Texas Creek Names
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Texas Creek Names
Creeks are little rivers”, said an
old man in a bar. Another said, “Creeks are all big in
Sims Creek, Lampasas County
Actually, a stream, branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, crick, kill, rill, syke, bayou, or run is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and banks. Therefore, a river could be a stream. A branch is defined as a limited part of a larger or more complex unit or system, such as a river which is actually defined as a tributary. A stream is also an umbrella term used in the scientific community for all flowing natural waters, regardless of size. Are you not confused? Well you aren’t alone.
However, in Texas a creek is a body of water
with a current sometimes during the year, that is confined within its bed or
banks and it flows into a larger body of water such as a
a river, lake or
another creek. Sometimes creeks just disappear into the ground. I am presently unaware of any streams in
Where does a bayou fit into this? It is generally agreed that a bayou is a type of creek. A bayou is a marshy, relatively slow-moving, sluggish waterway through lowlands or swamps, which has a slow, almost imperceptible current flow in the southern
I got the idea about this article while driving across
I do know that naming a creek can be requested through the TxDOT. With proof and a district person in the right mood, you may get that sign. (Reminds me of the drivers license or social security office.) During my research, I found that the name of one creek, which will be discussed later, was requested to be changed to what some thought would be the “historically correct name’. After a lengthy period and back and forth communication with TXDOT, the Texas Transportation Commission Board voted for the name change.
Now back to why creeks are named what they are. Why not?
When I started, I had no idea what I was attempting. Lots had been written about
This list that was put together with no bias. Creeks with animal and descriptive names predominate. The following portions of this article discuss the origin of what I feel are some of the more noteworthy creeks. During my trips, I have taken a lot of pictures of the creeks and their sign posts and securitized all aspect of them. I have thus concluded, in the majority of cases, the color and descriptive name does not describe the present day creek Red, blue, white and especially clear descriptors are generally false. Now I have seen areas that are boggy and brushy along creeks with such a name, but that's about it. Even the animal named creeks don’t describe the creek. I have seen no buffalo, mustangs etc, in or along those creeks. Maybe the naming of the creek was for animals that were once found there, but subsequently wiped out by hunters. Of course I can't think of to may people that hunted cows and cats. Location named creeks are generally accurate although the location subject may not be present any more; it was a historic location. Even person named creeks don’t represent the people's names that presently live in the area. Event named creeks are also not representative any more as the event was in the past and transient in nature. And who knows about the Indian named creeks, a translation would be needed to judge their names.
The following portions of this article discuss the origin of what I feel are some of the more noteworthy creeks.
Located in Bell and Williamson Counties, the creek was one known for its alligators. There was even a town located near it named Alligator. Clay Coppedge reported in his article in Texas Escapes, that you won't find any alligators around Alligator, Texas anymore. At one time the prairie around there was thick with wildlife when the first settlers arrived. Alligators, deer, wild turkeys, wolves, bears, buffalos, antelopes, wild horses, ducks, geese and wild hogs were plentiful. It was reported that members of the Santa Fe Expedition, a commercial and military expedition to claim parts of Northern New Mexico trade for Texas in 1841, camped on the San Gabriel River in Williamson County, and amused themselves with shooting some of the numerous alligators that lived along the river. The buffalo and bear were wiped off the landscape by the end of the nineteenth century. The last alligator in Bell County was killed in 1908.
Battle Creek located in Navarro County, is named for “The Battle Creek Fight” that took place on Battle Creek near Dawson, Texas on October 8, 1838. .The fight is also known as the “Surveyor’s Fight”. Historic records estimated an Indian force to have numbered around 300 and included a large number of Kickapoos as well as other groups, including Wacos, Tehuacanas, and Caddoes. About 25 white surveyors, including William Fenner Henderson, Walter Paye Lane and James Smith, took part in the battle, although historians continue to disagree about the number. The surveyors were to map land grants in what is now southern Navarro County for soldiers who had served in the Texas Revolution. It was reported that the Indians, first asked the surveyors to leave and then attacked. The battle lasted 24 hours and about 30 Indians and 18 surveyors were killed. Three of the seven surviving surveyors managed to reach another Kickapoo camp where they reported that they had been fighting with different Indians. The Kickapoos supplied provisions and a guide for the surveyors to Fort Parker. Several of the surveyors, with a group of about fifty men from Old Franklin, returned to the site of the battle several days later to bury the dead.
