What's in a name? Uniquely named towns in Tennessee
From Cracker Neck Valley to Bucksnort, there is a plethora of bizarrely named towns in Tennessee.
Lick Skillet. Sweet Lips. Defiant. These are the names of towns in Tennessee. From Memphis to Johnson City, there is no shortage of uniquely named cities in the Volunteer State.
Nameless: Jackson County
One of the more unique towns is literally Nameless.
Located in Jackson County about an hour and a half outside of Nashville, the origins of the name are debated.
One story goes that in the early 1800s settlers couldn’t agree on a name, so they just left it at Nameless, but a 1937 newspaper article cites that the name Morganville was agreed upon but was rejected by the post office department since it was already taken. The post office department was asked to name the town, and they went with Nameless.
The town once held a two-room schoolhouse that has since been transformed into a community center, and a general store that was open from 1953 to 1978. As of March 2023, the volunteer fire department is still operational.
Stupidville: Morgan County
A small town of only 187 people once stood about three miles past Wartburg. That town was Stupidville, Tennessee.
In the early 1960s, grocery store owner Sam Briggs felt that Morgan County wasn’t progressing, and in fact, was “going backward.”
The Southern Railway had halted seven stops within Morgan County, and it had lost five towns within 30 years.
To remedy this, Briggs hoped to incorporate his own town in order to receive the tax benefits that came along with it. When his attempts failed, he felt those that rejected his proposal were "stupid."
So, he erected a sign just north of Wartburg. It read “Stupidville, Tennessee. Unincorporated as now. Population 187.”
The sign became a tourist attraction and Briggs became Mayor of Stupidville. After a divorce, Sam Briggs moved down the road to Nosey Valley, only to return to five years later to reclaim his mayorship as it was being challenged by political opposition—his own son, Larry.
Since that election, Stupidville has been lost to time. Not even the sign remains, and Stupidville was dealt the same fate as the lost towns that were part of the catalyst for its origins.
Ducktown: Polk County
Life is like anything but a hurricane here in Ducktown. No race cars. No lasers. No airplanes, but what you will find is a humble, former copper mining town nestled in the beauteous wonder of the Red Hills of Tennessee.
"Between here and Copper Hill, there was a little settlement of Indians over there. When you translate their name to English, it meant Land of the Duck. So, it could have come from over there or it could come from Chief Duck,” said Ducktown Museum tour guide Joyce Allen
Ducktown is home to some 600 people, but in its heyday, the city was bustling with over 2,500—most working in the copper mine.
“This mine was named after the Australian mine: The Burra Burra Mine. There was a man that came through and he was looking for gold, and he found copper pyrite, fool’s gold. Then another one came through and found some iron ore and had it checked then it started booming,” Allen said.
For every ton of ore excavated from Burra Burra, only 23 pounds of high-grade copper were produced. The years of mining eventually took its toll on the environment, and Ducktown became barren.
"They made big pits and set them on fire, and they burned for weeks at a time. It made the acid rain. Acid rain fell back down, and it killed all the young trees, the flowers, whatever it was here and grass. Then later the last five feet of topsoil. It got washed down the Ocoee River. So, there were no nutrients or minerals in the ground, and we couldn't get anything to grow here,” Allen said.
After the mine closed, the University of Tennessee Forest Service developed seedling pellets to return Ducktown to its greenery glory.
“When they started planting the trees, the shape of the land changed. The gullies that were real deep don’t seem so deep now. Oh, I love it! I love the deer and I know we got cougars in here and all kinds of snakes, lots of snakes coming in,” Allen said.
Today, Ducktown remains a quiet town but with such a rich history, there are still plenty of duck tales to be made in Ducktown.