The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

What’s In A Name?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012

Issue: August, 1983

We have heard a few interesting and amusing stories about how some places got their names. Some of them sound like pretty tall tales and we don’t vouch for the authenticity of them all. In this article, I’ll tell you a way a few supposedly got theirs. If you’d like, it might become a regular feature and we invite anyone to send us stories about how different towns and communities got their names.

One man told me the Ararat River was named because people used to trap muskrats along its banks. It became so popular and crowded that the people had to come to an agreement.

Folks who lived on the lands on one side of the river would only set their traps there while folks living on the lands on the other side of the river would set their traps only on their side of the river bank. Often you could hear them yell across to each other as they checked their traps, “Ary-A-Rat?” (Any muskrats) You guessed it, from then on it was known as the “Ary-A-Rat” or Ararat River.

In Dickenson County, Virginia, there is a river. Years ago the only way of crossing it was by ferry. The man who ran the ferry’s name was Si. People wanting to cross the river would have to stand and yell to catch his attention, “Hay, Si!” Eventually the place became known for the yell and was called Haysi.

Next month we’ll tell you (factually this time) how the town of Independence got its name.