Volume V, No. 3, Spring 1978
Missouri doesn't have a monopoly on humorous and unusual place names. Just take a look at the names on a map of northern Arkansas and then as we did, ask some local resident how the name came about.
Nail, according to the legend told by Bill Neal, got its name "after a lengthy discussion as to a name for its post office. A man noticed an old rusty nail lying on the ground, picked it up saying, 'Why don't we call it Nail?'"
There are several versions for the origin of Forty Four, including that the name may have had some connection to a rifle. The postmaster said, "one of the most authentic reports is that it was so named because forty-four names were submitted to the department previous to the time the office was established in August 1928."
"The town of Pencil Bluff was named after a Slate Bluff on the Ouachita River near here," Nelline Vincent wrote. "The story goes that in the early pioneer days, school children used slates and pencils to write with from this bluff."
Pea Ridge got its name in a peculiar way, The Big and Little Sugar Creeks head into the mountains where the sugar trees grow and are separated by a ridge about eight miles wide by twenty-five miles long. When the first settlers arrived, they found a profusion of wild peas growing along the ridge--hence the name. Many of the older settlers still remember those wild peas and vouch for the accuracy of the legend.
"During some war, I don't know which one," said the late Jess J. Thomas, lifelong resident of Sweet Home, "there was a man traveling a military road that came out south of Little Rock, Arkansas, over Granite Mountain, and through Echo Valley, and he became stuck in the mud. A white and black man helped him out of the mud. The man was so happy for the help that he asked the name of the place. When he learned that it had no name, he said, 'Let's call it Sweet Home because you were so nice to help me.'"
Black Rock, located on the Black River, was a town long before it was incorporated in 1884 when the the major mode of transportation there was steamboats. Charlie Penny wrote, "The steamboats would come from ports such as Memphis, Tennessee, on the Mississippi to around Helena, then the White to Newark, Arkansas, and on up the Black to the foothills of the Ozarks. Just as the boats came in sight of the bluffs overlooking the river, they could see the huge black boulders. Therefore, since there was no name, they christened the location on the river as the Black Rock. All the steamboat captains quickly caught on and would log their destination as Black Rock."
Evening Shade, located twenty-five miles north of Batesville, was given its name by Captain William Thompson, who in 1817 set up the first sash sawmill and gristmill in the area. And because of the steady demand he had for his products, he petitioned for a post office, discovering that the site had no formal name. Standing at Plum Spring, for which the place was known, the captain looked up at the tall pines which threw a shade over the site and wrote on the post office petition, "Evening Shade, Arkansas."
According to the Woodruff County Historical Society, "This is the legend which has been told for years about the naming of Cotton Plant." In 1832 a group settled at a spot called Richmond, which is now within the city limits of Cotton Plant, and they established a trading center. In 1846 after quite a few new families had moved in, William Lynch built a new store about a mile west of the first store at Richmond. The legend is that some cotton seeds happened to drop near the Lynch store. The plants grew, and the store soon became known as the Cotton Plant Store. The group at Richmond applied for a post office but were refused, since there was already a post office in Arkansas named Richmond. Lynch then immediately applied with the name of Cotton Plant for the post office to be located at his store. His application was accepted in 1852. Eventually the area merged and all became Cotton Plant.
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