Indian Place Names in Alabama

Overview

"What is the 'meaning' of names like Coosa and Tallapoosa? Who named the Alabama and Tombigbee and Tennessee rivers? How are Cheaha and Conecuh and Talladega pronounced? How did Opelika and Tuscaloosa get their names? Questions like these, which are asked by laymen as well as by historians, geographers, and students of the English language, can be answered only by study of the origins and history of the Indian names that dot the map of Alabama.—from the Foreword

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Overview

"What is the 'meaning' of names like Coosa and Tallapoosa? Who named the Alabama and Tombigbee and Tennessee rivers? How are Cheaha and Conecuh and Talladega pronounced? How did Opelika and Tuscaloosa get their names? Questions like these, which are asked by laymen as well as by historians, geographers, and students of the English language, can be answered only by study of the origins and history of the Indian names that dot the map of Alabama.—from the Foreword

Originally published by Professor Read in 1937, this volume was revised, updated, and annotated in 1984 by James B. McMillan and remains the single best compedium on the topic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Read's work has endured as the standard in its field."
Journal of the North Central Name Society

"This book provides something for the layman and the professional."
The Alabama Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817302313
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1984
  • Series: Library Alabama Classics Series
  • Edition description: Revised Edition with a Foreword, Appendi
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Indian Place Names in Alabama


By William A. Read

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1984 THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PRESS
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8173-0231-3


Chapter One

A

ABBEVILLE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A town in Henry County, taking its name from that of a creek in the same county. See the following name.

ABBIE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A creek in Henry County.

Yattayabba C. La Tourrette, 1844.

Pattayabao Cr. Rand McNally, 1934.

Abbie has been corrupted from an obscure Indian name, for which I can think of no satisfactory translation. I am inclined, however, to regard Hitchiti yatipi, "panther," as a possible source.

Owen suggests that the name, which he writes Pattayabba, may be derived from Creek atapalgi, a compound of atapha, "dogwood," and algi, "grove." He renders the Creek term freely by "dogwood."

But if the first element of Pattayabba has been transposed from Creek atapha, then the second may be from Creek api, "trunk of a tree," or "tree."

The old name of the stream is said to have been pronounced [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]].

AFFONEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A tributary of Cahaba River in Bibb County.

Afanee C. La Tourrette, 1844.

Afanee Cr. Smith, 1891.

This name is obscure because of its initial vowel. The early spellings seem to pointto Choctaw afana, "staked" (like a fence).

I am inclined, however, to regard Choctaw nafoni, "bones," as the real source. Such a phrase as "on Nafoni Creek" might easily become "on Affonee Creek."

Loss of an initial n appears, for example, in Ahoola Inalchubba, the name of a tributary of the Tombigbee, as shown on Bernard Romans' map of 1772. In correct Choctaw this name would be na hollo, "white man," im, "his," and ahchiba, "task" -White Man's Task.

ALABAMA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A river about 312 miles long, beginning 11 miles below Wetumpka at the confluence of the Coosa and the Tallapoosa, and joining the Tombigbee 45 miles north of Mobile Bay to form Mobile River.

2. A state, admitted to the Union Dec. 14, 1819.

3. Alabama City, in Etowah County; incorporated Feb. 16, 1891.

4. Alabama Rolling Mill, a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, near Birmingham.

The Alabama Indians, an Upper Creek tribe, were known to the French as early as 1702 as the "Alibamons," and at that time were settled on the upper reaches of the stream which has received their name.

Early French maps usually show this stream as Rivière des Alibamons.

Alabama is derived from Choctaw alba, "plants," "weeds," plus amo, "to cut," "to trim," "to gather"-that is, "those who clear the land," or "thicket clearers."

There is no foundation in any Indian dialect for the popular translation of Alabama by "Here we rest."

ALAMUCHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A tributary of Sucarnochee Creek in Sumter County.

Allimucha C. La Tourette, 1844.

Alamucha was an ancient Choctaw town in Kemper County, Mississippi.

This name possibly means "a little hiding place," from Choctaw alumushi, a compound of aluma, "hiding place," and the suffix -ushi, "little." If the second element of the name is Choctaw asha, "are there," then the meaning is "hiding places are there."

Simpson Tubby, a well-known Choctaw living near Philadelphia, Miss., thinks that Alamuchee refers to a secret Choctaw organization, whose chief formerly resided on Alamuchee Creek. I owe this bit of information to my friend, Mr. Lea Seale.

APALACHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A stream forming one of the outlets of Tensaw River in Baldwin County.

