Back in the spring I ventured over to the Atlantic coast near Virginia Beach for some salt water fishing. I love to drive and don’t seem to have any trouble finding things to do as I wind my way along the Interstates and secondary roads. I stop frequently to stretch the legs and on occasion back track to take a look at some point of interest or historical monument.
Another way of passing time is to take note of the many signs alerting the traveler of nearby towns and villages bearing interesting or curious names. It seems that maybe the more mountainous or historical the area you’re traveling through, the more interesting the names.
In the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia you encounter places like Eagle’s Bluff, Hawk’s Nest, Buzzard’s Roost, Henry’s Cabin or Crump’s Mill. It’s not difficult to imagine how or why these places got their names but it does make me wonder just how many eagles once flew the skies of Eagle’s Bluff or just what kind of person old Henry was or whether old man Crump milled lumber or grain.
In areas where mineral deposits were found you see towns and locations bearing names like Clifton Forge, Iron Gate, Longsdale Furnace, Vesuvius, or Oilsville. One can close their eyes, but not while driving, and conjure up images of rugged men wrestling ore from mountainous walls of rock with little more than pick and shovel or of others laboriously smelting the metals and minerals of value from the mined ore.
As I-64 got nearer to Virginia’s Historical Triangle the names of villages took on yet another flavor, some understandable and others more vague. Anything beginning with the word Fort is easy to understand in an area where raw settlements sprung to life in a vast wilderness. One community bore the name, Barracks. I can only assume that some military force was once garrisoned there.
Other names that are not so easy to figure include such places as Betsy Bell Park, Short Pump, Batesville Insert, Le Beau Sol, and Gum Spring. I suppose I could sit here in the comfort of my recliner and Google the histories of these places. Or, I could get back in the car, stay off the Interstate and go visit them for real.
Instead I think I’ll just pop the cap off a cool carbonated Samuel Adams Boston Lager and pretend I’m sitting at an 18th century pine table in Boyd Tavern, Virginia, puffing on a long-stem clay pipe filled with Virginia Cavendish, while discussing colonial politics with the likes of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. Maybe one of these gentlemen will know something about this Betsy Bell lady.