distinctive chemical smell.”

This town of 7,000, is close to Huntington, in the western part of the state. It’s along the Kanawha River.

Some famous sons and daughters include baseball star Lew Burdette and C&W singer Kathy Mattea. Clark Gable actually spent half a year here as well, working in the ammunition plant as a teen.

Of course you do
(available on Zazzle)

7. Replete

Adj. filled to satiation; gorged. “Me and the boys were pretty dang well replete after all them wings and pizza and beer and crap.”

Actually, there is another definition: “abundantly supplied; abounding.” I’m assuming that’s what they meant here. 

Replete is in the center of the state – next to, um … absolutely nothing. Ironically, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to Replete either. I count a couple of farms along some twisty mountain roads.

Now available at sears.com

6. Smoot

Isn’t this what they call that grey, dingy looking snow that sits in parking lots until March?

Surprisingly, it is not. In fact, this one comes from some poor schmoe’s last name. Yup, Smoot the surname is from the Dutch Smout, and means someone who sold fat, or lard. Hey, you heard it here first …

Looks like a dozen buildings or so right off of I-64 (i.e., in the southern half of the state). And that’s about all I could find out on Smoot.


5. Pie

Apple? Cherry? Banana cream? Shoo-fly? Whoopie? Beef and kidney? C’mon! Don’t leave us hanging.
According to the internets, this one was named “by postmaster Leander Blankenship (b. about 1870) because he liked pie (information from Kathy Deskins, his granddaughter).” Personally, I can totally understand where he was coming from.

We’re back in southern West Virginia, in the interestingly named Mingo County. As you can imagine, there are lots of competing links for this one – bakeries, pizza parlors, recipes, bake-offs, charts, Don McLean … It does appear that there was some pretty serious flooding here just recently.

Mmm, my favorite flavor
– unincorporated!

4.  Paw Paw

Named after your grandfather, this tiny town …

Actually, this place is named after the fruit. Yup, some stuff called “paw paw” grows on trees in the area (and all over the eastern United States, by the way). It’s actually quite good, but has never been commercially successful as it ripens too quickly and bruises too easily to be reliably transported. By the way, the name is a corruption of the word “papaya,” whose fruit the paw paw resembles.

Paw Paw the town is on the Potomac, in the very upper northeast part of the state. Across the river is the well-known 3100-foot Paw Paw Tunnel, built for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal back in 1835, and one of the major engineering accomplishments of its day. The author has ridden through it on his bike! If you’re thinking about going yourself, make sure to bring a flashlight. At the middle of the tunnel, it’s pretty darn dark.

By the way, there are seven other Paw Paws in the U.S., in five different states.

It’s usually not that bright in there

3.  Pee Wee

Formerly called Herman, this town commemorating the famous entertainer was forced to change its name after the town fathers learned that that one was already taken …

Haven’t a clue where this one (really) came from. In fact, there’s not a whole lot out there on it – mainly just obits, real estate listings, and stuff about youth sports teams. I did find some references to a school and a post office, though both are listed as “historical.”

There is a possibility that it’s from a bird, the eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens). I do know that the town’s in the northwest part of the state … and that some neighbors include the wonderfully named Zachville, Sunflower, Windy, and Rover.

BTW, there actually isn’t a Herman in WV. There is a Harman though. And yes, I did find a link tying the television star and the Mountain State together during my searching.

Ray Palmer, teacher,
outside Pee Wee School, 1954

2. Odd

Odd? You bet!

Here’s one story (from Wikipedia) how this all came about:

According to one story, a group of people gathered at the post office to name the town. Several names were suggested, and to one suggestion, someone in the group responded "That's odd." And so the name of Odd was adopted for the town.

Another story revolves around some interaction with the Post Office with one of the parties asking that the name be something “odd” (i.e., unusual).

My personal theory – with absolutely nothing to back it up – is that this place probably has something to do with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. This is one of those fraternal benevolent associations, like the Elks or Moose or Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes (Fred Flinstone, Grand Poobah). It was pretty popular a number of years ago – probably about right when the town was founded. 