D'Anville's map, 1732, shows the "Apalaches" at the head of Mobile Bay.

Apalachee, the name of a Muskhogean tribe, is probably from Hitchiti apalahchi, "on the other side." Combined with Hitchiti okli, "people," it forms the source of the Florida geographic name Apalachicola, which refers to people who live on the other side of a stream.

Webster's New International Dictionary derives Apalachee incorrectly from the Choctaw dialect.

ARBACOOCHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A village in Cleburne County.

Arbacooche. Smith, 1891.

Abihkuchi was an Upper Creek town in Talladega County. The name is Creek for "Little Abihka." The Abihka were an ancient Muskhogean tribe, whose name is of uncertain etymology.

Gatschet translates it by "pile at the base, heap at the root," with reference to the custom of heaping up a pile of scalps at the foot of a war-pole.

According to another view, the Abihka received their name because of the peculiar manner in which they answered questions or expressed approbation. Yet another view is that Abihka is a derivative of Choctaw aiabika, "unhealthful place."

Delisle, 1718, records the name as les Abeikas.

ATOKA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in Elmore County.

The source of this name is Choctaw hitoka or hotoka, "ball ground."

Hitoka was likewise popular as the name of one who had become famous as a ball player.

In 1830 a certain Toko was one of the thirty captains in Greenwood Laflore's district of the old Choctaw nation.

About the same time a chief of Tala, "palmetto," one of the settlements of the Sixtowns Indians, was named Toka Hadjo, "ballground crazy," or "ballground extremely brave."

The Creek term hadjo, borrowed by the Choctaw, is an honorable war name.

The Sixtowns Choctaw lived in Newton, Jasper, and Smith Counties, Mississippi.

Atoka, a county in Oklahoma, bears the name of a Choctaw captain.

ATTALLA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A city in Etowah County.

The first settlement here was called Atale, which is a corruption of Cherokee otali, "mountain."

AUTAUGA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A creek flowing southward into Alabama River in Autauga County.

2. A county established Nov. 30, 1818.

Creek and county perpetuate the memory of an ancient Alabama town situated slightly west of the present Montgomery.

At-tau-gee. Hawkins, Sketch, p. 36. 1799.

Atagi. Gatschet, I, 89.

Autauga is said to mean "land of plenty," but the dialects of Alabama apparently furnish no foundation for this analysis. Creek atigi, "border," however, seems to be a reasonably close equivalent of this name.

AUTAUGAVILLE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A small town, in the southern part of Autauga County. Cf. the preceding name.

B

BACHELE. See GULLETTE'S BLUFF, infra.

BASHI [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A creek flowing into the Tombigbee from the east.

2. A village which takes its name from that of the creek; recorded on the Smith map, 1891.

Bashai C. La Tourrette, 1844.

Bashi may be from Choctaw bachaya, "line," "row," "course" -hence Line Creek.

It would be tempting to identify Bashi Creek with the one which Bernard Romans records as Basheelawa, in 1772 ; but Romans' creek lies too far north, and is thought, indeed, to be identical with the present Tickabum Creek in Choctaw County.

Nevertheless, Bashailawaw may have been responsible for the present spelling of Bashi Creek, according to a plausible suggestion offered me by Mr. Peter A. Brannon.

Bashailawaw means "plenty of sedge grass" or "broom grass," from Choctaw hashuk basi, "sedge grass," and laua, "abundant."

BEAR SWAMP

A marsh in the southern part of Autauga County, recorded as Gum Cypress L. by Smith, 1891. The Choctaw name of this swamp was kusha(k), "reeds," plus chipinta, "little"-Little Reeds. De Crenay, 1733, writes it Conchapita.

BIGBEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A village in Washington County; recorded in The Century Atlas, 1899.

This name is short for Tombigbee, q.v., infra.

BIG SWAMP

A tributary of Alabama River in Lowndes County.

Tatum, in Notes and Observations on the Alabama River, 1814, calls this stream Pil-loop, loc. co or Big-Swamp Creek, transcribing Creek opilofa, "swamp," by Pil-loop, and Creek lako, "big," by loc. co. The more usual term for "swamp" is Creek opilwa.

BLACK BLUFF

A bluff on the west side of the Tombigbee in Sumter County.

Ecor noir. De Crenay, 1733.

Sacktaloosa. Romans, Map, 1772.

The present designation, Black Bluf, has come through French Écore noir from Choctaw sakti, "bluff," and lusa, "black."

