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Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

Historical Sketches

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Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia

How the Names of Places in Scott County Got Their Name

Omer C. Addington

Perhaps no group in history contributed so much to the knowledge of the topography of Scott County than the early hunters, who gave names to most of the rivers and streams, gaps, salt licks, mountains and valleys.

When the first settlers arrived, in most cases, they adopted the names bestowed by the early hunters on natural landmarks and we are still using many of them after a lapse of over two centuries.

Dr. Thomas Walker, as he explored Southwest Virginia, entered in his journal on April 9, 1750 this statement:

"We traveled to a river, which I suppose to be that which hunters called Clinche River from one hunter who first found it."

Note that he spelled Clinch with an 'e.' This entry was made almost twenty years before a settlement was made on the Clinch River and leaves little doubt how the river got its name.

Clinch Mountain got its name from the name of the river.

Obeys Creek was named for Obediah Torrell one of the early hunters who had a camp on the creek.

Moccasin Gap was named by the early hunters who found moccasin tracks in mud along the creek bank made by Indians who had passed through the gap on their way to their hunting ground. The creek and valley took their name from the gap.

Dungannon was once called Hunters Ford, because it was where the early hunters crossed Clinch River to hunt in Clinch River Valley and the back valley which they called Hunters Valley. After Stephen Osborne settled in the area in the 1780s the name was changed to Osborne's Ford. And after Patrick Hagan came into the area, he had the name changed to Dungannon sometime in the 1900s, for his hometown in Ireland.

Fall Creek near Dungannon-the early hunters called it Falling Creek because of the many falls in the creek. At the mouth of Fall Creek where the biggest fall is located Patrick Porter built his grist mill in the 1700s.

We know how some streams that flow through the county got their name. Others we don't know.

Holston River was named for Stephen Holston. The early hunters called it Cherokee River. Two other streams in the county were named by the early hunters, Stoney Creek and Rockie Branch. Both streams flow into Clinch River near Fort Blackmore.

No one knows how Copper Creek got its name. I have a theory that when the early hunters first saw the creek it was of a copper color from soil erosion from the clay soil in that area.

I don't think anyone knows how Possum Creek got its name. Here are some tall tales on how it got that name.

A possum never walks in a straight line and the creek is so crooked they called it Possum Creek. Possum tracks were found in the mud along the creek banks. A possum dragged its tail through the mud on the creek bank and the tail tracks was as crooked as the creek.

The county seat of Scott County has had three names. Scott County was named for Gen. Winfield Scott. The county seat was called Winfield from 1814 to 1817. And from 1817 to 1886 it was called Estillville to honor Judge Benjamin Estill who was instrumental in getting the county formed. Judge Estill was an admirer of Gen. Scott and gave the county its name.

Judge Estill was born at Hansonville, Washington County (now Russell County) March 13, 1780. He served as the Commonwealth Attorney for Washington County and was elected a member of the Virginia Legislature from Washington County. He proposed and advocated the formation of the county of Scott and gave to the county its name.

In 1825 he was elected to Congress with the reorganization of the courts of the Commonwealth in 1831. He was elected a member of the General Court and assigned to the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit at which Scott County was a part. He served for 21 years. In 1852 he resigned his office and moved to a farm in Oldham County, Ky., where he died and is buried. He died July 14,1853.

In 1886 the name was changed to Gate City because of Moccasin Gap being a gateway to Kentucky and the west.

Nickelsville was named for two Nickles brothers, Walter and William Nickles, who had come to the community and established a general mer­chandise store. At about this time a post office was also established. It was called Nickelsville to honor the Nickles brothers.

Miller Yard was named for H.L. Miller, president of the Interstate Rail­road. This railroad met the CC & 0 Railroad there. At one time there was a school at Miller Yard, a hotel and several houses and a WYE for turning trains around.

When the Big Branch post office was moved to the highway leading from Gate City to Nickelsville a building had to be built and the name changed. The people were in a quandary as to what to name it. They had just finished white washing the building when one of the ladies in the com­munity came and made the remark. The building is as white as a snow­flake. So the post office was named Snowflake.

Another version is there was a new Methodist preacher on the circuit that made the remark, "That the people in the community were as pure and white as a snowflake." Of course no one believed this.

Pattonsville was named for a Methodist minister, the Rev. Samuel Patton.

