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Tennessee's towns: The story behind our strange titles

By Belinda Barker
On September 27, 2012

 

UTM is currently home to just fewer than 7,800 students who come from 44 states in the US, including Tennessee, and 20 different foreign countries around the world. 

More than 150 of you are from exotic, faraway places from all over the globe. Places such as Jamaica, Indonesia, Slovenia, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Turkey, to name a few. 

But some of you come to UTM from some pretty exotic places right here in Tennessee. Towns with peculiar names like Nameless, Nankipoo, Finger, Flytown, Frog Jump and Paris Towns with names that beg the question, "Why did they name it that?" 

Unfortunately, many of the stories of the origins of these peculiarly named communities have been lost through the years, and residents and historians are left with conflicting legends to consider. 

One such community in Jackson County is called Nameless. Nobody can really agree on the origin of the name, and the story you get depends on whom you ask. In his book "Blue Highways: A Journey into America," William Least Heat-Moon recounts the story he was told during his visit there about how the town got its unlikely name. 

That version of the legend is that the residents of Nameless came up with the name after one of them was reportedly heard saying, "This here's a nameless place if I ever seen one, so let it be." 

Another strangely named town represented by some of you in UTM's student population is Nankipoo in Lauderdale County. 

Again, there are contradictory stories about how this town got its name. 

One story passed down through the generations is that the town was named for an Indian chief who once lived there. Another story is that in the early 1800s a random post office employee filled out a government form to name the town. He had recently seen a play that featured a character named "Nankipoo," and for lack of any other ideas, he decided to name the town after the character. 

Maybe you are one of the UTM students whose hometown is Finger in McNairy County. Although nobody seems to know for certain anymore how Finger got its name, some say it was named for a prominent doctor, Dr. John Finger, who once lived there. 

Another less clear story tells about a group of men standing around a map trying to decide where the county seat would be located, and somehow Finger arose from that discussion. 

Those of you from Flytown can trace the history of your town's name back to its earliest settlers. The origin of the name is well documented in the book "Gibson County: Past and Present," which is a compilation of historical documents and written stories related to the region that have been handed down through the generations. 

The documents in the book state that the first men who settled there were said to have "married the best looking Indian girls of the 'Fly' Indians," and so the town was named for its "Indian ancestry." 

If Frog Jump in Crockett County is your hometown, you likely know by now how your town got its name because locals there seem to agree on one story. Frog Jump is situated between the Forked Deer River and the Black Creek. According to the legend, the frogs were so big they could jump from Black Creek to the River without ever touching the ground, hence, the name. 

Whether from Paris, France, or Paris, Tenn. in Henry County, you are one of the UTM students who calls this campus "home" for at least some period of time during your academic career. You are one of the students who makes "foreign" not so foreign. 


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