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Wonder where towns get their names -- like Pickle Street

Bob'n'Along by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

A tiny unincorporated community in western Lewis County owns the distinction of having one of the most unusual names for a place of anywhere in North Central West Virginia -- or perhaps the entire state. The community's name? Pickle Street! It's located on U.S. Route 33 very close to the Lewis-Gilmer county line.

It was mentioned in the book "Lewis County, West Virginia," a pictorial history of old Lewis County, described by the author as "The Crossroads of Central West Virginia." The book was written by Joy Gregoire Gilchrist and her late husband, Charles H. Gilchrist, and published by The Donning Company Publishers of Virginia Beach, Va. The second printing was in 1994.

"So you're from Pickle Street," the author wrote, "and folks will look for a street sign when they come to visit; say you're from Pickle Street and folks will ask how it got its name; say you're from Pickle Street and folks will say, 'I've heard of it.'"

The community has been featured in a number of West Virginia newspapers due to its unique name. But nobody really knows from whence the name came, Mrs. Gilchrist said.

"One story," she wrote, "says it started about 1890 when some schoolgirls, Maud (Harris) Eakle and the Bonnett girls, had an argument. Maud 'flung' her lunch basket at the bonnets of the Bonnets and scattered the remains of her lunch, mostly pickled beans, in the street. The Rinehart boys gave the road the name of 'Pickle Street.'

"Another story says that a local store owner (and sometimes moonshiner) couldn't legally sell his wares, so he kept a jar of pickles on the counter. Patrons would buy a pickle, get a drink for free, and throw the pickle in the street.

"Still a third story says that John Clemans bought property in the area with the intention of planting cucumbers and starting a pickle factory. His niece, Lucinda, suggested the name. Clemans raised pumpkins, but the name stuck."

Mrs. Gilchrist indicated that Pickle Street, or Midway, as it was formerly known, had about 20 families in the early 1990s.

She continued, "At one end of the community is Doyle Chapel Methodist Church; a short distance from the other end is Rock Grove Baptist Church. Services are held in the churches on alternate Sundays, and members attend the one that's open.

"Harnessmaker and cobbler, Julius Stockert, made shoes in his little shop across from his house, in the late 1800s. W.L. Warner and then Bob Lamb had a store in an earlier day. Lamb also sold gas. Both, like storekeepers all over the county, traded goods for fresh eggs, butter, shelled hickory nuts and walnuts, and other farm produce. Lois Summers ran a fabric shop in the 1980s. Today, Carl Peters has an appliance business and Bill Self runs an auction."

In her description of the town, the author wrote that there were several one-room schools in the vicinity. Kayser School was across from Doyle Chapel Church, and Hopewell was up what is now called Sleeth Run. She pointed out, however, that old maps referred to Sleeth Run as "that now unnamed road that went to the Sleeth community near the Conley place on the western end of Pickle Street."

She added that students from these schools, as well as a few of the schools on the Fink, went to high school at Troy (in Gilmer County), rather than at Weston, since it was closer.

So the next time you may have occasion to travel U.S. Route 33 between Weston and Glenville, and you come upon a sign that says "Pickle Street," remember that it is more of a community sign than a "street" sign.

More Bob'n'Along in Friday's Exponent and Telegram.

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