Interested landowners sensed the need of a post office in the Big and Little Poor Valley area. Several names were listed, but the one chosen was mentioned by W.D. Smith of Yuma. Smith submitted the name to the Post Master General for the Yuma post office. The request was granted. Smith may have chosen the name 'Yuma' because it was short, easy to remember and easy to spell. The word 'Yuma' comes from the Yuma Indians of Ari­zona.

Slant was so named because of the incline or slope of the ridge down to the Clinch River. The CC & 0 Railroad had a stop there which they called Starnes, for the many Starnes families who lived in the community.

Speers Ferry was named for Joshua Spear who established a ferry across Clinch River in 1833. After the railroads came, there was a depot there where people could change from the CC & 0 to the Southern and vice versa.

Hiltons was named for the Hilton family. The Southern railroad called the stop Hilton.

Weber City was named by Frank Parker. The name comes from the old Amos and Andy radio program.

Fort Blackmore was named for John Blackmore who built a fort there in 1733. It was called Blackmore's Fort in Indian days.

Clinchport was so named with the hope it would become a shipping point.

Duffield was named for the Duff family.

Wadlow Gap was named for John Wadlow, an early settler in the gap.

Poor Valley was named for the poor fertility of the soil.

Pine Ridge was named for the pine trees which grew on its 1700 feet elevation.

Sloan town was named for the Dave Sloan family.
Chalybeate Spring was named for the iron in the water.

Big Knob, which is the biggest and highest known in Clinch Mountain, was named by the early settlers. It is 3,150 feet elevatioin.

Little Flatlick was a salt lick near Duffield.

Camp Rock is a sheltered cliff of rock near the High Knob. It sheltered hunters in the early days and is 4,000 feet elevation.

Dan'l Boone is obviously named for the hunter, settler and explorer Daniel Boone who often passed through this area.

Wood was named for the Wood family. There once was a school there for higher learning called a college.

Hardwood-Glen Osborne said it was called Hardwood because of the timber that was ferried across Clinch River. The CC & 0 Railroad had a stop nearby called Clinch.

Fairview-Perhaps the name arose from the topography of the sur­rounding country side.

Rye Cove is a small sheltered area located between the hills and moun­tains. Probably named by the early settlers because of the wild grass that grew in the cove. Carter's Fort was here. Rye Cove is about six miles long and four miles wide. It comprises about 25 square miles. The most destruc­tive storm of the 20th century in Scott County occurred May 2,1929 in the Rye Cove. It blew away the Rye Cove High School killing twelve students and one teacher.

The famous Carter Family of Hiltons recorded the song, "The Cyclone of Rye Cove." The song was written by A. P. Carter.

Sinking Creek flows for a few miles as a surface stream. It sinks and passes under the Clinch River. No other stream in the world has the dis­tinction of being on both sides of the river into which it flows. This makes it unique.

Stanleytown was named for the Stanley family.

Horton Summit for the Horton family. When the Foote Mineral located there they called the place Sunbright.

There are many valleys, hills, knobs and railroad stops that I have not named.

Part 2

When the people began to settle in what is now Scott County they gave a name to the place where they settled. Some streams were called branches, others were called creeks and hills were called mountains. The name they gave is not always true. Because some of the branches were larger than some of the so-called creeks. The dictionary gives the following definitions:

A branch is smaller than a creek. A creek is larger than a branch, but is smaller than a river. A mountain is any elevation above 2,000 feet. Another definition is a true mountain is any elevation high enough for the vegetation to change.  A ridge is a range of hills higher than the surrounding ter­rain. A knob is a prominent isolated rounded mound on a hill. A gap is a break in a hill or mountain.

There are many branches in Scott County that have names. There are many that do not. Almost every hill and mountain hollow has a branch.

Gillenwater Branch, Pine Branch, Big Branch, Champ Branch, Dean Branch, McClure Branch, Jones Branch, Langford Branch, Kate Branch, Irving Branch, Watts Branch, Bob Branch, Oak Branch, Pattonsville Branch, Shupe Branch, Hamilton Branch, Cowan Branch, Newman Branch, Ander­son Branch, Venus Branch, Fowler Branch, Timbertree Branch, Lick Branch, Burnt Cabin Branch, Red Hill Branch, Dowell Branch, Bouldmon Branch, Ketron Branch, Franklin Branch, Hill Branch, Chapman Branch, Plank Camp Branch, Peters Branch, Strong Branch, Falin Branch, Camp Rock Branch, Roddy Branch, Valley Branch, White Rock Branch, Straight Fork Branch, Big Oak Branch, Chestnut Camp Branch, Bear Pen Branch, Ma­hogany Branch, Dingus Branch, Culbertson Branch, Bush Branch, Amos Branch, Jessee Branch, Roaring Branch and Coal Pit Branch.

