Ace, I’ve been driving around outside Charlottesville and have noticed some crazy town names. Where do they all come from? Oilville? Dooms?—N. Owta-Towna
N.: First, Ace has a question for you: What is this "outside Charlottesville" of which you speak? You mean there are other places beyond our fair city? Ah, he kids, he kids. Actually, there are a lot more crazily named locations that border Charlottesville than even you, weary traveler, may know about. Of course, there’s nothing quite as exciting as Okahumpka, Florida, or even Possum Grape, Arkansas. But, as you mentioned, Oilville and Dooms certainly make the list.
Oilville was actually named after a sassafrass oil press.
Oilville, a town in Goochland County and less than an hour away from Charlottesville, was actually named after a sassafrass oil press. Personally, Ace thinks, in that case, that the town should have been named "Sassafrass, Virginia," but no one asked him.
As for your other inquiry, Ace can’t even speak about it. He hates to be the voice of Dooms (get it?).
Aside from these, a town called Bumpass, less than 50 miles out of Charlottesville in Louisa County, has a peculiar name—not to mention holds a rather disconcerting memory for Ace. He isn’t one to rehash old affairs, but he will say it involves a chicken coop and an ice cream spoon (two things Bumpass is known for, but which Ace wants nothing to do with—that second time was enough). Named after a local family of the same name in the 1800s, Bumpass actually derives from the French phrase bon pas, which means "swift walker." Ironically, that’s exactly what Ace was after his incident. But again, he’s not saying anything.
Unfortunately, after you finish giggling like a sixth grader over "Bumpass," Virginia’s preoccupation with funny names stops short. You’ve got your Peach Bottom and your Cripple Creek (and is it just Ace or does Esmont sound strangely like the way your nose feels right before you sneeze?), but those are a ways away and sometimes you just need a Quonochontaug, Rhode Island, or a Humptulips, Washington, to get you through the day.
Then again, be glad you don’t live in Yreka Zzyzx, like some in California. When it gets that complicated, something simple like Love (as in Love, Virginia) is all you need.