By Southern Living Editors Updated on June 30, 2022
Drive through any corner of the South, and you'll be surprised by what you see on our signs. Visit Virginia, and you may pass through Dragonville. Take a trip to Texas, and you may find yourself in Oatmeal. There are countless small towns here that will make you scratch your head and wonder where their unexpected names came from. From Possum Grape, Arkansas (a possum grape is a fruit vine native to North America), to Frankenstein, Missouri (named for the Franken family, allegedly, not the Mary Shelley book), there are plenty of towns south of the Mason-Dixon that will spark your curiosity in an instant.
We know some of the origin stories of our place names, and some speak for themselves—Corn, Oklahoma, for example. Lots of place names come from agriculture, the landscape, historical markers, and natural features like springs, waterfalls, and rivers. Still more are named for families in the community or values the community shares. A few still leave visitors scratching their heads, and those are the ones with origin stories that even locals can't agree on. We've collected some of our favorite surprising Southern small town names here, but we certainly haven't included them all. It's a big region, filled with countless unusual place names.
(I've been to the places I have marked with a ✔️.). (This list is good -- there are few I would add -- maybe I'll do that later.)
✔️ Accident, Maryland We've heard that residents of Accident are called "Accidentals."
Bell Buckle, Tennessee This small town is named after Bell Buckle Creek, near which the town was founded
✔️ Burnt Corn, Alabama Few agree on the origin of this name, but some think that it involved a campfire made of corn.
Corn, Oklahoma This town was settled near a cornfield, hence the name.
Cricket, North Carolina Your guess is as good as ours, but we bet it has to do with crickets.
Coffee Springs, Alabama Coffee Springs is one of many Alabama towns with unusual names. It was named for the nearby springs and for General John Coffee who once camped at the springs.
Coward, South Carolina Perhaps named for the Coward family, this small town is located in Florence County.
Cucumber, West Virginia Named for the area's cucumber trees (a type of magnolia) or the nearby Cucumber Creek, this place name is truly unique. It's the only community in the U.S. with the name of Cucumber.
Dice, Kentucky Any ideas? We're thinking this is of game-piece origin, but it also may have come from an English family name.
✔️ Ding Dong, Texas A mural painted in the 1930s bearing the phrase "Ding Dong" supposedly gave this town on the Lampasas River its onomatopoetic name.
Doorway, Kentucky While obscure, we sure do like this Perry County name.
Dragonville, Virginia This spot was named after a town across the Atlantic—an English hamlet called Dragonville in County Durham.
Eggville, Mississippi We'd expect someone in this town—once the top egg producer in Lee County—to have one killer deviled egg recipe.
Empress, Georgia While Georgia itself was named for England's King George II, this little town was not to be outdone.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas This town got its name after a eureka! moment of new settlers discovering the town's local springs, which were known as the Great Healing Springs by Native Americans.
Experiment, Georgia This small town was named after the University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station that's located there.
Fame, Mississippi Fame is in good company. Other creative Mississippi place names include Panther Burn, Gin, Christmas, and Whynot.
Fame, West Virginia This particular Fame is a small town in Pendleton County, West Virginia.
Flippen, Georgia Local lore says this fun-to-say town name came from a railroad worker, Mr. Flippen.
Frankenstein, Missouri While first glance would tell you this spot was named for the doctor in Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein, it was actually named for the area's Franken family.
Friendsville, Maryland Everything's friendlier in Friendsville.
Fries, Virginia With a population of only 484, this little spot started out as a mill town in the mountains.
Ginger Blue, Missouri This town name is so catchy, a musical group better adopt it ASAP.
Goat City, Tennessee Tennessee town names range from the understandable, like Goat City, to the personal, like Edith, and also from the descriptive, like Difficult, to the downright festive, like Disco.25of 67
Goodnight, Texas This town name was adopted by a band. Goodnight, Texas, is a place you can visit and a band with music you can enjoy.
Greasy Corner, Arkansas This locale was originally named Mack's Corner, but, supposedly, a spot of grease changed the name, and it stuck.
Happyland, Oklahoma Who wouldn't want to live in Happyland?
Hazard, Kentucky Hazard was named for Oliver Hazard Perry, a commodore in the U.S. Navy who fought in the War of 1812.
Hopeulikit, Georgia This name apparently originated from a beloved 1920s dance hall once located in the area.
Ketchuptown, South Carolina This spot got its name from an area store where locals would meet to chat and "catch up." The store came to be called Ketchup Town, and the town name followed.
Lick Skillet, Tennessee Legend has it that this town got its name from—what else?—licking skillets. The last person to arrive to dinner or to a campground is left licking the skillet to satisfy their hunger, or so the saying goes.
Lizard Lick, North Carolina Apparently local lizards were brought in to put a dent in the area's insect problems. Or perhaps a passerby saw a group of lizards sunning themselves. Either way, lizards gave this North Carolina town its unusual name.
Locust, North Carolina This North Carolina town takes its inspiration from the locust tree. To name the town, a resident suggested "Locust Level." So it was called until the word "level" was dropped years later.
