Last week, I wrote about how our county and towns got their names. So many of them come from our history, and the same can be said for many of our streets and other place names as well.
Take California Street in Hartford as an example. Growing up, I always wondered why Hartford, of all places, had a street named after the state of California. It wasn’t until after getting into history that I realized it had nothing to do with the state. The real story is that two German immigrants, Charles and Hugo Juhling, came to America and settled in Hartford. The quickly got into the coal trade, and having arrived at a time when the California Gold Rush was at its height, they named their hopefully successful mine after the boom that so perfectly symbolized the American Dream. This mine was located on the hillside above the current softball fields, and a mule-railway hauled the coal to the riverbank. That railway ran right down the middle of a street, now named California Street after the Juhling Brothers’ mine.
In Mason, there are three streets that seem so normal, most people wouldn’t think twice about them. Yet, they all come from the founding of the town. Adams Street is in the north end of town, Brown, and Anderson at what was originally the southern end. Now, in 1853, John Brown sold his farm to R.C.M. Lovell’s salt company, who in 1856 incorporated the land as Mason City. Hence Brown Street. The north end of town was bordered by Robert Adams’ farm, so that northernmost street was named Adams Street, and the southern end was bordered by the farm of Lewis Anderson, so the street closest was named Anderson Street.
“Out back” of West Columbia, on Lieving Road, there is a place the old-timers call Turnpike Hill. This is the one about a half-mile out, the hill that Lieving Road goes over and Woodland Road goes around. Well back in the day, there was a turnpike that ran from West Columbia to Letart, a shortcut for anyone that didn’t want to go all the way around the Bend. Most of it survives as Lieving-Union Campground-Ada Grimm-Board Run Rd. That got you from the Ohio River to Sand Hill Road just outside of Letart, and if you’ve ever driven those roads, then you know that Turnpike Hill is the only substantial hill you cross between Rt. 62 and Sand Hill. The rest of the road is down in the valleys and farmlands. So, as the only hill on the turnpike, the name stuck.
In Point Pleasant, you might’ve noticed there are quite a few streets named after presidents. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and Lincoln all have their own avenue, and Washington even got a second named after his famous home, Mount Vernon. Today, it seems pretty common to have streets named after presidents, but in the early 1800s, that just wasn’t something that was done. That all changed around the time of the U.S. Centennial in 1876, roughly the time when this center section of Point Pleasant was laid out. Now, the people of Point Pleasant looked at the new plan and realized there were going to be six main north-south avenues, and they had to figure out whose names they were going to choose. If you look at the list, the first four were all Patriots and members of the Continental Congress from Virginia. Jackson, though we look at him in a different light today, was then seen as a defender of the Union, having called South Carolina’s bluff when they threatened to secede in 1832-33.
Lincoln, of course, was president during the Civil War and even as early as the 1870s, was seen as second only to Washington.
The last one that I want to cover, also in Point Pleasant, is relatively short and often unnoticed but played a large part in our history. Just south of Pleasant Valley Hospital, in the next little subdivision, is Liberty Street. The patriotic name almost gives it away. During World War Two, this subdivision was laid out and built by the government to support the war effort at the Marietta Manufacturing Company’s shipyard, said to be the largest inland shipyard in the country at the time. Haven’t you ever wondered why nearly every house in that neighborhood looks identical, with only two or three different variations?
Information from the writings of Mildred Gibbs, the 1987 History of Mason County, and various online gazetteers and articles.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.