Battle Creek located in Van Zandt County is named for an event in 1839. Texas President, Mirabeau B. Lamar, appointed Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston to induce Cherokee Indians in East Texas to give their lands to the Republic of Texas and vacate the country. Instructions to pay the Indians or remove them by force led to two battles, one at the Indian village on the creek.
The creek derives its name from that of the Bidai Indians, an agricultural people, who inhabited northern Grimes and southern Madison counties. The Spanish first identified these people in the early 100's in east Texas. The Bidai's no longer exist as a separate tribe. Reportedly, they were devastated by an epidemic in the late 1700's and most of the survivors were absorbed into the Atakapa and Caddo Indian nations.
The name Calamity Creek in Brewster County is derived from an incident early in this century. An adobe house built near the creek on the Nevill Ranch, about twenty miles south of Alpine, was washed away by a particularly destructive flash flood. At least one source claims that several people were drowned in the flood, but the name Calamity appears to be most closely associated with the destruction of the house.
A book was named after the creek, “Calamity Creek”. It is one of three books in Rainbows Wait For Rain, an epic Western trilogy about Big Bend in the late 1800s by Allan C. Kimball. Woman Hollering Creek and Second Coffee Creek were others.
Cowhouse Creek located in Hamilton and Coryell counties, was named as a result of limestone of the Glen Rose Formation, being resistant to erosion, forming overhanging ledges along the creek where cattle would seek shelter during severe weather. Similarly, it it was told that cattle were found gathering in the bluffs and cliffs for protection from blizzards in the winter
Cryer Creek located in Navarro County near Cryer, Texas, was named for the sound of water flowing over water falls, which early settlers thought sounded like a woman crying.
Keechie Creek, located in Anderson County was named for the Kichai Indians the lived in the area. The Kichai originally were a Caddoan tribe, and their language is closest to that of the Pawnee. The Kichai excelled at farming and hunting. The people's diet consisted of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins, supplemented by buffalo, buffalo, deer, and antelope meat. By the early nineteenth century war and disease had reduced the tribes to approximately fourteen hundred. In 1857 the U.S. government removed some of the Kichai from Texas to Indian Territory along their Trail of Tears. By the late 1860s most of the tribe had merged with the Wichitas and affiliated groups.
Larrison Creek in Madison County, was named after Daniel Larrison, the original grantee of a league of land on the upper creek. Larrison homestead was located on the creek, eight miles east of Madisonville, Texas. Daniel and his wife came to Texas from Mississippi. Around 1821, prior to arriving at the homestead parcel in Madison County, Joseph Larrison stopped for a while in Cherokee County, Texas on the banks of another creek named after him, Larrison Creek. For more information on the Larrison's, see http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txmadiso/larrison.txt
Lucy Creek in Lampasas County appeared as “Delucia Creek” on a 1756 Spanish map based on research of the Harton’s family’s history by Harold Harton who lives on Lucy Creek. Other than the name appearing on a map, he did not know anything else about the origin of the creek’s name. If one is interested in a true story about his family running mustangs to sell to the U.S. Calvary, he wrote an article that was published in the local Lampasas news paper.
The name Lucia presented another problem, since several interpretations exist. A strict Spanish translation is the name Lucy. So did a Spanish explorer name if after a wife, daughter, etc? There is also a Catholic saint named Lucia (the patron saint of those who are blind). And there is a loose translation of the name Lucia meaning light or illumination. I would bet on the later with some connection to the Saint Lucia (blind/light/ illumination), as the Spanish named many creeks after a physical characteristic of the creek and the word “de” means “of”, which make more sense (i.e. of light). Therefore, why wasn’t the creek name “of Light”; only the map makers who first developed the first English maps would know.
