“As idyllic as his days in Royston [Georgia] seemed to be, [young Ty Cobb] was always delighted to visit Grandpa Johnnie, the antislavery Reb, in rural Murphy, North Carolina….
“Once, when he was about 11, he accompanied Johnnie Cobb to Asheville, where the ‘squire’ was serving as foreman of the jury in a civil matter, probably a dispute over land. When the verdict was announced by his grandfather, the loser in the case ran up and grabbed Johnnie by the shirt, an act that caused Ty to also come charging out of the audience and attempt to boot the man in the shins. The angry litigant, unaware of what a pair of Cobb-kicked pants might bring one day on the memorabilia market, swatted him away, but when he turned back to Johnnie Cobb the squire had drawn his pistol. ‘Be on your way,’ Ty’s grandpa said, and the man left peaceably.”
— From “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” by Charles Leerhsen (2015)
Nicholas Graham’s revelation of Carrboro’s backstory — how UNC president and chemist Francis P. Venable gratefully handed over title to the town’s name to the way less modest Julian Shakespeare Carr — reminded me of other instances in which North Carolina’s intent to honor the intelligentsia proved challenging:
— Conover is named for the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova.
— Murphy is named for the North Carolina educator Archibald Murphey.
— And the namesake town of the New England writer Oliver Wendell Holmes gets the spelling right — but calls itself (as acknowledged by the Gazetteer with a rare pronunciation tip) Wen-DELL.
Other examples, anyone?
” ‘Manteo to Murphy’ is a phrase often used in reference to the entire east-west width of North Carolina, particularly when describing a phenomenon that touches all regions of the state.
“The phrase was famously applied to the 1876 gubernatorial campaign between Zebulon B. Vance and Supreme Court Justice Thomas Settle Jr., in which Vance’s victory set off ‘rejoicing by Democrats “from Manteo to Murphy.” ‘ This followed from the fact that Vance and Settle had toured the state in a series of debates that resulted in the largest Democratic majority (over 13,000) in any election between 1868 and 1900.
“The phrase is actually a symbolic and not literal rendering of the extreme east-west width of North Carolina, since neither Manteo (Dare County) nor Murphy (Cherokee County) is situated precisely at the state’s borders.”
–– From “Manteo to Murphy” by Wiley J. Williams in NCpedia
A Nexis search of newspapers dating back to 1987 turns up 179 references to “Manteo to Murphy” — but almost twice as many (335) to “Murphy to Manteo.”
What happened? How did this historic expression come to be so often reversed? Did our habit of reading text left to right carry over to the state map? Or is it, as my wife suggests, that “Man-te-o” delivers a “stronger, more musical” ending than “Mur-phy”?