Hurricanes often hit the eastern part of the United States, generally on the Atlantic side or the Gulf of Mexico coast. Sometimes they move inland, weakening as they push away from open water although sometimes causing massive flooding. I was pretty sure none of them ever made it all the way to Utah though. Yet, a random Twelve Mile Circle visitor dropped onto the site from the City of Hurricane in Utah and once again I found myself wondering about that odd situation. It had nothing to do with the visitor of course, the ebb and flow of the Intertubes explained all that, instead I wondered why anyone would call a place Hurricane so obviously far removed from the possibility of such a calamity.
Sunrise, Hurricane, Utah by dakman on Flickr (cc)
In 1863 settlers on the Upper Virgin River whose lands were being washed away, made preliminary surveys for irrigating and occupying these lands. Erastus Snow, David H. Cannon and Nephi Johnson came down the hill over an old Indian trail, with a heavy buggy drawn by mules, using ropes to keep it from tipping. A whirlwind took the top off the buggy. Erastus Snow exclaimed, "Well that was a hurricane, we’ll name this hurricane hill." The fault, bench and town were named from this event.
I concluded, a city of fifteen thousand residents got its name from a gust of wind observed by someone who obviously never experienced a real hurricane. Case closed. Can I end the article now?
I did find one fascinating feature, the Hurricane Canal. Southwestern Utah was a harsh, dry landscape not particularly hospitable for farming. Irrigation became a necessity for those early Mormon pioneers. When more people moved into the area they started to envision a canal from the Virgin River as a way to create additional farmland. The men of Hurricane tilled the soil every summer. Then, each winter between 1891 and 1904, they traded farm implements for pickaxes and shovels. By hand, over many years, they dug a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) canal. Their handiwork included twelve tunnels through solid rock. The canal fell into disrepair many years ago although it later became a popular hiking trail maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.
Hurricane, West Virginia
Welcome to Hurricanecc)
West Virginia wasn’t exactly noted for hurricanes either, although the aftermath of such storms occasionally made it that far inland with torrential rains and flooding. Maybe I could cut them some slack. Nonetheless, the origin of this Hurricane was similarly mundane. It did have a famous name attached to it ever so tangentially it so I took some solace.
In 1774 a party of surveyors, commissioned by George Washington, traveled down the Kanawha River until they came upon an area at the mouth of a creek where they found trees all bent in the same direction. They called the location "the place of the hurricane" after discovering the bent trees. The creek became known as Hurricane Creek and by 1811, according to early Virginia maps, the town of Hurricane Bridge appeared…
Its ultimate success came much later, particularly with the construction of Interstate 64 and owing to its ideal spot between the cities of Charleston and Huntington (map). Three thousand people lived there in the 1970’s. More than six thousand people live there today.
There were many more places named Hurricane than I ever expected. Most of them were tiny, insignificant crossroads, like the one in Missouri (map). This one, however, might explain the logic behind several others, so bear with me for awhile. The State Historical Society of Missouri explained,
Hurricane Creek: A large creek in Crooked Creek and Lorance Townships, which flows south and empties into Crooked Creek near Lutesville. It runs with unusual swiftness and violence when a heavy rain falls, making passage across the creek impossible or dangerous. This speed is likened to a storm or hurricane in violence, and hence the stream received this name. It is commonly pronounced “herricane” and is so spelled once in the County Court Record. (Robbins, Wiggs, County Court Records)
The village of Hurricane (map) was named for the creek of the same name that flowed nearby. Let’s keep that in mind.
Hurricane Mills, Tennessee
Hurricane Mills, TN by Brent Moore on Flickr (cc)
I never determined exactly how Hurricane Mills got its name although I devised a theory based upon the previous item. I consulted an 1886 source, Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee that mentioned a local Hurricane Creek.
The county is drained and well watered by numerous. small streams, the prominent ones being Duck and Buffalo Rivers, Tumbling, Hurricane, Blue, Trace, Big and Little Richland, White Oak, Indian and Bear Creeks. Of these Hurricane, White Oak, Big Richland and Blue Creek, furnish excellent water-power for driving machinery.
The same source later referenced "G. W. Hillman’s Hurricane Mills" that was used as a mill for "flour, corn [and a] woolen factory, etc., on Hurricane Creek." These all implied that Hurricane Creek had some power behind it, and I figured it demonstrated the same raging characteristics when flooded as the creek in Missouri. Whatever. That wasn’t even the most interesting feature of Hurricane Mills, the settlement that grew around the mill of the same name.
Hurricane Mills (map) didn’t have any name recognition beyond the local community until the 1960’s when Country Music legend Loretta Lynn bought an old plantation home at that spot for her growing family. She was born into poverty in rural Kentucky during the Great Depression, literally a coal miner’s daughter, and rose to superstardom in a multi-decade career that continues even today. Loretta Lynn’s ranch turned Hurricane Mills into one of Tennessee’s most popular tourist attractions, with several museums, a campground, motocross races and concerts. Some consider it a laid-back Graceland. Loretta Lynn herself performs there several times a year, now well into her eighties. She’s practically a hurricane all on her own.