The Stories Behind Some Truly Odd Kentucky Town Names
If some outlandish circumstance had existed that would have prevented you from ever learning the names of well-known American cities, you might think some names you'd encounter were really strange.
Baton Rouge is Louisiana's capital and second-largest city. Its name is French for "red stick." Des Moines is Iowa's capital and LARGEST city. Its name is French for "of the monks." Then there's Little Rock AR and Buffalo NY. And we don't think any of those have weird names because they're quite large and we've heard about them our entire lives.
But if those cities never existed and you stuck those names on tiny towns anywhere, suddenly they'd come across as odd, wouldn't they? Hey, we've known for years that size matters.
If any of the following oddly-named Kentucky towns--which, coincidentally, have creatures in their names--were among the ten largest cities in the Commonwealth, we'd think nothing of them. But they're tiny, so their names are weird. (And they really are, but that's what makes them fun.)
Rabbit Hash KY
I'm quite familiar with this one, even though I've never visited. For one thing, this tiny Kentucky river town--population 315--has a French bulldog named Wilbur for a mayor. But if you're wondering what to see should you find yourself there, try the 192-year-old Rabbit Hash General Store.
As for the name Rabbit Hash, the general store's website gives us the backstory:
The town's name "Rabbit Hash" is said to have originated during the flood of 1847 when the abundant local rabbit population was driven to higher ground and became a food staple in a special stew called "hash."
I admit to LOVING rabbit meat. It's delicious. And I'd absolutely try "rabbit hash." But it's also kind of sad that rabbits only became a food staple here because they were escaping to safety. Oh well...such is life in the wild.
Monkey's Eyebrow KY
Monkey's Eyebrow is a LEGENDARY Kentucky name belonging to an unincorporated town that's never had a post office and doesn't have an official population. That's because it's apparently never been included in census counts. But we know SOMEONE lives there. His name is Joe Culver, and this ode he wrote to Monkey's Eyebrow is accompanied by a collection of images FROM his tiny community:
Yes, that welcome sign is quite a popular photo op, but unlike, say, a historical marker, doesn't give an explanation of the origin of the town's name. And since nothing OFFICIAL can be found--I've searched high and low--I'm going with the various explanations on the Monkey's Eyebrow website, otherwise known as "Joe's Place." And maybe it doesn't matter. "Monkey's Eyebrow" is an awesome name; maybe we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Possum Trot KY
Not too far away from Monkey's Eyebrow, you'll find Possum Trot. It's another town whose name I've heard my whole life but didn't think existed. And if I was only going by Google Maps, I'd STILL think that. Even Monkey's Eyebrow, with no official population, found its way onto a map. Not so, Possum Trot:
And don't be misled by Yelp; search "Possum Trot KY," and the "things to do" provided by the invaluable crowd-sourced review website will give you a LOT of things to do...in Paducah. I mean, Paducah's close, but it ain't Possum Trot. But hey, it's not like NOTHING has ever happened in Possum Trot.
It's funny how LONG ago 2007 now looks, right?
We're going to head to eastern Kentucky to an unincorporated town that got its name because...well, you can probably guess. Kentucky Atlas & Gazetteer offers this explanation:
The name is said to come from snakes found near the store that became the Viper post office. The area was earlier known as Hallsville, for Philip Hall, a surveyor and timber dealer. Viper was a station on the railroad as well.
I'm not exactly sure what there is to do in Viper--except avoid snakes--but this drone fly-over shows that it IS tucked away in a beautiful hollow in the Appalachians:
Now, this is what I meant when I suggested that Buffalo in New York State MIGHT be an unusual town name if it wasn't such a major metropolitan area. If Buffalo NY and Hippo KY switched places, Buffalo would be on this list and we wouldn't think anything about Hippo. Or would we? I mean, there isn't a state where the hippos roam, so maybe it would just be the big city with the funky name. But why IS a town in Kentucky named for an animal you can only find in Africa? Well, you're going to love this...it has NOTHING to do with the hippopotamus. We turn to Wikipedia for the humorous details:
A post office was established in the community in 1902 and named for local resident Bee Madison "Hippo" Craft. At the time "hippo," short for hypochondriac, was Southern slang for an irritable and complaining person, something Craft was apparently known for in town.
That post office, by the way, closed in 1996.
When I write about Kentucky towns, I often tag them with the suggestion that they might make for great road trips. My suggestion here would be to find someplace fun nearby and then go exploring during some downtime.
Who knows? You might dig up new information about these unincorporated communities nobody ever knew.