The last couple of weeks I have focused on town name signs. On my last post I left off at Earth, Texas. But there are a few more planets out there…real and fictional.
Perhaps Mars, Pennsylvania is the most famous of our planet named towns in the US. No one is sure how the name “Mars” came into being. Some say it was Samuel Park’s wife, who enjoyed astronomy, and others aver that it might be shortened from Samuel Marshall’s name.In any case, on March 6, 1895, Mars was incorporated as a borough. Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, The Fighting Planets.
There are a number of other places in the U.S. named after planets. SenseList.com has a nice list of the many town names and place names. Of all of those on that list, perhaps the most well known would include Jupiter, FL, and Blue Earth, MN, which is home to the Jolly Green Giant statue. But, there are other “planets” as well. How about Romulus in Detroit (I have yet to get a photo of the town sign near the airport!!). Then, try out Vulcan, Alberta.
I really get a kick out of this town. They have a Starship Enterprise statue, murals on the walls with Star Trek stars, etc.
If not a planet, about a Star? Brightstar, Louisiana
Then there are the town names that may conjure up an inappropriate thought:
There was actually not a Climax sign for the town, nor is there one for Climax, Kentucky. But, if you are on Interstate 73 in North Carolina, you will see an Exit sign for Climax and High Point.
Here are few more quick ones:
And, where’s Waldo? Well, in Arkansas of course (though Waldo is also in Kansas, Maine, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico and Wisconsin — see more here)
Want more strange town names for your upcoming trips? Here are a few sites for you:
There are literally hundreds of fun town names around the U.S. and I have barely scratched the surface with them. In my last post, I noted many names that are common adjectives or descriptive. This post will have some signs from some of the more unusual place names and hopefully, a little about how the names came to be.
Rabbit Hash, KY – This small town of about 40 people is right on the Ohio River in Boone County. Besides its name, it is also famous for its string of mayors…all dogs. Nobody really knows for sure when the original name of Rabbit Hash came to be. According to a Wikipedia article, ” The hamlet was originally known as Carlton and was required to change its name because mail was being mixed up with the larger community of Carrollton several miles down the Ohio River. It is still the Carlton voter precinct. During the early 19th century the town, now known as “Rabbit Hash”, was well known for a rabbit hash meal. Steamboats often stopped to order the famous hash as they traveled along the Ohio river. A local legend states that, in 1831, a pirate ship docked and entered the town, where they proceeded to burn all of the buildings and kill every person. The next steamboat to stop for hash saw only a three foot sign with the words “rabbit hash” written. It was the only structure standing, and was thought to be the name of the town.”
Metropolis, IL – Like Rabbit Hash, Metropolis is located along the Ohio River, very close to Paducah, Kentucky. And it really is not a Metropolis (as is typically represented in the Superman movies), but is probably much closer to the Smallville of Superboy fame. Note the similarities in the two signs above. Metropolis has had a people living in the area for thousands of years, but the town got its name back in 1839 when the town was platted. Everywhere you go there are Superman things, including a giant statue in town square. The town also has another giant guy at the grocery store. It is also the home to Fort Massac State Park, a great historical site.
-A couple of things of note:
On January 21, 1972 DC Comics declared Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman”.
On June 9, 1972 the Illinois State Legislature passed Resolution 572 that declared Metropolis the “Hometown of Superman”
The city holds an annual Superman Celebration held the second weekend in June.
The local newspaper is named The Metropolis Planet, inspired by The Daily Planet, the fictional paper in Superman’s Metropolis.
Toad Suck, AR – This name apparently comes from the days when steamboats ran the Arkansas River, well before the current Lock and Dam were built. Legend has it that when the water was too low, the sailors would dock the steamboats and refresh themselves at the local tavern where they would “Suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Toad Suck is actually only the name of the park. The town is Bigelow, Arkansas. However, there is a Toad Suck Convenience Mart that sells Toad Suck Souvenirs and just down the road in Houston, AR you can chow down on steaks at Toad Suck Bucks. You can even visit and like their Facebook Page.
Santa Claus, IN – Unlike its counterpart North Pole, AK, Santa Claus is in a much warmer climate. According to the History of the Town, ” it was a child who provided the inspiration in naming this community after Santa Claus. Going into the fall months of 1852, there was no Santa Claus community. Residents of the area had spent months trying to select a name for the community but none of the proposed names carried universal appeal. Then, on Christmas Eve, as the congregation gathered at the church for yet another meeting, the sound of bells was heard outside. ‘Santa!’, a jubilant child rang out, ‘It’s Santa Claus.’ “That’s it!”, shouted one of the elders. ‘Why not call it Santa Claus?’ The residents all agreed and the town of Santa Claus was born.” Like Metropolis, everywhere you turn there are Santa Claus statues. The Post Office is the only one in the world named Santa Claus. The town is home to a number of unique Christmassy shops and also has a small amusement park called Holiday World.