Lucy Creek, Lampasas County
Mesmeriser Creek, in Navarro County, was renamed to Post Oak Creek around the time of World War II. Today the two names are interchange, especially on land records.
Local folklore recalls: that an old man living on the creek South of Corsicana came up with the idea of domesticating the buffalo by a very novel way. During the early 1800’s great herds of buffalo could be seen on the open prairies of Navarro County. His idea was to go among a herd of buffalo until they became accustomed to him and then impound a certain number in a large pen which he had built on the above mentioned creek. The old man was a great believer in mesmerism and he felt sure that his powers were such he could, by this mesmerism, tame the buffalo to where he could milk them or work them to a plow or wagon. The old man apparently constructed a stockade and the early settlers say that he managed to get some buffalos within this stockade. However, either the log stockade was not sufficiently strong or his power of mesmerization were weak, for the herd of buffalo proceeded to tear down the logs and go about their way despite all his effort to the contrary. The scattered logs remained for many years until hauled away for fire wood. It was reported that the old man died, some saying as a result of the buffalo stampede. Land deeds in the Court House still refer to this creek as "Mesmeriser's Creek.".
Peach Creek, located in Montgomery County, was originally named Pete’s Creek. Local folklore tells of a wild steer named Peter that wondered the area along the creek harassing all that ventured into his sight. As happens so many times, the actual name was lost/changed as the years when by and the area was developed. Several other Peach Creeks are located in Colorado, Matagorda, Gonzalez and Wharton counties and named for peach trees growing in the vicinity.
Although no one knows exactly how Scalp Creek in Menard County came by its name, several stories circulate locally about Indian attacks said to have occurred near the creek.
School Creek in Lampasas County appeared as “Esquivel Creek” on a 1756 Spanish map based on research of the Harton’s family’s history by Harold Harton. Esquivel has no Spanish translation, but is a surname in Spain. In fact several Spanish conquistadors that searched for El Dorado had that that name in the 1500’s. The name School Creek may have come from a bad translation of Esquivel which was thought to be “escuela” which means school. Alternatively, the name Esquivel may have just been dropped by the Texas settlers in favor of a place name for a school built along the creek in the late1800’s. The school served as Baptist Church (named School Creek Baptist Church) starting in 1879 (Lampasas Historic Markers).
School Creek, Lampasas County
The creek got its name for the sulphur content and thus its odor in Lampasas County in the town of Lampasas. The major sources of water are springs (Gold, Hanna, Gooch and Hancock springs) originating from faulting and fractures in the Permian sediments that crop out in and in the vicinity of Lampasas. Initially the Indians used the creek water for medicine and later so did the white man starting with the Spanish in the 1700’s. In 1853 it is reported that Moses Hughes (one of the first settlers to the area) brought his ailing wife to the springs for treatment and settled in the area. Within three weeks of their arrival, his wife had recovered, and the fame of the springs spread across the countryside. Hughes was followed by many more settlers. A recreational resort taking advantage of sulphur water from the creek was built in the 1880’s and operated till near the turn of the century when it burned down. Today the creek is one of the attractions of Hancock Park along with a municipal swimming pool that is fed by Hancock Spring (70 gallons per second) before empting into the creek.
Sulphur Creek, Lampas as County
The stream was probably named for James B. Wood, since it cuts through land to which he acquired title in 1835. (Hand Book of Texas Online).
