When you come into Hayesville from the East over U.S. 64, you cross Chunky Gal Mountain and pass through Shooting Creek. To the north rise the Tusquittees, aloof and mysterious and unapproachable. To the southeast looms the legendary Standing Indian. And to the west, beyond the lush valley of the Hiawassee stands Brasstown Bald.
All of which is by way of an introduction to place-names and the little known stories behind them. Let’s start with Chunky Gal. She’s a favorite among mountain place names. Maybe it’s because the name suggests a rollicking, foot-tapping fiddle tune. The facts, however, call for a lonesome tune, a ballad of young love nipped in the bud.
It all began when this was brooding wilderness and the land was home to the Cherokees.
There was an Indian maiden living on Shooting Creek. She was dark-eyed and buxom, the envy of her more skinny tribal sisters. And she had a handsome brave from the Wayahs for a beau.
After months of steady courting, the young lovers announced they were going to get married. But, for some unexplained reason, the girl’s father opposed the marriage.
So they ran away. They headed for the young brave’s home beyond the high mountains to the east. But the way was steep and long, the going slow. Time and again, in their climb to the sky, they had to stop and rest.
Meanwhile, the girl’s father discovered she had fled the village. He organized a party of fleet-footed warriors and took out in pursuit. He caught the fleeing lovers at the big spring in the gap of the mountain where they had paused to drink and catch their breath.
The irate father grabbed his daughter and warned the young brave he would be skinned alive if he ever showed up in the Shooting Creek again. And then he took his daughter back home.
And when the white settlers moved in and asked the Indians the name of the mountain they had crossed to get to Shooting Creek, the Indians said: “It’s Chunky Gal”.
Nobody knows what the Indians called the Shooting Creek section. It may have been Hiawassee, which is to say “savannah” or “meadow”.
It the early days, the pioneers met on the creek to hold shooting matches with their muzzle loading rifles, shooting for beef, deer or bear, turkey or whiskey. So they called it Shooting Creek.
Brasstown, now renowned as the home of the John C. Campbell Folk School, came by its name when some Indians turned up a rich load of gold. They thought it was brass and called the site of their strike “Brasstown” and built a village there.
Fires Creek, long an Eden of place for trout, was named for a man who first lived there by the name of Fires.
Peckerwood was named for an Indian known to the whites as Jim Peckerwood who lived about the fork of the branch.
Compass Creek got its name from Robert Henry, a surveyor and Revolutionary War veteran, who dropped his compass in the stream as he was crossing it.
Cherry Mill Creek was named for John Tucker Cherry who settled on a little stream just outside of what is now Hayesville in 1844 and built himself a gristmill.
Tusquittee is the name of a mountain range, a stream and a community. It is pure Cherokee, meaning “place of the rafters”.
Butcher Knife Ridge came by its name because a man named Tom Lance found a butcher knife there.
Couch Gap was so named because during the American Civil War its cliffs were a hiding place for dodgers and slackers who lived on wild hog meat.
Hurricane Creek got its name from a gif blow that blew down all the trees along the creek.
Nobody remembers his name, but he was a chair maker. So folks called the branch he lived on Chairmaker Branch.
Licklog came from the Davis family who felled trees not far from the church in that vicinity and cut.
Chonooga, which is say “groundhog” in Cherokee, got its name because folks caught so many groundhogs there.
Some folks say that the creek called Sweetwater was named by the Cherokee. Others say the settlers gave it that name because everybody on the creek raised sorghum cane and made molasses.
Medlock Creek was named for Medlock, Quals Creek for slave owned Robert Henry who set her free and built her a house at the foot of the mountain.
Stamey Cove is really Sunday Branch, named for a man named Sunday. Boon Gap was named for Bill Boon and Steve Gap for Stephen Kitchens.
Vineyards Mountain on Shooting Creek honors an abandoned enterprise started by an unremembered Englishman who covered the mountain with grape vines. But the grapes failed to prosper and he returned to England.
Woman Gap was named by the Indians who stole a settler’s woman and held her captive there for a spell.
Potrock Bald was named for a large rock on top of the mountain that was hollowed out by an Indian medicine man and used to steep his medicinal herbs.
Weatherman Bluffs wasn’t coined to honor a local meteorologist, but was named for Juckerson Weatherman who lived at the base of the bluff.
Cullakanee is a corruption of the Cherokee word Kalanu meaning the “the raven”.
The list of original place names is endless. And if you take the time to inquire you will come up with the how and why of them. But for us…Chunky Gal tops them all!