Appalachia Place names

Where is Rhodo?

Rhodo NC

Map by JD Lewis

I’m sharing another place name history with you today by way of Wanda Stalcup.



During the time a railroad was being built from Red Marble Gap to Murphy, a family living in that area ran a boarding house and fed the workmen. Of necessity the morning meal or breakfast, had to be served at a very early hour. Being the day and time of heavy breakfasts, they baked what used to be known as wheat bread or cat head biscuits. In order to get the workmen off at this early hour, there was a great rush in the preparation of breakfast. Consequently the bread was always served partially baked and never seemed to be done. The men called it “raw dough.” Soon the location became permanently known by that name. As time went on the place eventually became Rhodo and is still known by that name today.


Wanda is the Director of the Cherokee County Historical Museum. She knows more about the history of this area than anybody I know. A few years back she wrote a book “How I Saw Cherokee County”. The book is full of wonderful stories, customs, traditions, and language. If you’re ever in Murphy you can pick up one of her books at the museum.


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  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    April 18, 2018 at 5:24 am

    This is a good history story. Thank you for posting. Send me a private message and give the address for the Cherokee County Historical Museum. One of my family roots is from North Carolina. . . .

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Way late to this conversation……

    More than once I remember Daddy laughing about how there were two rail stops at Rhodo – East Rhodo and West Rhodo. I don’t know if one was a regular stop and the other a flag stop, or maybe both were one or the other.

  • Reply
    Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm
    April 12, 2018 at 8:35 am

    I still make cat head biscuits and serve with my home churned butter and homemade jam. Aunt Bonnie, Daddy’s oldest sister, gave me her grandmother’s (my great grand) churn. After all these decades, it’s still in use.

    • Reply
      Leon Estes
      April 18, 2018 at 5:20 am

      OH,Man! My Mom used to make Cat Head biscuits, too! OH! Home-churned butter and jam! What flavor Jam?

  • Reply
    April 11, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    You have probably written and blogged about “cat head” biscuits before, but could you and your followers enlighten me? Why the name “cat head” for a biscuit? Just a large biscuit?

  • Reply
    April 11, 2018 at 5:27 am

    That’s funny, while growing up as a child Mama had 3 healthy eaters, my Dad, Brother and Me, she would fix cathead biscuits almost every morning, very few days started with out them.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 10, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Tipper–Reader Wanda Devers mentions being from Medon. I wonder if this is Medon, TN? If so, that was the home of the late Larry Hearn, an great turkey hunter and student of turkey calls. I devote a chapter to him in my book, “Remembering the Greats: Profiles of Turkey Hunting’s Old Masters.”

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    April 10, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    I believe that I read that same thing in Margaret Freel’s “Our Heritage”. The must have book if you are interested in local history.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Ed and Jim, I live at Topton and we ain’t never had but one Mayor, that was Buck Godfrey. In his later years he was a real ladies man. I was just a little thing, but I knew his whole family. Ned, Tom, and Max was the boys and me and Harold found a Liquor Steel on our property. We told Max and he carried that thing thru the mountains to his house.

    I was at Murphy, our County Seat, getting a tag and while I was standing in line, noticed some tags on the wall. One of them read: “where the heck is Aquone, and the answer was “right next to Kyle, North Caroliner.” You go thru both on the way to the Nantahala Lake.

    I’ve tried to find out how Granny Squirrel got it’s name. My shop is about 8 1/2 miles below Topton. I had a buddy, Lynn Holloway, that said he lived at Cooper Sidin.’ (next to Ronnie Mason’s Bait and Tackle. ) …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I always thought someone just shortened the name Rhododendron! Now then, todays post is the rest of the story. It is so funny how words morph thru the years. “Ivy”…still has me flummoxed…you know the ones Big Ivy and Little Ivy mixed in with the Laurel and Rhodo’s…I am glad I learned some of the names from the past local history. Because the older you (I) get the further away it morphs from the original definition and locations. For instance not too long ago someone ask me what “cathead” biscuits were and if I could share the recipe…Oh me….

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    April 10, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Since you mentioned it was a day and time of heavy breakfasts, I wonder what the main courses would have been to go along with those Rhodo Biscuits?….Another good read, Tipper!…..Thanks!

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    April 10, 2018 at 9:15 am

    This type of history is so terrific. I wish we had more of it. I am so saddened by news that people want to tear down statues of presidents, rename historical parks, etc. All these are part of our history. Perhaps if people knew more of the real history behind these things, we could appreciate our past like Wanda does, not tear it down.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 10, 2018 at 9:06 am

    We used to beg Mama for raw dough when she was making biscuits!

    I come from a tiny town called Medon. The old story says an immigrant working there finished up a job and said “me done”.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 10, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Now that’s quite a story! I’ve heard of Cat Head Biscuits being large biscuits but never heard of them being not quite done in the middle. My mother-in-law used to make cornbread that wasn’t quite done in the middle, but it had a wonderful crust because she cooked it at a high temperature with lots of shortening.

  • Reply
    S. Taylor
    April 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Thank you Tipper and Wanda for sharing local, granular history with us. Stories like these, when remembered, preserved and later read or listened to, make history come alive and give places special meaning and regions a delightful cultural texture.

  • Reply
    Ed "Papaw" Ammons
    April 10, 2018 at 8:20 am

    That’s Ken Roper country over there. Ain’t he the mayor of Rhodo? Or maybe it’s Topton, I don’t know for sure, but it’s one of them.

  • Reply
    Ann Appplegarth
    April 10, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I’m not sure I could eat raw dough — but I’m glad that those men did because the town name is so interesting.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 10, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Not a good start to a hard work day. Wonder if there was a rush to get the edge biscuits. I guess there were just too many railroad workers and not enough kitchen help, much less oven capacity. Tough both ways.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 10, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I reckon it would be accurate to say that Ken Roper lives in the suburbs of Rhodo, is one of its leading citizens, and certainly ranks as a top Rhodo-area resident as far as the Blind Pig gang goes.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Roger Fingar
    April 10, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Wow! I would have guessed Rhodo was simply short for Rhododendron. As they say, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I grew up with cat head biscuits in central Fla. I’ve eaten a few that were “raw dough” in the middle, too.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paul
    April 10, 2018 at 6:16 am

    What an interesting story , place names are so much fun

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