Woods Creek, Polk County
Village creek located in Tarrant County was named after a series of Caddo Cherokee, and Tonkawa Indian villages located along the creek. The creek could have been named Battle Creek, after a running gun fight that occurred May 24, 1841 between the Indians and the Republic of Texas. Based on Texas Handbook Online article, “As frictions increased between settlers and Indians, the government of the Republic of Texas authorized a number of punitive raids against the Village Creek settlements. Two such expeditions launched in 1838 failed to locate the towns but did cause the Indians to intensify their raids of frontier settlements. In 1841 Gen. Edward H. Tarrant, in response to increased Indian raids, organized a company of some sixty-nine volunteers from the Red River counties, which rode into the Cross Timbers on May 14 and the next day captured a lone Indian, who revealed the exact locations of the Village Creek settlements. The following day the company galloped into the southernmost village with little opposition. Captains John B. Denton, Henry B. Stout and James G. Bourland then led scouting detachments down the creek toward the Trinity River; the remainder of the command burned huts. The Texan scouts encountered increasingly larger villages and stronger Indian resistance as they rode along the creek. Near the thickets bordering the Trinity River, Indian musketry killed Denton and wounded Captain Stout. The Texans were routed. Tarrant, learning from the prisoners that the villages were home to over 1,000 warriors, decided to withdraw. Captain Denton was the only Texan fatality, although eight other militiamen were wounded. At least twelve Indians died, and scores had been wounded. The engagement along the banks of Village Creek had also compromised the Indians' formerly secure position. In July 1841 Tarrant returned with 400 men but found the villages deserted. In September 1843 a treaty between the Village Creek tribes and the republic opened the region to settlement and removed the Indians to a reservation on the upper Brazos River.” The treaty was the Bird’s Fort Treaty.
Village Creek, Hardin County, Texas
(Photo from Hickory Hill Bed and Breakfast)
Woman Hollering Creek at its best known location, crosses southward under Interstate Highway 10 just east of San Antonio, Texas in Bexar County near Randolph Air Force Base. Some researchers have stated that the term "Woman Hollering" is a very loose translation from Spanish. The is a legend told to children in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S known as “La Llorona”; loosely translated as "the weeping woman" or "she who weeps". However there would have to be some mix up to confuse the Spanish interpretation of "the weeping woman” with “yelling/hollering woman” (la gritar).
Woman Hollering Creek, Bexar County
Maps dating from the 1830s give the name 'Arroyo de la Llorona' to the stream now known as Woman Hollering Creek. This would seem to give further credibility to the weeping woman origin.
John Troesser (2006) gives a very good discussion of the history of the creek with several alternative origins of the name from his web site contributors. The old folks in the area of the area of the creek have told that the woman "hollering" was actually a pioneer woman who went to the creek to either get water or to wash clothes and was attacked by Indians, thus she "hollered" or yelled for help.
Others have told that Woman Hollering Creek dates back to the period of the Republic of Texas (early 1800,s) where a woman from a local settlement-was kidnapped by Indians, possibly Comanche's. Her husband and other men from the settlement pursued the Indians, but were outnumbered and couldn't rescue the woman. She was raped, tortured, and then murdered on the banks of the creek. The husband and his party could hear her screaming but were unable to help her. Be that as it may, on old Republic-period maps the creek now known as "Woman Hollering Creek" was called "Arroyo de la Llorona."
Another story tells that one day, a woman came to get water at the creek, and saw some approaching Indians, and began yelling a warning, hence the name Woman Hollering Creek. Or perhaps, one of her children fell into the creek, again hollering for help.
According to the Wikippedia On-Line Encyclopedia, a woman who was pregnant drowns her newborn in the river because the father of the child either does not want it, or leaves with a different woman. The woman then screams in anguish from drowning her child. After her death, her spirit would then haunt the location of the drowning and wail in misery.
No matter the exact origin, the emotional screams of the woman can still be heard on occasion as is occasional sightings of the restless woman's spirit.
More recently (2001-2002) the Texas Bigfoot Research Center (TBRC) has suggested screaming sounds in the vicinity of the creek may be due to a Bigfoot type animal that could be related to the Legend of the Converse Werewolf that occurred in the mid 1800,s in Bexar County. The town of Converse is located in the vicinity of the creek near Randolph Air Force Base. Of course this is another legend, which I don’t need to go into as a part of this report. But if you’re interested in nine foot wolf/gorilla type creatures devouring a hunter, be my guest. The TBRC admits that more research is needed.
