Columns/Opinion, John Samsell

How landmarks got their names

It seems every West Virginian attempts to determine how and why landmarks got their names.
Some attempts are humorous and others show a lot of ingenuity. For instance, some don’t even try to explain the spelling of Monongalia County. Through the years we’ve heard numerous explanations, such as the misspelling of Monongahela in official attempts to identify the county’s name. Good enough for me.
Why couldn’t they do like others who named their post offices with simple names, like Wewanta post office. They cried about it for so long that they got it. However, Wewanta post office was at the mouth of Big Ugly Creek, but the post office no longer exists.
There is one town’s name I always noticed in traveling through Pendleton County. One would think Onego would be an Indian name. But it’s pronounced WUN-go, maybe one mile to go?
Then there’s Bergoo, a town in Webster County, that lumberjacks believed they were fed too much “burgoo,” a thick stew. Then there was a wealthy man named Berwind who may have entered the naming picture.
Another tale from lumber camps in Webster County, involving a town’s name. It was said that workers were offered the choice of “beans ’er bacon,” and they chose ‘er bacon. Thus the town of Erbacon. Actually there was a B&O Railroad Co. executive named E. R. Bacon.
Sod, a post office in Lincoln County, was named for S. O. Dunlap, not a dirt pile.
In Mingo County the naming of a town was as easy as Pie. The story goes that a leader in town was so fond of pie that the name was submitted for the post office and was accepted.
While the name Monongalia remains a mystery, everyone knows the Monongahela River was named by Delaware Indians. We know it means, something like “river with crumbling banks.”
As for the Ohio River, it could be a shortened version of another word. To some it means “river with white caps.” To others it may mean “river of blood,” the east-west dividing line in bygone days.
Kanawha is an interpreted word named for early settlers and Indians along the river Conoys.
As for Paint Creek a tributary of the Kanawha, it was named because Indians painted trees to mark a gathering area.
During the Civil War, Glen Dale was known as Hell’s Half Acre, because of its association with rebels’ cause.
The town of Cicerone in Roane County has a name that means “one who guides tourists.”
Pocatalico River, in Kanawha County, means “river of fat doe.”
Tuckahoe Run in Greenbrier County described as “the place where deer are shy.” Chief Powhatan and his daughter Pocahontas (Matoaka) are West Virginia names. The Allegheny mountains are named by Cherokees.
Wheeling got its name after a prominent resident was killed in the 1700s.
Many names of places in the state came in the late 1800s and 1900s when the oil and coal industries took hold.
Leading a list is Arnettsville, named for James Arnett, land owner of that area that included a coal mine.
Beechwood, a coal and coke oven community formed in 1886, but no longer exists It was on the eastern side of the Monongahela. There was a school there and teachers often crossed the river by boat to reach the school.
Buckeye, a small community near Mason-Dixon Park. Named for grove of buckeye trees bordering Dunkard Creek.
Canyon, community named for Canyon Coal and Coke Co. On rim of Cheat Canyon, on road between Point Marion Road and Cheat Road.
Lots more where this came from.