I do know the town is in the southern part of the state – very close to one of my favorite skiing places, Winterplace Resort.  I might have to visit it next time I’m up there.


1. Nutter Fort

I thought, perhaps, that reversing these two might take care of the problem. Which would give us Fort Nutter. Which means I was totally wrong.

The Nutter part comes from an early settler, one Thomas Nutter. He and some other early settlers erected a fort there, to stave off Indian attack. It was called Nutter’s Fort, which probably explains the unusual word order.

This one is right off I-77, in the northern part of the state. I remember getting a kick out of it as a kid, traveling between Pittsburgh and the Carolinas. 

It’s basically a suburb of Clarksburg (wait, Clarksburg has suburbs?!?!) and has about 1,600 inhabitants. It’s the site of the West Virginia Blackberry Festival.


Honorable Mention: 
  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Rock, Mountain, Midway
  • Short & sweet – Sago, Sias, Yolyn, Wana, Zela, Zona, Poca, Coco, Uler, Orgas (for the Orange Gas Co.), Orma, Omar, Ona, Oka, Metz, Mace, Tams, Webb, Wick, Rand, Ramp, Rock, Runa, Rio (pronounced RYE-oh), Rig (for Elmer Riggleman), Page, Pike, Pax*, Poe, Van, Neal, Sun, Sod
  • Native American mouthfuls – Powhatan, Naugatuck, Matowaka (an alternate name for Pocoahontas), Okonoko, Pocatalico
  • Miscellaneous mouthfuls – Spanishburg, Spurlockville, New Vrindaban (Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold), Orleans Cross Roads, Red Sulphur Springs, Salt Sulphur Springs, Sam Black Church, Three Forks of Williams River
  • Just a little out of place – Raleigh, Williamsburg, Washington, Newark, New England, New Haven, Orlando, Miami, Montana Mines, Toronto, Peru, Oxford, Vienna, Volga, Troy, Rangoon, Manila, Shanghai, Pluto, Paradise 
  • Orthographically challenged – Munday, Mabie, Prenter, Procious
  • Numerically oriented – Secondcreek, Three Churches, Tenmile
  • Abnormal nouns – Sundial, Surveyor, Zenith, Queens, Prince, Pear, Pool, Pigeon, Panther, Victor, Ranger, Reader, Romance, Toll Gate, Tariff, Trout, Spice, Sparks, Speed, Power, Carbon, Petroleum, Saltpetre, Pipestem, Whirlwind, Medley, Mud
  • Atypical adjectives – Quick, Swiss, Mossy, Shady, Vulcan, True, Widemouth
  • Unconventional verbs – Points, Shanks, Revere, Rumble, Sully, Pinch, Widen
  • Fun to say – Tioga, Tribble, Ruddle, Slagle, Sharples, Smithers, Mabscott* (for Mabel Scott), McCorkle, Monclo, Mingo, Nimitz (for WWII Adm. Chester Nimitz), Unger, Uneeda, Uffington, Purgitsville
  • Just plain weird – Quiet Dell, Old Fields, Wolf Pen, Star City, Redstar, Red House, Rosbys Rock, Tunnelton, Triadelphia, Rocklick, Needmore, Slatyfork, Sleepy Creek, Strange Creek, Slab Fork, Mink Shoals, Midkiff, Pickaway, Summerco, Red Jacket, Upper Tract
  • Just plain weird, towns – Normantown, Steptown, Stumptown, Pruntytown
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Milton, Wilbur, Rupert, Sidney, Sherman, Shirley, Myra, Mona, Nettie, Ruth, Sarah Ann (Hatfield Cemetery), Mozart
  • Ghost towns - Michigan, Sunnyside, Royal, Nutallburg, Pearlytown, Red Ash

* - author has visited

Looking for more WV towns? Look right here for A-L.

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