67 Small Towns That Make You Wonder Where They Got Their Names
Drive through any corner of the South, and you’ll be surprised by what you see on our signs. Drive through Virginia, and you may pass through Dragonville. Take a trip to Texas, and you may find yourself in Oatmeal. There are countless small towns here that will make you scratch your head and wonder where their unexpected names came from. From Possum Grape, Arkansas (a possum grape is a fruit vine native to North America), to Frankenstein, Missouri (named for the Franken family, allegedly, not the Mary Shelley book), there are plenty of towns south of the Mason-Dixon that will spark your curiosity in an instant. We know some of the origin stories of our place names, and some speak for themselves—Corn, Oklahoma, for example. Lots of place names come from agriculture, the landscape, historical markers, and natural features like springs, waterfalls, and rivers. Still more are named for families in the community or values the community shares. A few still leave visitors scratching their heads, and those are the ones with origin stories that even locals can’t agree on. We’ve collected some of our favorite surprising Southern small town names here, but we certainly haven’t included them all. It’s a big region, and there are countless small town place names that you’ll only find down here. So tell us your favorites, and celebrate the uniqueness of Southern nomenclature with us.
From towns named after local myths to pop-culture icons, the South has it all.
We’ve heard that residents of Accident are called “Accidentals.”
Bell Buckle, Tennessee
This small town is named after Bell Buckle Creek, near which the town was founded.
Burnt Corn, Alabama
Few agree on the origin of this name, but some think that it involved a campfire made of corn.
This town was settled near a cornfield, hence the name.
Cricket, North Carolina
Your guess is as good as ours, but we bet it has to do with crickets.
Coffee Springs, Alabama
Coffee Springs is one of many Alabama towns with unusual names. It was named for the nearby springs and for General John Coffee who once camped at the springs.
Coward, South Carolina
Perhaps named for the Coward family, this small town is located in Florence County.
Cucumber, West Virginia
Named for the area’s cucumber trees or the nearby Cucumber Creek, this place name is truly unique. It’s the only spot in the U.S. with the name of Cucumber.
Any ideas? We’re thinking this is of game-piece origin.
Ding Dong, Texas
A mural painted in the 1930s bearing the phrase “Ding Dong” supposedly gave this town its onomatopoetic name.
We’d expect this town to have one killer deviled egg recipe.
While obscure, we sure do like this one.
This spot was named after a town across the Atlantic—an English hamlet called Dragonville in County Durham.
While Georgia itself was named for England’s King George II, this little town was not to be outdone.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
This town got its name after a eureka! moment of discovering the town’s local springs.
This small town was named after the University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station that’s located there.
Fame is in good company. Other creative Mississippi place names include Panther Burn, Gin, Christmas, and Whynot.
Fame, West Virginia
This particular Fame is a small town in Pendleton County, West Virginia.
This fun-to-say town name is probably related to a variant of the name Philip.
While first glance would tell you this spot was named for the doctor in Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, it was actually named for the area’s Franken family.
Everything’s friendlier in Friendsville.
With a population of only 484, this little spot started out as a mill town in the mountains.
Ginger Blue, Missouri
This town name is so catchy, a musical group better adopt it ASAP.
Goat City, Tennessee
Tennessee town names range from the understandable, like Goat City, to the personal, like Edith, and also from the descriptive, like Difficult, to the downright festive, like Disco.
This town name was adopted by a band. Goodnight, Texas, is a place you can visit and a band with music you can enjoy.
Greasy Corner, Arkansas
This locale was originally named Mack’s Corner, but, supposedly, a spot of grease changed the name, and it stuck.
Who wouldn’t want to live in Happyland?
Hazard was named for Oliver Hazard Perry, a commodore in the U.S. Navy who fought in the War of 1812.
This name apparently originated from a beloved 1920s dance hall once located in the area.
Ketchuptown, South Carolina
This spot got its name from an area store where locals would meet to chat and “catch up.” The store came to be called Ketchup Town, and the town name followed.
Lick Skillet, Tennessee
Legend has it that this town got its name from—what else?—licking skillets. The last person to arrive to dinner or to a campground is left licking the skillet to satisfy their hunger, or so the saying goes.
Lizard Lick, North Carolina
Apparently local lizards were brought in to put a dent in the area’s insect problems. Or perhaps a passerby saw a group of lizards sunning themselves. Either way, lizards gave this North Carolina town its unusual name.
Locust, North Carolina
This North Carolina town takes its inspiration from the locust tree. To name the town, a resident suggested “Locust Level.” So it was called until the word “level” was dropped years later.
This spot was named after the surname Loving; this one in particular belonged to locals John and Amanda Loving.
Legend has it that the namesake for this town was the love interest of the town’s first postmaster.
Residents here must be a little more fortunate than the rest.
Sorry to disappoint, but this town isn’t named for the comic strip character. It’s named after John Sappington Marmaduke, a former governor of Missouri.
This one was also named after a person. Hernando Money, a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, to be precise.
Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky
Perhaps the most memorable of all, this town name still leaves us scratching our heads. Locals say it was named Monkey’s Eyebrow because A. the county resembles a monkey’s head and the town is located where the eyebrow would be, or B. from an aerial view, the town resembles the aforementioned monkey’s eyebrow.
This town name came from a local business—an area cement plant that produced “OK” brand cement.
Most think that this town name was derived from a resident’s name—a Mr. Othneil—not, surprisingly, the breakfast food made of oats.
Sugar and spice and everything nice, this town name was chosen by the daughter of the local postman.
This small-town name also originated from a small-town business—the OK Truck Manufacturing Company (which is, incidentally, the abbreviation for Oklahoma).
This town was first named Minersville, and when the time came to change it, one resident said, “It’s 'Ore' or no go.” Running with the idea, the town landed on Oronogo, a decidedly memorable moniker.
Paw Paw, West Virginia
This town shares its name with the nearby Paw Paw Tunnel, also the native, Southern-favorite paw-paw tree.
Possum Grape, Arkansas
The name Possum Grape was supposedly the result of a compromise between residents who wanted the name to be “Possum” and “Grape.” Also, possum grape is the name of a vine indigenous to North America.
Pumpkin Center, North Carolina
There are plenty of towns in the U.S. named Pumpkin Center, including in Oklahoma, California, and Indiana.