Wednesday, October 09, 2013

What's in a Name

A few of you probably know this, but for some time, I've been writing articles for a local magazine, Carolina Mountain Life. At the times, my articles cover topics related to the War, and at other times, they venture into other periods of history.

In the last issue of Carolina Mountain Life, I had an article entitled "What's in a Name" (part 1). In this article I look at how places here in the High Country of Western North Carolina  earned their names - like Boone (Daniel Boone) and Newland (Lt. Gov. William C. Newland). For a future issue, I've been working on part 2 - places that are not named so much for an individual, but for something else. Take for instance the Meat Camp community of Watauga County. It was so called because local hunters (in Daniel Boone’s time period) would store their meats and hides in the area while continuing to hunt.

Working in this article has shown me a real deficiency in local history. There are many, many place where the meaning of these names, and who they are named for, have been lost to time.

I've worked on an Avery County list for a number of years. I had a short list in my 2007 book Remembering Avery County.  That list has expanded, but is still woefully incomplete. Over the past few days, I've also started working on a list for Watauga County. It started by pouring over the topo maps, and listing every single summit, ridge, creek or river, and post offices (old and new). The list is ten pages long, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done on this list.

Of course, some places are easy. Boone was originally called Councill's Store, and in 1850, was changed to Boone, in honor of Daniel Boone. But many of these places remain a mystery.

So let me offer to you a challenge - sit down with a site like (you do not need to subscribe), and create a list of all of the named places. Then, start trying to figure out for what or whom those places are named. Look at old county histories, old newspapers, or talk to the older person in your community. Just work on that list (and document where you get your information). Future generations will appreciate you for it.

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