Hop Bottom, PA – This town is located in Susquehanna County and is very near Nicholson, PA, home of the famed Tunkhannock Viaduct. Though the name sounds funny, it does make sense. The nearby creek bottom at one time was covered with Hop Vines, yes, the hops used to make America’s favorite alcoholic beverage. as of 2010 there were about 350 residents in the small scenic town.
Tightwad, MO – This is by far one of my favorite road trip stories. The town, located on Missouri Hwy 7, is very small — only about 30 or 40 residents. It was unincorporated until 1984 though there has been a Post Office there since the early 20th Century. Supposedly, the town’s unusual name is said to stem from an episode in which a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra fifty cents for a better watermelon. There is a real bank in town called the Tightwad Bank, which I have written about on some of my other blogs, including this one. The bank sells T-shirts, mugs and hats and you can open an account and get checks with Tightwad Bank on them. The Tightwad Cafe does not take credit cards.
Dr Pepper, TX – This is the only “fake” sign in my set today, housed outside the Dublin Bottling Plant, which used to be the only place in the world that sold Dr Pepper made with the original pure cane sugar recipe. On 12 January 2012, it was announced that Dublin Dr. Pepper will no longer be produced, after the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company settled a trademark dispute instigated by Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Until that time, the town would have one day out of the year when they officially became Dr Pepper, Texas. The Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling was the oldest remaining Dr Pepper bottler until 2012, producing the beverage continuously since 1891. As for the sign…every June the town would have Dr Pepper Days and the town, for that one day in June, would officially become Dr Pepper, Texas. By the way, notice that the population on the sign is 1024 – from the original 10-2-4 of Dr Pepper.
Bucksnort, TN – Yes, there really is a town called Bucksnort. Its a small unincorporated community in Hickman County, Tennessee. It is located near Exit 152 on Interstate 40, a few miles east of the Tennessee River, just down the Interstate from Only, TN, which I wrote about in my last post. This town name has an unusual story. Apparently, the moonshine business was quite active in the 1880′s. There was a man named William “Buck” Pamplin who sold his homemade brew and people would say “Let’s go to Buck’s for a snort”. As people often do the whole phrase was condensed down to “Bucksnort” and it stuck. True or not, it makes for a great story. By the way, there is also a Bucksnort in Alabama.
Black Gnat, KY – Black Gnat is a Green county community about five miles northeast of Greensburg on US 68. Tradition says the community name stems from a time in the late 1800s when the schoolhouse was being painted white and hordes of gnats covered the building.
Fly, OH – While on the subject of bugs, how about Fly, Ohio? This is home of the Fly Ferry Landing. It is just across the Ohio River from Sistersville, WV. Not sure where the name came from.
Drain, OR – I love the sign “Entering Drain.” Made me feel like my trip was about to go down the Drain. Actually, Drain is quite a quaint place. Like other unique towns in Oregon such as Talent and Boring, Drain was actually named after Charles C. Drain, who had emigrated west and purchased the land Drain now sits on back in 1861. The town eventually grew around the Drain Train Station of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Today, the town is a small touristy place, famed for the “Drain Castle“, an old Victorian house that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Drain is also home to a couple of old covered bridges.
Three Brothers, AR – Located in historic Baxter County, I could not find much pertaining to this little dot on a map. There is a Three Brothers Church and a Three Brothers Cemetery. But that’s all I know.
Marked Tree, AR – Keeping in Arkansas, Marked Tree, is the only town in the world named Marked Tree. Of even more interest is that the town may be the only one in the world that is located between two rivers a quarter of a mile apart flowing in opposite directions. The town got its name in the 1880s. The settlers chose “Marked Tree” because of an “old marked tree” on the bank of the Saint Francis River near the railroad camp. The story goes that Osage Indians traveling northward up the Saint Francis River marked a tree at the first point at which Little River is only ¼ mile distant across the land between the rivers. By dragging their dugout canoes across this short portage to Little River they could continue their trip northward and eliminate eight miles of up-river paddling.
Fair Play, SC
Fair Play, SC – This is a small town in Oconee County, in the northwestern corner of South Carolina. There are a couple of churches, a couple of stores and a big lumber yard. Did lots of digging and all I could find was that the town gets its name from a fight.
