What’s in a name?
When it comes to West Virginia, that’s a big question.
There are thousands of town and communities statewide.
Wikipedia lists 2,984 unincorporated ones which means they don’t have any formally organized municipal government.
And each has a reason for its name.
Many reflect early settlers, but especially prominent business owners who helped grow the area.
Railroad and coal magnets (or their family members) were often namesakes.
But politicians, other historic figures and even battles also figure into some names.
And don’t forget natural features that stuck with pioneers when they first chose a home.
Here are some of the more unusual names, and the reasons behind them:
Big Chimney, Kanawha County:
For the salt works there which apparently built a “big chimney.”
Big Stick, Raleigh County:
Refers to President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed in talking softly and carrying a big stick.
Bluefield, Mercer County:
Because of the growth of a dark blue flower and blue grass that grows there.
Cairo, Ritchie County:
Cedar Grove, Kanawha County:
Because a large cedar forest was growing there.
Clayton, Summers County:
For a Cincinnati balloonist who crashed on Keeney’s Knob in April 1835.
Danville, Boone County:
For Dan Rock, first postmaster.
Elk Garden, Mineral County:
Because of the traditional location there of an elk lick.
Gary, McDowell County:
For Judge Elbert Gary, president of U.S. Steel Corporation.
Grantsville, Calhoun County:
For Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Helvetia, Randolph County:
The ancient Latin name for Switzerland, because many early settlers were Swiss.
Hundred, Wetzel County:
For Henry Church, and his wife, early settlers who lived to be 109 and 106 years old, respectively.
Hurricane, Putnam County:
After Hurricane Creek, which was thought to be damaged by a hurricane because the trees were bent in the same direction. Surveyors discovered that a hurricane had earlier leveled many trees there.
Jumping Branch, Summers County:
For a log that had fallen over a creek, making an easy place to cross.
Lost Creek, Harrison County:
Because of a message carved on trees along the creek before the region was settled, according to tradition.
Lumberport, Harrison County:
Due to a boat yard where timber was dressed by hand and floated in rafts to market in Pittsburgh.
Monongah, Marion County:
Named for the Monongahela River.
Moundsville, Marshall County:
For the mammoth Grave Creek Indian Mound there.
Ona, Cabell County:
For a girl named Ona who won a beauty contest held to determine the town name.
Pie, Mingo County
Named by postmaster Leander Blankenship (about 1870) because he liked pie, according to information from granddaughter Kathy Deskins.
Quinnimont, Fayette County:
Latin for “five mountains.”
Ronceverte, Greenbrier County:
French for “green brier.”
Sistersville, Tyler County:
For two sisters, Sarah and Delilah Wells, owners of the land there.
Skelton, Raleigh County:
Named by coal operator Samuel Dixon for his birthplace, Skelton, England.
Star City, Monongalia County:
For the Star Glass Company there.
Terra Alta, Preston County:
Latin for “high land.”
War, McDowell County:
For War Creek, named by Native Americans because of a battle that occurred near the source of the stream.
Wheeling, Ohio County:
Said to be from a Native American word for “place of the skull.”
(Sources include: jeff560.tripod.com, West Virginia Blue Book and The Synthetic Place Name in West Virginia by Hamill Kenny).