in a Name?
PEOPLE, HABITS GIVE NAMES TO TOWNS
Major Cox squinted in the sun as he looked
at the weathered, frame structure with the faded red-and-white Coca-Cola
sign bearing the name Smuteye Grocery.
The old sign bears the name of the community, one of
a dozen or more Alabama places with strange names and rich folklore on
how they got their names. The names range from Possum Trot to Bug Tussle
"This old store was the center of things -
where men would sit around and drink beer and smoke cigarettes and
tell lies," Cox said.
And they did the same thing a century earlier just
across the road at a blacksmith shop where the name,
"Smuteye," was forged from fire and steel and a homemade ale
that the local women called the devil's brew, he said.
Cox, who has a farm near this Bullock County town, I
said the blacksmith's shop became quite a gathering place for men to
talk and drink. The area used to be called Welcome.
"The men folk would stand around the fire in
the winter time and drink moonshine," Cox said.
As the story goes, staying close to the fire left
their faces smudged with smut, covering everything except their eyes.
"When they got home, their wives would take
one look at their smutty faces and know where they had been," Cox
said. "The women came to call the blacksmith shop
"Smuteye," and soon folks called the community
"Smuteye," he said.
Other small towns dot the landscape with quaint,
often confusing names. On the other side of Lake Jordan in Central
Elmore County is the community of Santuck.
"I have heard two versions of how Santuck got
its name," said Eunice Johnson, a Santuck resident and treasurer
of the Santuck Flea Market.
According to one story, it was named for two families
that settled the area - the Sanders family and the Tucker family, she
said. The other story goes that "wagons would get stuck in
the sandy roads," Johnson said. Folks began to call the area Sand
Stuck, and later simply Santuck, she said.
The name of a person remains today in many
communities. Blue's Old Stand, a few miles to the west of Smuteye, was
named for a roadside stand run by a man named Blue in the 19th century.
Folks on their way to Montgomery would stop there
"to water their horse and buy a charge of hay," Cox said.
Over the years, the stand became a landmark, and
people began to call that community Blue's Old Stand, he said.
South of Slapout is Ceasarville. "Ceasarville
was named for a blacksmith whose name was Ceasar," said Mary Bass
Belmont, a Ceasarville businesswoman and owner of Mary's Dirt Co.
Ceasar had been a slave on a Slapout plantation owned
by her ancestor, Elisha Milton Cain, who came to the area from North
Carolina in 1814 as a soldier with Gen. Andrew Jackson, Belmont said.
Union Springs, the county seat of Bullock County, got
its name for the many springs that early settlers found there in the
19th century, said Barbara McLaurine, tourism coordinator for the Union
Springs/Bullock County Tourism Council.
Animals - even the lowly opossum - lend their names
North of Slapout is Possum Trot. "I expect
Possum Trot got its name because its where some folks saw some
Opossums crossing the road," said Leon Jackson Jr. of Slapout.
Possum Bend, a Wilcox County community on the Alabama
River, was named by Jerimiah Austell, a riverboat pilot in the 19th
century, according to Joyce Wall, member of the Pine Apple Town Council.
Pine Apple is also in Wilcox County.
"The riverboat pilot would get off the boat at
Burford Landing and visit his girlfriend," Wall said. The
following morning he would walk to the next landing and catch the
riverboat, she said. "On his way to the next landing, he saw a
lot of possums near the bend of the river, and he named that area
Flea Hop got its name in the early 1900s for the
fleas that would hop on folks from the goats that a man kept there, said
Dorothy Baughman, who lives on Flea Hop Road in Elmore County.
Frog Level, a community on Wetumpka's western
outskirts in Elmore County, got its name as "it', just a low boggy
area" where lots of frogs can be heard there in a flood plain of
the Coosa, said Jan ice Whorton, Wetumpka's economic development
In east Montgomery County, the small community of
Froggy Bottom was named in the early 1900s because it's a wetland area
and frogs could be heard croaking, said B.J. Shaver, president of Froggy
Bottom Materials Inc.
"Froggy Bottom was an old gravel pit and it
was a lovers' lane," Shaver said. "It was a place where
people would go to park. And it was also the end of the paved road
when you drove out Ware Road."
Alcohol apparently was the contributing factor in yet
another community name. Bug Tussle in Cullman County was previously
named Wilburn, said Dan Fulenwider of Cullman.
"The legend is that it was around 1912 when it
became Bug Tussle," Fulenwider said. "There was a fellow
named Charlie Campbell who was well known for his love of white
And one day while drinking the homemade brew,
Campbell sat alongside the road to rest, Fulenwider said.
"He got interested in watching two tumble bugs
trying to roll a ball of dirt across the road," Fulenwider said.
Campbell told folks the bugs appeared to be tussling. Thus, area
residents started calling the community Bug Tussle.
Neither bugs nor homebrew influenced the naming of an
Elmore County community - Slapout.
"There was a country store up here about the
1920s and whenever the owner was out of something that his customers
asked for, he would say, "I'm slap out,"' said Dianne
Fowler, the grocery manager at the Boys Store on Alabama 111 in
Slapout near Lake Jordan.
Folks started calling that area adjacent to Holtville
- Slapout, she said.
A little farther eastward is the town of Eclectic.
Baughman, who lives on Flea Hop Road, said Dr. Thomas
Fielder, a local physician named it in the 1840s after a course,
"the eclectic course of study," he had taken at medical
Names given by Alabama's first settlers are common.
Tallassee, a city in east Elmore County and west
Tallapoosa County, got its name for the Creek Indian settlement of the
same name that was there in the early 1800s, said Tallassee Mayor Bobby
Tallassee is the Creek word for Old Town, Payne said.
Wetumpka, the county seat of Elmore County, was
incorporated in 1834 and named for the Creek Indian expression,
"Rumbling Waters," as it is on the Coosa River where boulders
create rapids, said Whorton, the town's economic development
And some names came straight from nature.
Pine Apple in Wilcox County was named for a pine tree
and an apple tree, said Pine Apple Town Councilwoman Wall.
"There was a pine tree and an apple tree at the
old stagecoach stop here in the 1800s," Wall said. "It became
known as the stop at the pine and the apple and eventually just Pine
PLACE NAMES QUIZ
Think you know your Alabama geography? Match the place name
at left with what it means at right:
||A. Named after a struggle between two insects
|2. Flea Hop
||B. Named after a stagecoach stop by two trees
|3. Froggy Bottom
||C. Named for a low-lying lovers' lane
|4. Blue's Old Stand
||D. Chronic shortages at a store contributed this
||E. Name contributed by the presence of a flock of
|6. Bug Tussle
||F. Named after a roadside vendor
||G. Named after blacksmith who served with Gen.
|8. Pine Apple
||H. Lingering long around a fire contributed to
Published September 2, 1999, Montgomery Advertiser
Back to Home