Others have suggested another, but awkward English translation of "la llorona" as (the moaning woman). A true translation of the moaning woman would be “a mujer de gimiendo”. This interpretation may be the closest to reality and the term “moaning” could fit with any other the stories of the origin from weeping to hollering/yelling. Therefore, I would propose changing the English translation to the “Woman Moaning Creek”.
As a result of the unusual name of the creek, it has caught the attention of two novelist (Sandra Cisneros and Allan C. Kimball ) and a band (.Electric Boy Rangers).
In what has been called a “Hispanic-American Adventure” Sandra Cisneros, wrote a collection of stories in a book called ”Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories”. The initial story takes place in Sequin, Texas, not far from the creek’s actual location. Reviewers have said the creek symbolizes the "road not taken" by staying in an abusive relationship described in the story. The creek's origin is unknown in the story, it is mysterious, and possibly even frightening, as is the road not taken..
The book Woman Hollering Creek is one of three books in Rainbows Wait For Rain, an epic Western trilogy about the Big Bend area of Texas in the late 1800s by Allan C. Kimball.
The creek is the subject of a song by a musical group, “Electric Boy Rangers”. The group states that “On our many trips to the Rio Frio, we crossed that creek (about which Sandra Cisneros has written) called Woman Hollering Creek. Those who pay close attention to the words of the song (and know their Texas geography) might point out that the creek is not actually between “Garner State Park and San Antoine”. The band states that the River Called Woman Hollering should be allowed to wander anywhere throughout the Texas countryside”.
The creek is supposed to have been named on a dark night when Mexicans walking toward it in single file heard the leader make a noise that sounded like a splash. One of the Mexicans behind called, "Es agua?" ("Is it water?"), and the leader replied, "Yo lo digo" ("I say it [is]"). According to another local tradition the creek was named after an incident in which a Mexican soldier who, after receiving no warning by fellow sentinels of an enemy attack, gave the warning himself; when asked who had given the warning, he replied, "Yo lo digo".
Troesser, John; 2006; “Texas Folklore,-Woman Hollering Creek”; Texasescapes.com, Internet Site.
Coppedge, Clay; 2006; “Alligator, Texas”; Texasescapes.com, Internet Site.
Harold Harton, 2008, Personnel communication.
Wikippedia On-Line Encyclopedia; 2007; Hollering Creek”; Wikippedia.com, Internet Site.
Electric Bay Rangers;2007; “Song-River Called Woman Hollering”; Garageband.com Internet Site.
Cisneros Sandra; “Short-story-criticism/woman-hollering-creek-and-other-stories”; enotes.com, Internet Site.
Grimes County Historical Commission, History of Grimes County, Land of Heritage and Progress (Dallas: Taylor, 1982).
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/BB/btb1.html (accessed October 9, 2008).
Handbook of Online; 2008; “Sulphur Creek” tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/ rbshq .html, Internet Site.
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Hickory Hill Bed and Breakfast, s.v. , http://www.hickoryhillbedandbreakfast.com/ (accessed October 10, 2008)
Texas Bigfoot Research Center 1999-2002; Sighting Data Base-Converse Werewolf; Texasbigfoot.com, Internet Site.
Tarpley, Fred, 1980, "1001 Texas Place Names, University of Texas Press, Austin.
Menard County Historical Society, Menard County History-An Anthology (San Angelo: Anchor, 1982).
Mrs. W. A. Roberts, "Frio County Has a Colorful History," Frontier Times, June 1936.
Virginia Madison and Hallie Stillwell, How Come It's Called That? Place Names in the Big Bend Country (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1958).
Lampasas Historic Markers, Churches, (2008), Preservation Lampasas internet Site.