The creeks are Sled Creek, Roberts Creek, Indian Creek, Boozy Creek, Lark Creek, Head Creek, Troublesome Creek, Stock Creek, Dry Creek, Cove Creek, Richmond Creek, Lick Creek, Big Moccasin Creek, Little Moccasin Creek, Valley Creek, Little Stoney Creek, Big Stoney Creek, Grassy Creek, Staunton Creek, Benges Creek, Fall Creek, McGhee Creek, The Springs, Holston Springs, Buck Springs, Big Springs, Quillen Springs, Maces Springs, Hale Spring. Sulphur Springs in Hunters Valley.

Davidson Hollow, Brushy Knob, Lane Ridge, Long Ridge, Frisby Knob, Bald Knob, Fleenor Ridge, Gate Ridge, Cove Ridge, Shelly Ridge, Bunker Hill, Purchase Ridge, Breeches Ridge, Stoney Ridge, Lonesome Ridge, Miller Knob, Browder Mountain, Cove Ridge, Monkey Falls, Bushy Knob, Lane Ridge, Long Ridge and Frisby Ridge.

Hollows and Valleys: Renfro Valley, Sulphur Valley, Stanley Valley, Haynes Valley, Muttonhead Hollow, Short Hollow, Davidson Hollow, Spicewood Hollow, Rich Valley, Newton Hollow, Long Hollow, Peters Hol­low, Ridgeway Hollow, Williams Hollow, Dry Hollow, Mannas Hollow, Jessee Hollow, McConnell Hollow, Moore Hollow, Barb Hollow, Alley Valley, Beaver Hollow, Besley Hollow, Gilmore Hollow, Cave Spring Hollow, California Hollow, England Hollow.

The Gaps: Hamilton Gap, Pound Gap, Brick Yard Gap, Addington Gap, Jett Gap, Muddy Gap, Indicuts Gap, Marshall Gap, Powers Gap, Fields Gap, Cowan Gap, Drake Gap, Cain Gap, Elisha Lick Gap, Maple Gap.

The Bluffs: Bald Alley Bluff, Clinch River Bluff, Otterhouse Bluff, Star­nes Bluff.

Other places in the county: Blue Water Pond, Devil Fork, Devil's Racepath, Muddy Fork, Chimney Rock, Hanging Rock, Pendletons Island, Caney Fork, Thompson Ford, Gray's Island, Grays Ford, Rock House, Fincastle, Little Duck, Kermit, Cassard, Beechgrove, Turkeylick, Albert, Canton, Laurel Fork, Mabe, Boulder, Copper Station, Winniger, Kerntown, Chestnut Flats, Owen Corner, Lydia, Slabtown, Livington, Bellamytown, Townes Tunnel, Stanleytown.

Passenger trains on the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio (CC & O) Rail­road and the Southern Railroad carried the mail and express. This was in the days of the steam engine. All steam engines had a whistle which could be heard for miles. They could make the hills and valleys ring and echo. People said the whistle had a lonesome sound. The bigger the engine the bigger the whistle.

The stops on the CC & O Railroad in Scott County were as follows:

Bangor, Powers, Dungannon, Wood, Hardwood, Fort Blackmore, Starnes, Hill, Rye Cove, Clinch, Speers Ferry and Kermit.

The stops on the Southern Railroad in Scott County were as follows:

Frisco Yard, Yuma, Moccasin Gap, Gate City, Daniel Boone, Speers Ferry, Copper, Clinchport, Glenita, Sunbright, Duffield, Tito, and from Moccasin Gap to Bristol, a Flag Stop at Nottingham, Hilton and Maces Spring.

We in Scott County still have our hills, mountains, valleys and streams.

But the old steam engines are gone. It is doubtful if we will ever hear the lonesome whistle blow that could make the hills and valleys echo.

This is not a complete list of all the places in Scott County. It's almost impossible to get a complete list.


Home ] Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] [ Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]