What's it like living in a town that has Maryland's premier oddball name?
"It's exciting," says Boring Postmaster Mary Jane Pusey.
Boring is exciting?
You bet, say Pusey and others who live in this rural community of 250 souls tucked among gently rolling hills 20 miles northwest of Baltimore.
"It's really fun," says Pusey, 30. "The people here are so varied . . . We've got everything from college professors to decoy carvers."
Boring is one of an unscientific sample of Maryland towns and smaller communities surveyed by The Washington Post in a quest for off-the-wall place names in a state rich in toponymic oddities.
They range from Unicorn, Bivalve and Secretary to Accident, Delight and Crapo--all real places from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
As for Boring, located at the crossing of Old Hanover Road and the Chessie railroad tracks just beyond the reach of Baltimore's suburbs, "it's a pleasure living here," says 77-year-old Alvin Cullison. He's the owner of an old-fashioned general store that shares space with Boring's post office in a cluttered tin-roofed edifice built in 1854. Boring also has a couple of churches and its own volunteer fire department.
"We get ribs about the name all the time," Cullison said, "but I've gotten kind of used to it."
The origin of its name is somewhat less boring than the name itself. The town originally was called Fairview, but according to folks hereabouts, when the post office was established in 1880, postal authorities ordered the town renamed, apparently to avoid confusion with all the other Fairviews in the United States.
"So it was named by the townspeople after the first postmaster here, David J. Boring, in 1880," explained Cullison, himself a postmaster of Boring from 1950 to 1976.
Several other Maryland towns and villages gained their odd names from postal service pressure.
Take Crapo. Originally called Woodlandtown, postal authorities ordered a shorter name 150 years or so ago. According to local accounts in the Dorchester County community on the Eastern Shore, the local postmaster at the time was passing a pond and saw a large toad leap from the bank and blurted something resembling "Crapo!"
Another legend has it that Crapo was derived from crapaud, the French word for toad.
Or take Issue. Originally a small, unnamed settlement in southernmost Charles County, it was designated as a postal town in the 19th century, but a split arose among the townspeople about whether to build the postal facility at the north or south end of town, according to local lore.
The post office finally was built at a compromise location, but because of the controversy, the town took on the name Issue.
Or take Pekin, also known as Nikep, which is PEKIN spelled backwards. In the mountains of Western Maryland in Allegany County, the town originally was called Pekin. "The post office there was closed down some time early this century," says retired local postmaster George Budries, 66, "and when it reopened, they couldn't give it the same name, so they spelled it backwards." Local historians surmise the name was changed to avoid confusion with four other Pekins in Illinois, Indiana, New York and North Dakota.
Librarians, historians, retired postmasters and other chroniclers interviewed across the state cite an additional wealth of weird place names. Some samples:
Accident, a village of 248 in Garrett County in far Western Maryland. County librarian Edith Brock says the name goes back more than 200 years when the county was still being explored.
A property dealer named Deakins received a land grant from King George II and commissioned two separate teams to survey the choicest parcel for development. "By accident," they selected the same spot, Brock says, and the name has stuck ever since.
Gratitide, in Kent County on the Eastern Shore. Now annexed to the Town of Rock Hall, this community originally was named after the S.S. Gratitude, a Chesapeake Bay steamer that landed there to link Pennsylvania Railroad passengers with points at western and more southerly points on the bay, according to old-timers in the area.
Delight, in Baltimore County. Now a cluttered suburban intersection near Reisterstown, this community was named after a lovely wooded area just to the south called Soldiers Delight.
According to biologist and local history buff Elmer Worthley, Soldiers Delight got its name from one of several possible sources. "Some say it goes back to colonial times when soldiers patrolling against Indians found it scenically delightful," he said. "Some say that during the Civil War the ladies of [nearby] Owings Mills brought ice cream to troops resting there. And some say the name is a corruption of the name Siler, a family that once owned the land. Take your pick."
Halfway, in Washington County, so called because it is exactly halfway between the county seat of Hagerstown and the Potomac River town of Williamsport six miles to the south.
Bestpitch, in Dorchester County, named after the Bestpitch family that provided ferry service from Bucktown to Drawbridge across the Transquaking River in the southern swamplands of the county.
Secretary, population 487, also in Dorchester County. The name dates to the first royal land grant in the county in 1661 when owner Lord Henry Sewall of Warwickshire was bestowed various honorific titles, including secretary of the province.
Unicorn, in Queen Anne's County, so named for Unicorn Mills, a large weaving establishment in the area in the 19th century.
Chance, in Somerset County. According to the book "Maryland, a New Guide to the Old Line State," the name may have originated from an early land patent or grant.
Many farms in that then wild and undeveloped area of the Eastern Shore were named "Chance, Folly, Adventure or Hope," says the book, "indicating doubt if not downright pessimism on the part of the patentees."
Bivalve, in Wicomico County. Originally called Waltersville, county histories indicate that in 1887 local functionary James Willing suggested the name be changed to Bivalve because of the town's then thriving oyster industry.
Thus if you're traipsing through Maryland looking for the odd diversion, leave it to Chance or Accident.