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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Arkansas town names

England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Jerusalem, Damascus, London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Dallas, Houston, Hollywood, Delaware, Kentucky, Kansas, Washington and Northern Ohio all have one thing on common -- they're all towns in Arkansas. So are Salem (Fulton County), Salem (Lee County), Salem (Pike County), Salem (Saline County) and Salem (Ouachita County). When it comes to naming towns, Arkansas does a lot of heavy borrowing (stealing).

Most other town names consist of the name of the founder of the original settlement or describe a prominent feature of the area, often reflecting the whimsy and/or state of inebriation of those who named it. In Arkansas, many of them tend to rank fairly high on the weird-o-meter.

Oil Trough -- In 1811 a group of hunters camped along the White River in Independence County between Batesville and Newport. They killed over 100 bears for their oil, a valuable commodity on the world market at the time. When they ran out of buckets to accumulate the oil they fashioned troughs to store it until shipment downstream could be arranged. Thus the community of Oil Trough was born. The troughs still exist but the bears have moved on to safer havens, like Detroit or Chicago.

Marked Tree -- A huge tree on the banks of the St. Francis River in Poinsett County containing slashes marked the best place for early settlers to cross the river. The tree was washed away in a flood in 1890 but the town of Marked Tree still exists. Since the tree no longer guides the way, most folks now cross using the bridge.

Ink -- There are many towns in Arkansas with only three letters such as Ain, Alf, Aly, Amy, Apt, Ard, Bay, Ben, Coy, Day, Fox, Gid, Hon, Ida, Imo, Ink, Ivy, Joy, Kay, Keo, Meg, Rex, Roe, Rye, Tag, Tip, Ulm, Uno, Van and Wye. According to local folklore, a Polk County schoolteacher sent out inquires to suggest names for the new post office, requesting that they "write in ink" -- thus the town of Ink came into being.

Toad Suck -- Originally a steamboat landing on the Arkansas River, the site had a popular tavern where river boatmen would suck their whiskey until they swelled up like toads. Boatmen tend to swill and swell after a long trip floating atop a liquid surface. The second theory is that the name is derived from a French term meaning "a narrow channel in the river." Either way, Toad Suck became the name of the town.

Booger Hollow -- In early America, "Boogie-man" was a term used by people who had the parenting skills of a head of cabbage and wanted to scare their kids. In the mountain regions of northwest Arkansas, the term was eventually changed to "Boogie-bear" and later dropped to "Booger." Whoever named Booger Hollow obviously didn't want any kids snooping around. They probably didn't want any revenuers poking around either.

Rock -- There are lots of rocks in Arkansas. Some of the towns couldn't be more proud, such as Black Rock, Calico Rock, Flat Rock, Galla Rock, Gray Rock, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sulphur Rock, White Rock, Rock Hill, Rock Springs and Rocky Mound. Apparently the citizens in Madison County couldn't figure out what sort of rock they had so they gave up on an adjective and simply named it Rock.

Wampoo -- Like most states, Arkansas has many town names carried over from the language used by the original Native American inhabitants to refer to the area, such as Okolona, Ogenaw, Osceola, Pawheen, Wabbaseka, Washita, Watalula and Wampoo. According to my sources, most of whom are highly unreliable, "wampoo" is a Choctaw word meaning "white man ruin neighborhood."

Arkansas also has towns named Greasy Corner, Turkey Scratch, Three Way, Lick Branch, Old Joe, Old Jenny Lind, Point Peter, Hog Jaw, Gum Log, Half Moon, Horsehead, One Horse Store, Number Nine, Twenty-three, Fifty-six, Morning Sun, Evening Shade, Possum Grape and Monkey Run. If you think that's strange, wait until you meet some of the folks who live there.