Confusion reigns over town names (and locations)

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It’s always entertaining when folks living outside of eastern ‘Carolina think they know all about us.

Heck, they can’t even figure out which towns are in which counties, or can’t come close to correctly pronouncing our names…..especially Ahoskie (“so, you’re from O-who-sky” one caller to my office recently posed).

And you wouldn’t believe how many phone calls I receive in a year’s time from folks all over who are searching for information from Chowan County, or Roanoke, VA. Just break out a map, please!

Perhaps what confuses the majority of non-residents the most is this scenario….the town of Hertford isn’t in Hertford County (rather, it’s in Perquimans); the town of Washington isn’t in Washington County (it’s in Beaufort); and the town of Beaufort isn’t in Beaufort County (it’s in Carteret).

Even one of the reporters from a leading high school sports network in North Carolina was baffled over what he perceived as Tarboro High opening their 2018 season with back-to-back playing dates vs. Washington. The Vikings traveled to Washington County High (formerly known as Plymouth High School) on Aug. 17 before hosting Washington (the town of; not the county of) High School on Aug. 24.

However, eastern ‘Carolina isn’t alone in having others making assumptions over the connection between town/city and county names. For example, Asheville isn’t in Ashe County (it’s in Buncombe); Lenoir isn’t in Lenoir County (it’s in Caldwell Co.); Pittsboro isn’t in Pitt County (it’s in Chatham Co.); Columbus isn’t in Columbus County (it’s in Polk Co.); and Henderson isn’t in Henderson County (it’s in Vance Co.).

But we’ve got it good. With the exception of Ahoskie, at least we don’t have to explain the origin of how our strange-sounding towns were named.

These are from the website

The town of Screamer in Alabama got its name from 19th century Native Americans who used to loudly heckle white train travelers as they passed by what was then a reservation.

In Arizona, there’s a small community named Why near the U.S. – Mexico border. It takes its name from a Y-shaped intersection of two highways. Town folks there wanted to simply name it Y, but Arizona law requires a place name to contain a minimum of three letters – thusly, Why.

There is a No Name, Colorado. Seems that when a newly constructed exit off I-70 was originally marked No Name, those living there liked the name (or No Name) and decided to keep it in place.

There’s a place in Florida named Two Egg. Its name originated during the Great Depression when two local young boys were so strapped for cash that they paid a shopkeeper there for sugar by giving him two eggs in exchange.

It feels like Christmas every day of the year in this Indiana town – Santa Claus. At its founding, the town took the name Santa Fe, but in 1896 when they sought to secure a post office, postal officials told them to select another name since Santa Fe (New Mexico) was already taken. Thusly, Santa Claus, Indiana was born.

If you blink your eye and zip through one certain town in Kansas, you may see a sign proclaiming that “You Just Passed Gas.” However, Gas, Kansas got its name from natural gas being discovered there in 1898.

If you think your town is boring, then try moving to Boring, Maryland – named after its first postmaster, David J. Boring.

Yes, there is Hell on Earth, and it’s 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the 1830s, the town settler, George Reeves, made a deal with local farmers to trade his homemade whiskey for the grain they grew. When the farmer’s wives knew their husbands were off dealing with Reeves, they were known to remark, “He’s gone to hell again.” The name stuck.

Other odd town names are Tightwad, Missouri; Candy Kitchen, New Mexico; Knockemstiff, Ohio; and Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

Ahoskie isn’t all that weird, now is it?


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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