What's in a Name?


SMUTEYE - 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.

What's in a Name collage

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 to Santuck.

"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 to communities.

North of Slapout is Possum Trot. "I expect Possum Trot got its name because it’s 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 Possum Bend."

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 coordinator.

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 lightning."

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 school.

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 Payne.

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 coordinator.

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 Apple."


Think you know your Alabama geography? Match the place name at left with what it means at right:

1. Ceasarville  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 name
5. Smuteye  E. Name contributed by the presence of a flock of goats
6. Bug Tussle F. Named after a roadside vendor
7. Slapout G. Named after blacksmith who served with Gen. Andrew Jackson
8. Pine Apple H. Lingering long around a fire contributed to this name


Published September 2, 1999, Montgomery Advertiser


Back to Home


You are visiting www.smuteye.com, a virtual rural community.

Comments:  info@smuteye.com
Copyright 2001-08.  All Rights Reserved.

Web Site Design: TEAM Support, Inc.

farm.gif (1224 bytes)
Contact us at: 


Last update:  Friday, August 29, 2008

Back to the Main Page