DISH, TX – DISH (yes, it is officially all caps) is in Denton County, northwest of Dallas. his community, established in June 2000, was originally named Clark. In November 2005, the community accepted an offer to rename itself “DISH” (all capital letters) as part of a commercial agreement with the satellite television company Dish Network.
Bugtussle, Texas – Bugtussle is at the junction of Farm Road 1550 and State Highway 34, ten miles south of Honey Grove and five miles north of Ladonia in southeastern Fannin County. The community was initially called Truss, after John Truss, who settled there. It was founded in the 1890s and had a post office in 1893–94. Later the town’s name was changed to Bugtussle. The most popular legend is that the name commemorated an invasion of bugs that spoiled a church ice cream social although a variation on this anecdote suggests that the relatively isolated spot, long popular as a site of Sunday school picnics, offered little else for picnickers to do after they ate than watch the bugs tussle.
Bugtussle, Kentucky – This is literally on the Tennessee border in Monroe County. The community was named by local comedians for its doodlebug population.
A final note: The fictitious Bugtussle, TN was the home town of Jed Clampett, from the Beverly Hillbillies.
Tomahawk, WI – Next is a chop chop of the Tomahawk. The town of about 3500 traditionally traces its founding to the establishment of construction camps for a dam and a railroad in 1886. The company leading the effort was the Tomahawk Land and Boom Company, headed by William H. Bradley, who is thus considered to be the principal founder of Tomahawk. The town site was platted in 1887, with lots sold in Milwaukee that summer. The city was incorporated in 1891. In the 10 years after the first construction camps were built, Tomahawk grew rapidly, boasting many stores, a three-story hotel, many saw mills, a paper mill, and service via three railroads. Today is a stop on the road, but there are a few places to eat, a giant moose statue and an interesting sculpture with eagles in the middle of town.
Earth, TX – Back to Earth folks… This town on U.S. Highway 70 and Farm Road 1055 in northwestern Lamb County, was established in 1924 by William E. Halsell. Originally Halsell called the place Fairlawn or Fairleen, but it was renamed Earth, supposedly for a sandstorm blowing when storekeeper and first postmaster C. H. Reeves had to come up with a name acceptable to postal authorities in Washington. Earth was incorporated in 1947. They do have a great time with the name. Ironically, it is about a 3 hour drive from the alien infested town of Roswell, NM.
Muleshoe, TX – Since I have it in the photo, how about if I close with Muleshoe. The town derives its name from the Muleshoe Ranch which was founded by Henry Black in 1856. The town was incorporated in 1926. It had been founded just 13 years earlier, when the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway laid tracks across the agrarian expanse of Bailey County.
Part IV: Some faraway places right here on earth….
One of the norms of driving the back roads of America are the town signs. Anyone that drives any roads typically sees hundreds of them. Of course, some are pretty typical town names, but, there are many that aren’t typical. Here are a few “descriptive” town name signs that I have picked up along the less beaten paths of America. I have written about some of these places, but now we can “compare.”
As my photo above shows, there are quite a few adjective towns….
Uncertain is a small town in Texas on the shores of the mysterious Caddo Lake, which is the only naturally formed lake in the state of Texas. Uncertain derives its name from surveyors who were attempting to delineate the border between Texas and Louisiana and discovered that they were “uncertain” as to which side of the line they were on as they began surveying that particular part of Caddo Lake.
Odd is an unincorporated town in Raleigh County, West Virgina. 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. Odd is basically south of some other towns – Hurricane, Tornado and Comfort…all on the same road in West Virginia. Odd is home to the Odd Elementary School, which was apparently the last remaining wooden school house in West Virginia.
Travel west from West Virginia into the Lexington, KY area and you can work your way to Oddville, Kentucky. Oddville is located on U.S. Route 62 5.4 miles (8.7 km) north-northeast of Cynthiana. Settlement began in 1799. The name was apparently an attempt to satisfy the postal authorities with a unique name for the post office, which opened in 1851.
Further west into Missouri is the town of Peculiar, easily reached from Interstate 64 just east of Kansas City. On July 29, 1868, the county surveyor, Robert Cass, platted Peculiar and was filed as “The Town of Peculiar”. Apparently, the community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson is attributed to the name. His his first choice for a town name, Excelsior, was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County, Missouri. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868.
Unlike the Odd and Peculiar and Uncertain names, Normal, Illinois got its name from the Normal School located in the town. Of all of the strangely named towns I have come across, Normal is by far the largest, with well over 50,000 people and a college.
