Geographical Names Of Quaint Origin
Old News Clipping – 1927
Few people know the interesting story connected with the naming of the Tug Fork of Big Sandy River. There are few persons now living (1927) who have seen the gas burning on the waters of Tug as it came out of the bowels of the earth and up through the bed of the river near Kermit, Mingo County, West Virginia. The blaze was extinguished many years ago after it had burned for no one knows how long. But, few are the people, very few, who know that this “burning spring” played a prominent part in naming of the river which now separates the states of West Virginia and Kentucky.
Few have heard of the little band of soldiers sent out in the fall of 1757 to establish a fort at the mouth of the “Great Sandy;” how they camped one night at these “burning springs,” killed two buffalo, and hung their skins on a beech tree near the blazes from the water; how they were overtaken two days later by a messenger, as they were within a few miles of their destination, and ordered to return to Virginia; how they killed their packhorses in the middle of winter and ate them after their provisions had become exhausted and the proximity of Indians prevented their firing a gun or kindling a fire; how many of them perished from cold and hunger, and how, when they retraced their steps to return to Fort Dinwiddle, 300 miles away, and arriving again at the “burning springs,” the officers took down from the beech tree the two buffalo skins, now warmed by the gas flames, and cutting them into tugs gave each soldier a tug to last him as food until they arrived home. All this is condensed into the name of the north fork of the Big Sandy, and perhaps more. Yet it has all but been forgotten. A leather-bound book dimmed and faded by age, found in a group of discarded possessions, is per- haps all that has preserved this inter- esting history for the future generations which will people the valley and flourish.
In their designations the streams of Eastern Kentucky abound in quaint nomenclature, traditionally based on some incident that may be more or less authenticated. The creeks in that section include Greasy, Defeated, Stinking, Troublesome, Cutshin, Devil, Ill Will, and others that got their odd names in various ways.
Often the water courses of that part of Kentucky were given family names that still cling to them to perpetuate the sturdy pioneers who first settled in the highland country. In recent years local historical research has done much to trace the origin of the quaint geographical names of the section rich in tradition and legendary lore that are charac- teristic of a people of the purest Anglo- Saxon strain in this country.
Photo Caption: Earl Stewart, 194 Friends Branch, Grayson, KY 41143, shares this photo of the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River which was the dividing line between the McCoy Clan of Pike County, Kentucky, and the Hatfield Clan of Logan (later Mingo) County, West Virginia. The feud between these two families is the most well-known of the feuds that plagued the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Ill feelings arose between the families in 1878; although violence lingered, the feud ended in 1890.
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