18 January 2021
At the end of yesterday’s blog post about Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run I explained a local naming convention that’s a mystery to people from other parts of the country. The noun “run” means the act of running or a route taken on a regular basis yet in Pittsburgh it also means “creek.”
A stream is called a “Run” in Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio and western Maryland. Derek Watkins’ map of Generic Terms for Streams in the Contiguous U.S., generated from GNIS data, shows the places where people use different words for Creek including: Branch, fork, run, brook, kill, stream, bayou, swamp, slough, wash, cañada, arroyo, rio. (Click here to see his map.)— from The Rise and Fall of Panther Hollow Lake by Kate St. John
There are other anomalies as well. Hollow, as in Panther Hollow, is our name for a narrow valley. The term is used throughout Appalachia and in places where Appalachians settled later such as the Ozarks, Utah, Texas, and parts of Oregon and Wisconsin(*). Everywhere else out West a narrow valley is a Gulch. Since the West is dry we think gulches are dry, but they don’t have to be.
Here’s Pfly’s map of Hollow in orange versus Gulch in blue.
So a Run in a Hollow could be called a Branch in a Gulch.
Nine Mile Branch in Duck Gulch is pictured at top.
It just doesn’t sound right.
(photo by Kate St. John, maps by Pfly on Flickr, Creative Commons licensing)
p.s. (*) The Hollow vs Gulch map is interesting from a Western migration perspective on places where Appalachians settled later. For instance,
- Utah was settled by Mormons from Upstate New York.
- Parts of Texas were settled by Appalachians looking for more land. For instance, my great-grandparents emigrated from Appalachian Tennessee to northeastern Texas near the town of Paris.
- Southwestern Wisconsin uses both Branch and Hollow, terms from the southern Appalachians. Derek Watkins speculates that this patch may have come from Appalachian in-migration “during a regional lead mining boom in the early 19th century.”