Romans explains the name, in 1772, by remarking that in this locality there is a kind of coal.

BODKA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A tributary of Noxubee River in Sumter County.

Bodca C. La Tourrette, 1844.

The name seeins to have been shortened and corrupted from Choctaw hopatka, "wide," a plural form used perhaps with reference to the numerous branches of Bodka Creek. See Smith's map, 1891. A literal translation, then, would be "wide creeks," from Choctaw bok hopatka.

Thomas M. Owen translates the name by "wide creek," assuming an archaic or a dialectal singular patka, "wide," in Choctaw. I do not see any need for this coinage.

BOGUECHITTO [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A tributary of the Alabama River in Dallas County.

2. A station on the Southern Railroad, formerly the Mobile & Birmingham, in Dallas County.

3. A creek flowing into the Tombigbee in the southwestern part of Pickens County.

La Tourrette's map of 1844 shows Bogue Chitto both as a creek and as a settlement in Dallas County.

Boguechitto signifies "Big Creek," from Choctaw bok, "creek," and chito, "big."

BOGUE HOMA

A creek in Mobile County, entering Chickasaw Bogue just north of Prichard.

Bogue Hooma. Romans, Map, 1772.

B. Homa or Red C. La Tourrette, 1844.

This name is from Choctaw bok, "creek," plus homma, "red" -Red Creek.

Red Creek, a stream in the northwestern corner of Washington County, has lost its Indian name.

BOGUELOOSA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A tributary of Okatuppa Creek in Choctaw County.

2. A station on the Alabama, Tennessee & Northern Railroad-of recent application, not being recorded in The Century Atlas, 1899.

Bogue Loosa. La Tourrette, 1844.

Bogueloosa signifies "black creek," the source being Choctaw bok, "creek," and lusa, "black."

The Bogue Loosa of Romans' map, 1772, is now called Taylor's Creek, in Washington County.

BOLIGEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A creek in Greene County.

2. A village situated on the creek. The name was first conferred on the stream.

Boligee [village]. Smith, 1891.

This is a puzzling name, for which some possible sources in Choctaw are the following:

bajichi, "to stab."

baluhchi, "hickory bark" used in the making of arrows.

abokichi, "to hit."

apcilichi, "a hewer of wood."

apolichi, "to hill corn."

aboki, "thicket," plus ushi, "little."

BROKEN ARROW

A creek in Russell County. A Lower Creek town called Likachka was situated on the Chattahoochee near this creek.

The source of the name is Creek li, "arrows," and kachki, "broken," from Creek kachkita, "to be broken." The settlement was evidently founded by Indians who broke reeds there to make arrows, or it received its name because a band of Indians broke away from the Coweta mother town and formed a new settlement.

BUCKATUNNA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A branch of Buckatunna Creek, Mississippi, crossing the boundary between Wayne County, Miss., and Choctaw County, Ala.

Bacatune. Bellin, 1764.

Bogue-aithee-Tanne. Romans, Map, 1772.

Hamilton translates Buckatunna by "creek on the other side," apparently having in mind Choctaw tannap, "the opposite side," or mishtannap, "the other side," as the last element in the name.

I prefer Halbert's translation, "creek at which is the weaving (of baskets)," from Choctaw bok, "creek," a, "there," and tana, "woven."

BULGOSA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in Butler County.

My conjecture that Bulgosa is merely a distortion of Bogueloosa is confirmed by a letter from Peter A. Brannon. See Bogueloosa, supra.

BUTTAHATCHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A river in Marion and Lamar Counties, joining the Tombigbee in Mississippi.

Buttahatchee R. La Tourrette, 1844.

This name is derived from Choctaw bati, "sumac" (Rhus L.), and hacha, "river."

BUXIHATCHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A creek uniting with Waxahatchee Creek in Chilton County.

Buxahatchee Cr. U. S. Geol. Survey, Columbiana Quad., 1911.

The first element in this name may be from Creek pakacha, "commander," as has been suggested to me by Dr. Swanton. The second element is Creek hachi, "creek."

BLDBLD

CAHABA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A river in central Alabama, uniting with the Alabama River in Dallas County.

Cabo R. D'Anville, 1732.

Cahawba R. Early, Map of Georgia, 1818.

