Origin of name “Pickle Street” remains a central W.Va. mystery

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Editor David Sibray indulges in the tradition of having one’s photo taken at the Pickle Street sign in central W.Va.

Of all the odd community names one finds in West Virginia, Pickle Street may rank among the oddest. Why this hamlet on Leading Creek in Lewis County bears the name “pickle” is as much a mystery as is the term “street.” There is little street-like about scenic U.S. 119, which wanders the valley between Glenville and Weston.

Several obscure theories as to why the community is so-named have been put forth, though none may ring true, and the name origin may remain a mystery.

According to one source, the community may have been named for a muddy track located along the old dirt road that led through the community. According to this tale, wagons bearing supplies from Weston to Glenville would often mire in a particularly huge mud hole there in spring, when the weather is typically its wettest.

Six-horse teams had to be used to pull supplies through, and on one occassion a wagon full of barrels, among which were pickle barrels, lost part of its load while attempting to negotiate the hole. According to this theory, this was how the community earned its name

Another origin was postulated by Maud Harris Eakle, of Fairmont, who lived in Pickle Street when she was a child. She claims the place was named after a jar of pickled beans which she broke over the head of a schoolmate who had “said things about my mother.” This according to the late Jim Comstock, who chronicled such tales.

However, Ella Bailey Warner, who lived in Pickle Street at about the same time as Mrs. Eakle, told Comstock that the place was named by her cousin, Lucinda, after her father, John Clemons, said he was going to plant pickles in his garden patch and have a pickle factory. She noted, Comstock said, that Clemons “did not plant pickles at all, but watermelons, which have been known, by the way, to make pretty good pickles.”

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A fourth origin may be that Pickle had been a surname for an early settler. Pickles Fork, in nearby Braxton County, is the name of a small right-hand tributary of Salt Lick Fork of Little Kanawha River. Pickle Ridge, in Pendleton County, is a short ridge that rises to about 3,000 feet in elevation west of the South Branch of the Potomac.

It’s also been said that “pickles” was another term for “whiskey,” and that the community might have been known as a source for libations.

Perhaps some intrepid genealogist will be able to determine whether any Pickles ever lived in the little valley along Leading Creek.

One of our contributing editors, Jennifer Smith, of Beckley, has suggested that Lewis County might be able to make hay out of staging a “West Virginia Pickle Festival” there.

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