There’s something exceedingly nostalgic and at the same time reverent about place names that honor those who lived, loved, worked and hoped on a land they called home. Now long gone, the names of the places honor their memories and should give present-day wanderers (and wonderers) pause to seek and find who these people were. The commuinity where I grew up had these places (and still does). The very name of my birth community reminds us that Cherokee once dwelt threre: the Community (and political district) name–Choestoe–means, in Cherokee, “The Dancing Place of Rabbits.” This name could mean either the many rabbits that live there and come hoppping out to give pleasure to observers, even now; or it could mean that the Cherokee Rabbit Clan lived there in the days before the white man came to claim the land. There is the Collins place that harks back to my ancestor Thompson Collins who was there when Union County was formed in 1832; the same is true for the Dyer Place which remembers another ancestor, Bluford Elisha Dyer, Jr., another prior to 1832 settler to the valley. And I could go on: the Hunter Place, the Nix Place, the England Place, the Reece Place. Our poet, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) memoralized this place-name tendency among Appalachian people by writing in his poem, “Choestoe”:
“Yes. Sprung from the hard earth,
nurtured by hard labor.
We know the names that built the fallen dwellings
going to ruin in old dooryard orchards.”
And there is much more in his poem “Choestoe” that speaks of a lifestyle still lingering in the stories we tell and the places we honor where the time apart can lead us to “Deep…coves…where noon is always twilit,” and where we can find “Peace…quiet and unhurried living, Something to wonder at in aged faces.”
It will always be home to me; the place I go in mind’s-eye, and heart-s-song, even if not in person as much as I would like. It is the place where its names speak volumes of my beloved Appalachian way of life.
—Ethelene Dyer Jones
I hadn’t really given that any thought but now that I do think of it…places here are ‘the Allen’s place,’ or the ‘Smith house.’ Yes, even after people have passed for years, their name(s) are still attached to the places they lived… nice isn’t it?
—Madge @ The View from Right Here
When I meet new folks in town, they always ask if I’m the one living in the old Young place. I’m ready to start saying, “I wish Mr. Young would pay his taxes, insurance and do better on the maintenance.” I’d like to thank Mr. Young for letting me live here for the past 23 years.
Around here there is the ‘old Houser place’ house long gone, we pick asparagus there, ‘The Bailey log cabin’, a few logs and the rock cellar remain, as well as the iris, hidden behind a big blackberry thicket. Many others dot our hills, along with memories of those empty but not forgotten places. I sometimes wonder if some day in the future, someone will come along to the ‘Shipman place’, enjoy and appreciate the flowers from my yard, maybe harvest the fruit trees and berries. I surely hope so.
As I was growing up about every house place was referred to by the names of past residents. Many would eventually change to a more current resident but many never changed. The Old Morgan Place became the Verlin Place because my Great Uncle and Aunt raised much of their Clan there before moving west. There’s still the Old Hanse Place even though there hasn’t been a house there in my lifetime, the same holds for the Old Tom Hampton Place. I now find the younger generations looking at me with a blank stare when I use these names as references. All these places are now part of the Needmore Tract which Cresent sold to the Nature Conservancy which is managed by NC Wildlife Commission. They are all growing up and reverting to a wild state. It’s sad that the history of the region is being lost and the memories of all the rugged individuals who lived, loved and raised families on them will soon be be gone. The hikers and white water enthusiasts will be totally unaware of the history they are trampling over. Thank goodness there are a few of us “Bone Rattlers” whose interest in Genealogy helps keep their memories alive. This is our small effort to honor those who have gone before us whose Genes and the environment they faced helped each of us become the person we are.