2. Little Cahaba River, a branch of the Cahaba, in Bibb and Shelby Counties; recorded by La Tourrette, 1844.

3. An old town, now a rural settlement, situated at the mouth of the Cahaba River in Dallas County.

4. A station, spelled Cahawba, on the Birmingham, Selma & Mobile Railroad in Bibb County.

5. Cahaba Valley, the region lying between Odenville, St. Clair County, and blontevallo, Shelby County.

Cahaba is derived from Choctaw oka, "water," plus aba, "above," according to Thos. M. Owen, History of Alabama, I, 188.

With Cahaba one may compare Chukkaba, the name of a second lieutenant who served under Pushmataha in the Creek War of 1813.

Chukkaba is from Choctaw chuka, "house," and aba, "above." Another name of this type is Nanna Hubba, infra.

CAHULGA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A tributary of Tallapoosa River in Cleburne County.

Cahulga Cr. U. S. Geol. Survey, Anniston Quad., 1900.

This name probably signifies "canebrake," from Creek koha, "cane," and algi, "grove." But the name may be the equivalent of "cane clan," algi being used in the sense of "clan" as well as in that of "grove." There was a cane clan among the Creeks.

CALEBEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

1. A tributary of Tallapoosa River in Macon County.

2. A station on the Birmingham & Southeastern Railroad in the same county.

Upper Creek settlements lay on or near Calebee Creek as noted in the following references:

Callobe. Purcell map, about 1770.

Ca-le-be-hat-che. Hawkins, Sketch, p. 31. 1799.

Caloebee is also given by Hawkins as the name of the creek. The origin of this name seems to be Creek kalapi, "overcup oak" (Quercus lyrata Walt.).

CANCHARDEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A village situated a few miles northwest of the city of Talladega.

The name signifies "red earth," from Creek kan, "earth," and chati, "red."

Kan for Creek ikana is often found in compound words.

CANDUTCHKEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A creek crossing the southern line of Clay County and flowing into Hillabee Creek, in Tallapoosa County.

Candutchkee Cr. La Tourrette, 1844.

The name signifies "boundary creek"-from Creek ikana or kan, "earth," and tachki, "line."

Candutchkee Creek is now known as Enitachopco.

CAPSHAW [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A village situated on Limestone Creek in Limestone County.

Old settlers differ with regard to this name, some asserting that it is of Indian origin, others that it is not.

If it is Indian, it is no doubt a corruption of Chickasaw bok kapassa, "cold creek," or oka kapassa, "cold water." The spelling of the name suggests of course an English origin.

CATOMA [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

A creek joining the Alabama River on the northwestern boundary of Montgomery County.

Kit-to-me. Hawkins, Sketch, p. 85.

Catoma Cr. La Tourrette, 1844.

The source of this name is Alabama oki, "water," and Tohome, the name of a Muskhogean tribe whose cabins were situated in 1729 about twenty-two miles above Mobile on the west bank of the Tombigbee River. Note Tomez, Delisle's map, 1718.

At one time, however, the Tohome seem to have lived in what is now Montgomery County; for the present Catoma Creek is given as Auke Thomé on the De Crenay map of 1733. The tribal name cannot be interpreted, a connection with Choctaw tomi, "radiant," or "sunshine," being highly uncertain.

CETEAHLUSTEE

A creek just north of Fredonia in Chambers County.

Ceteahlustee C. La Tourrette, 1844.

The source of this name is Creek sata, "persimmon," and lasti, "black"-Black Persimmon Creek.

Old residents remember Ceteahlustee; but the stream is now called Veazey Mill Creek, or Gaye Creek.

CHACALOOCHEE [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]

An arm of Mobile Bay, about two miles east of the city of Mobile. The name has been changed to Choccolotta, q. v., infra.

Chacaloochee Bay. Bache, Survey, 1856.

Not a few French names have survived in the Mobile Delta, such as Bateau Bay, Bayou Minette, Bon Secours Bay, Gasque, Mon Louis Island.

Chacaloochee is a semi-French spelling of shankolushi, "Little Cypress Tree," from Choctaw shankolo, "cypress tree," and -ushi, "little."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Indian Place Names in Alabama by William A. Read Copyright © 1984 by THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PRESS. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments....................iv
Foreword....................v
Map of Alabama Counties and Principal Rivers....................viii
Preface....................ix
Introduction....................xi
1. Source of Names....................xi
2. Character of Names....................xiii
3. Number and Distribution of Names....................xiv
4. Pseudo-Indian Names....................xiv
Symbols and Abbreviations....................xvii
International Phonetic Alphabet....................xviii
List of Names....................1
Bibliography....................80
Appendix....................85
1. Names....................85
2. Pronunciation....................98
3. Appendix Bibliography....................100
Index....................103
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