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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Why did they call it that?

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Don't let anyone tell you that the people who picked names for some of East Texas' earliest communities were not imaginative or lacked a sense of humor.

Consider Earpville, which went into the makeup of Longview. The settlement was named for James Earp, but it almost became "Steal Easy" when a traveler in a covered wagon threw out a line and a fishhook baited with grain into a flock of geese Someone remarked that "it was a easy way to steal," and for years, Earpville was known as "Steal Easy."

As settlers in Shelby County contemplated a name for a new settlement, a deer approached a store and snorted at people. People called the community "Buck Snort," but later changed it to Buena Vista for a town in Mexico where a local resident had fought a battle.

In Newton County, the scattered community of Scrapping Valley supposedly got its name when a boy tore up his girl friend's photograph in church, and she gave him a solid thrashing. The couple was later married.

Java in Cherokee County, an old community dating back to the 1880s, supposedly got its name when a young lady lost her petticoat during a community dance. Still-visible lettering on the garment indicted it had once been a Java coffee sack.

Fair Play in Panola County was named by a traveler who spent a night at Pine Hill, in neighboring Rusk County and complained of the excessive costs. He was treated with fairness in a neighboring town and dubbed the town as "Fair Play" and nicknamed Pine Hill as "Rake Pocket."

Shacklefoot was the camp of pirate Jean Laffite on the Sabine River in Sabine County. The name came from the shackling sounds made by chained prisoners when they walked. Stryker, a sawmill town near Corrigan in Polk County, was renamed Pluck when someone remarked that any man who lived in the town had to have "a lot of Pluck." A little town in Titus County was called Gouldsboro, but changed its name to Talco when the post office kept sending its mail to Goldsboro in West Texas. The name Talco was taken from the initials of a name on a carton resting on a store shelf, "Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana Company."

Fodice in Trinity County got its name for "Four Dice," a game played by its men. Another story says the town was named for Fordyce, Arkansas, but misspelled. Some town names came about when people reversed the spelling of local names. Some examples are Reklaw (Walker), Sacul (Lucas), and Remlig (Gilmer).

A town in Cherokee County was known as "Skin Tight," apparently for its stingy disposition, but changed the name to a more respectable Lone Star.

Ghent, also in Cherokee County, was named for a town in Belgium, but another story came from the salutation, "Howdy, Gents."

Some ghost town devotees like to use the names of three logging towns in this ditty: "Pluck Plank and Platt. I don't know where they're at." Plucks was in Polk County, Plank in Hardin County and Platt was in Angelina County."

Lickskillet was a name often used for several East Texas places, such as a road in counties along the Sabine River and the community of Bethany in Panola County. The name comes from a hungry man who arrived at a country supper, discovered that all the food had been eaten, and he had to "lick the skillet."

Bethany, incidentally, straddles the Texas-Louisiana line. The owner of a store sitting on the line often took advantage of the different state laws. In half of his store liquor was legal and in the other half, gambling was legal.

All Things Historical March 7, 2006 Column.
Syndicated in over 40 newspapers
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)
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