Hmmm. So You Say That How?

R. Creigh Deeds's name goes back aways in his family. One ancestor, Confederate hero David S. Creigh, was even honored with a poem.
R. Creigh Deeds's name goes back aways in his family. One ancestor, Confederate hero David S. Creigh, was even honored with a poem. (Courtesy Of James Talbert Of The Greenbrier Historical Society)
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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 4, 2009

WARM SPRINGS, Va. -- Anybody can be a Bob.

But for Robert Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, Bob didn't seem to suit. Neither did Bobby, Rob or, for that matter, Robert.

So since the age of 6, when he started school and his family ditched his baby nickname, "Bunky," he's been known to the world by only his middle name: Creigh. (As in Cree. Not Cray. And most definitely not Craig.)

It's a moniker shared by just a few other people in all of Virginia, including at least one woman, and is as deeply rooted in the senator's highlands home as the candidate. It's also a name that has picked up a whole lot more attention since his come-from-behind win in the primary June 9.

"To be honest, he's kind of killed the allure of it," joked Creigh Harris of Virginia Beach, who has had the bizarre experience of watching the name he's fielded questions about all his life become common fare in newspapers and on TV. "It's like Tom, Dick or Harry now."

But what, exactly, is a Creigh?

As a surname, it appears to have come to America attached to two brothers named John and Thomas, who arrived in Pennsylvania from Ireland in the 1760s.

For Deeds, the name came from his grandfather, Austin Creigh Tyree, who once headed the Democratic Party in Deeds's home of Bath County and also went by Creigh. Tyree was named in honor of the most famous Creigh of all, David S. Creigh, a distant relative who gained local fame during the Civil War as "the martyr of Greenbrier County."

A wealthy merchant in Lewisburg, W.Va. -- 50 miles from Deeds's home in the Allegheny Mountains -- David Creigh is said to have come home one day to find a Union soldier looting his home and threatening his family. The two struggled and fell down a flight of stairs, and the soldier ended up dead, shot with his own gun.

Rather than report the incident, Creigh dumped the body down a dry well. But months later, he was turned in to authorities, who marched him 80 miles to Brownsburg, Va., gave him a quick military trial and hanged him, said James Talbert, archivist of the Greenbrier Historical Society.

Creigh was even honored with a poem.

"So woe to those who call evil good -- That woe shall not come to me; War hath no record of fouler deed than the murder of David Creigh," it concludes.

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