Heading further west into Oklahoma you can come to the town of Okay. The town is located in the southeastern corner of Wagoner County on State Highway 16. The community lies on the east bank of the Verdigris River in the Three Forks area about fifty miles southeast of Tulsa. Formerly known as Rex, North Muskogee and Falls City, the name was changed in the early twentieth century the settlement was became Okay in 1919, honoring the O. K. 3-Ton Truck and Trailer manufactured there by the Oklahoma Auto Manufacturing Company.
Head way west into Oregon and you can get to Boring. The townspeople call it an “exciting place to live and work.” It actually got its name from 1n 1903 whenthe unincorporated area was named after one of its first residents, W.H Boring. The town is very close to Portland and really is not boring. There is a new restaurant that just opened there and was not there on my last trip. Called “The Not So Boring Bar and Grill“.
If the other names were not so interesting, then try out Cool, Texas. It is a very small incorporated town on U.S. Highway 180 eleven miles west of Weatherford in western Parker County, Texas. Cool was incorporated after 1960 and was first shown on county maps in the mid-1960s. I have not been able to find out how it got its name, but it was likely after someone named Cool. There is a Cool Cafe there is they are open when you go though.
And then there is Coolville, OH. This town is located in the extreme southeast corner of Ohio. In 1818 Coolville was platted by Ashel Cooley, for whom it is named, and incorporated in 1835. I believe that Ashel Cooley is actually a distant cousin of my wife, whose grandmother was a Cooley. Coolville is located close to a couple more “hot/cold” communities: Torch and Frost.
Speaking of Torch, I might as well add it and warm things up. Not sure how it got its name, but, since we are getting warm here, let’s take the real jump….
Hell, Michigan is probably one of the more famous wacky town names in the United States (along with Intercourse, Pennsylvania). The story of Hell starts out around a sawmill, gristmill, distillery and tavern. All four were operated by George Reeves. Reeves moved to the area in the 1830s from the Catskill Mountains in New York. Apparently, soon after Michigan gained statehood, George Reeves was asked what he thought the town he helped settle should be called and replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.” The name became official on October 13, 1841. The town has a bar, an ice cream shop and a tourist shop. That’s about it. But, it is a beautiful drive from Pinckney, through Gregory, which is the gateway to Hell.
So, these names make me want to ponder what other places I can visit. Ponder, Texas. Ponder is located about 10 miles from Denton, Texas. Not sure how it got its name. But how about these next few places?
Looking for Talent? You can find it in the far southwestern part of Oregon. Like its counterpart Oregon town of Boring, Talent was actually named after a person. In 1889, A.P. Talent platted a town-site and named it “Talent.” On November 2, 1910, Talent became an incorporated town.
Seeking Wisdom? Well, it is a dot on the map in Metcalfe County, Kentucky. There is not much from here, but the country rock band Kentucky Headhunters, famous for their cover of Bill Monroe’s “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” hail from Wisdom. As for the name, I have not found out how it got the name yet.
Looking for Success? It is a small town about 17 miles northwest of Houston, Missouri. The road to Success from Houston is lined with old doublewides and rusted out cars. No joke!! And once you find Success, you will see that there is not much there. At least you can say you found it.
Maybe you are looking for Romance instead? Well, good luck. Romance is down in the Ozarks, about 9 miles north of Gainesville, MO. I took the partially paved and partially dirt road to Romance and found nothing but a couple of houses. There apparently used to be a church there. But, take it from me, the road to Romance is a dead end.
Perhaps you are looking for Friendship instead. It is located in north of Arkadelphia off of Interstate 30 in Hot Spring County and has a population of just over 200. It is a quaint little town.
Or maybe you just want some Comfort. You can find it on the windy Coal River Road (Hwy 3). If you go to Hurricane, WV off of Interstate 64 and then head southeast on US 60 through Tornado and get on Coal River Road you will eventually find Comfort. Yes, you must go through a Hurricane and a Tornado to get to Comfort. By the way, keep going south and you will get to Odd.
Or, maybe you just want some Charm. This small town on Hwy 557 in the heart of Ohio Amish Country got its name in 1885. If you like cheese, there is plenty of cheese in the area. Other Amish goods are available. Honestly, this little burg really lives up to its name!!
There are two Flippin places that I have been to. The larger Flippin is in Arkansas. It is close to some great recreational areas in the Ozarks and is the home to ranger Boats. There is a Flippin Police Department, a Flippin High School and a few Flippin Churches. There are about 1500 residents in Flippin, Arkansas. The name of Flippin comes from Thomas J. Flippin, who left Hopkins County, Kentucky in 1821. There is a nice history of the town here. Flippin, Kentucky, on the other hand, is very small. It is located in southern Kentucky in Monroe County.
Part III will cover some of the more unique place names I have visited. Enjoy the Ride!!