Have you ever wondered where some of the unusual names you see and hear regularly around southern Delaware actually came from?
There are several to be sure. But where did they originate and what are the stories behind some of our area’s more unusual and unique names?
Well, we’re going to explore a few of them here today. There are more than the ones that made our list of 10, to be sure, but it’s not our goal to write a book today on our blog.
So, we’re just going to tackle 10 of them. This includes several that represent our area here in southern Delaware, and one that we just couldn’t resist in Worcester County, Maryland.
So, let’s just jump right in shall we? Here’s our list of southern Delaware names that are just a bit different than the norm.
Let’s start with…
Ah, the peaceful town with the scary name. What a great place to start our list.
As for where Slaughter Beach got its name, there are a few stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. But, as much as we’d love for there to be an ominous back story to how it came to be, the most logical answer is that Slaughter Beach was named for William Slaughter, a postmaster in the area in the mid 19th century.
But there are other stories, particularly for those who don’t want to accept the logical reasoning behind the name.
And those center around two things – the fact that so many horseshoe crabs die on the beach each year, and that a local man slaughtered several Native Americans one year to prevent a coming attack.
As for us, as much as we’d like to indulge in story telling and folklore, we’re going with the first and most reasonable explanation.
Not as ominous as Slaughter Beach, but Long Neck still isn't a name you hear every day. And there’s bound to be a good story behind it, right?
Well, that depends on your definition of a “good story.”
The name dates back several generations and derives it’s meaning from the surrounding geography. A “neck” is generally a narrow strip of dry land that is bordered on three sides by lowlands, marsh or swamp.
And as this particular neck is very “long,” the name of Long Neck was created and has continued on throughout the years.
Located in southwestern Sussex County, Bacon Switch is also referred to simply as “Bacons.” But the natives of that area generally use the name “Bacon Switch” when speaking of this small piece of southern Delaware land.
The name derives from the days when railroads ruled the area, and there was a “switch point” located in this small community between Laurel and Delmar, on the main north/south railroad line.
It was named after the Bacon family, who were involved in the sawmill business.
Built in the late 1950s, the sign emblazoned with this beachside community’s name certainly raises many eyebrows among travellers driving along Route 1, particularly in the summer months.
The community has a homeowner’s association that uses the slogan “Where Fun Never Ends,” adding to the curiosity. But what does the name mean? Is the explanation as fun and imaginative as our imagination would have us believe?
Well, we can’t honestly answer this one definitively, but we suspect it has something to do with the community’s location between the municipalities of Bethany Beach and South Bethany.
That would explain the “middle” part of the name. As for the “sex,” well you’re just going to have to use your imagination for that one.
Ah, now here’s a good one to explore. But don’t worry, the name has nothing to do with the suspicious death of a woman, even though that would make for a good story now, wouldn’t it?
If you look around, you’ll notice many names in southern Delaware with the word “kill” in them. These include the Murderkill and Whorekill Rivers, as well as the Schuylkill near Philadelphia.
While some historical stories do indeed paint a gruesome picture, the simple explanation is that “kill” is the Dutch word for “river” or “creek.” And since the history of Sussex County can be traced back to the original Dutch settlement in 1631, many names for bodies of water in our area contain the word “kill” in them.
This is an interesting one to say the least, as many feel this name derived from Delaware’s favorite breakfast meat, pictured above. But there are many states with areas named Hardscrapple, so we’re less inclined to think that is the case.
Although, with thousands of Delawareans eating scrapple every morning, that could very well be a valid secondary explanation.
By definition, the word “hardscrapple” means “characterized by chronic poverty and hardship.” Hmmm…so why would you want to name your small municipality hardscrapple, right?
There's a prevailing theory that this was indeed the best description of the area and that the name would prevent more people from moving in. Maybe isolation was what they were going for, eh?
This small community with the fun sounding name is located just west of the Great Cypress Swamp and is most well known for a spooky haunted house that locals refer to as the “Old Homestead.”
But the town’s name actually derives from the sweet gum trees that were once logged to produce bushel baskets, pallets and other commodities for the nearby farms.
This small community on the Nanticoke River shares a zip code with Seaford, it’s much larger neighbor on the other side of the river.
But, despite the name that conjures up images of saw blades and other sharp tools, the name has anything but a deadly meaning.
The town is named for James Blades, one of the early pioneers of the railroad who purchased the tract of land that today boasts his name.
The town was originally named Bladesville, but was shortened to Blades in later years.
If you’ve ever crossed the Route 50 bridge into Ocean City, you’ve no doubt seen the sign for this body of water and wondered why exactly someone would name it in such a way.
Well, we certainly have as well so we decided to find out where, exactly, the “Assawoman Bay” got its name from.
What we found is that the name, as with many on the Delmarva Peninsula, has Native American roots. It denotes a female Indian of a regional tribe, which is actually spelled “Assawaman.”
The name was changed to its current spelling in 1966 via an act by the Board on Geographic Names, which is a federal body that answers to the Department of the Interior.
If you’ve ever been to a sporting event that involves the Woodbridge High School Blue Raiders, you may have heard someone saying after the game that they will “meet you back at the bridge.”
In reality, the name of this school district in western Sussex County doesn’t refer to a bridge at all, wooden or otherwise.
The name was created when the Delaware Department of Education consolidated many school districts in 1969. Greenwood and Bridgeville High Schools were merged and the new name, determined by the local board of education, became “Woodbridge.”