Loving, Oklahoma This spot was named after the surname Loving; this one in particular belonged to locals John and Amanda Loving.
Lulu, Florida Legend has it that the namesake for this town was the love interest of the town's first postmaster.
Lucky, Louisiana Residents here must be a little more fortunate than the rest.
Marmaduke, Arkansas Sorry to disappoint, but this town isn't named for the comic strip character. It's named after John Sappington Marmaduke, a former governor of Missouri.
Money, Mississippi This one was also named after a person. Hernando Money, a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, to be precise.
Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky Perhaps the most memorable of all, this town's name still leaves us scratching our heads. Locals say it was named Monkey's Eyebrow because either A. the county resembles a monkey's head and the town is located where the eyebrow would be, or B. viewed from a nearby ridge, the town resembles the aforementioned monkey's eyebrow.
Okay, Arkansas This town name came from a local business—an area cement plant that produced "OK" brand cement.
Oatmeal, Texas Most think that this town name was derived from a resident's name—a Mr. Othneil—not, surprisingly, the breakfast food made of oats.
Niceville, Florida Sugar and spice and everything nice, this town name was chosen by the daughter of the local postman.
Okay, Oklahoma This small-town name also originated from a small-town business—the OK Truck Manufacturing Company (which is, incidentally, the abbreviation for Oklahoma).
Oronogo, Missouri This town was first named Minersville, and when the time came to change it because there was another Missouri town with the same name, one resident said, "It's 'Ore' or no go." Running with the idea, the town landed on Oronogo, a decidedly memorable moniker.
✔️ Paw Paw, West Virginia This town shares its name with the nearby Paw Paw Tunnel, also the native, Southern-favorite paw-paw tree.
Possum Grape, Arkansas The name Possum Grape was supposedly the result of a compromise between residents who wanted the name to be "Possum" and "Grape." Also, possum grape is the name of a vine indigenous to North America.
Pumpkin Center, North Carolina There are plenty of towns in the U.S. named Pumpkin Center, including those in Oklahoma, California, and Indiana. File Pumpkin Center under town names that make us hungry.
Sallisaw, Oklahoma French traders gave this place its name. "Sallisaw" is from the French salaison, which roughly translates to "salt meat."
Scratch Ankle, Alabama We've heard that this name came from locals scratching the insect bites on their ankles. We believe it. Those summertime mosquito bites are no joke.
Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee There are countless origin stories for this name, which is the joining together of two separate community names. Some think that "Soddy" came from William Sodder, the owner of a local trading post, and "Daisy" was the name of a coal company manager's daughter.
Spiderweb, South Carolina Another place name pulled from the natural world. This one might make you shiver, though.
Spuds, Florida This area has historically been a big producer of potatoes. Is there any surprise that it's called Spuds?
Static, Kentucky and Tennessee This small town lives on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, hence the dual addresses
Sweet Lips, Tennessee While the name is obscure (and pretty catchy), locals claim this town name comes from the idea that sips from the local creek are sweet.
7Tarzan, Texas We bet you can guess this one. This small town was named after the fictional, jungle-going Tarzan character. It was named during the height of Tarzan's novel and comic strip popularity
The Bottle, Alabama No surprises here. The Bottle was inspired by an actual bottle building. John Williams, the owner of Nehi Bottling Co., built a 64-foot-tall structure that resembled a Nehi bottle. While the building burned, the name lives on.
Thunderbolt, Georgia This small town received its name when a lightning strike formed the local freshwater spring—allegedly.
Toast, North Carolina The origins of this place name are a mystery. It was supposedly suggested by the employees of the local post office, and we'd like to think it's an homage to a buttered slice of toasted bread.
Two Egg, Florida This spot also has conflicting accounts of its origins. Our favorite: Someone dropped two eggs, inspiring the moniker. However, some say that during the Great Depression, eggs were often traded for other wares at the area country store, inspiring the name.
Uncertain, Texas The story of Uncertain is not so uncertain. When applying for township, this community's residents wrote "Uncertain" in the field asking for the name of the town. Once the wheels of bureaucracy turned, the town was officially designated Uncertain.
✔️ Waldo, Florida
War, West Virginia This West Virginia town is named for nearby War Creek.
Waterproof, Louisiana The location of this town changed three times, moving miles to avoid the rising Mississippi floodwaters. The issue of flooding also led to the construction of a levee around the town. After some work, it's truly become waterproof.
Wealthy, Texas True story: This town was originally named Poor until popular opinion demanded a name change.
✔️ Whynot, North Carolina Picture it: Residents couldn't decide on a name, so someone suggested, "Why not name it 'Why Not'?" It stuck, becoming Whynot forevermore.
✔️. Wise, Virginia This spot is named for Henry A. Wise, a former Virginia governor
Yeehaw Junction, Florida On the spectrum of Southernness, this place name is supremely Southern. It was named either for the classic shout "Yeehaw!" or the nearby Yeehaw Station of the Florida East Coast Railway.