Scaggsville forever Howard County: Newcomers who want to change name place trendiness above tradition.

November 18, 1996

SCAGGSVILLE needs a new name, say people who have moved in recent years to that southeastern Howard County community. However, Marylanders who live in towns named Finksburg, Funkstown and Cavetown must wonder what all the fuss is about. So, too, the folks of Accident, in Garrett County. Or Baltimore's Pigtown. Or Savage, also in Howard County. In the 19th century, Scaggsville was known as Hell's Corner.

Why all the fuss over Scaggsville? Newcomers to the growing area can't bear the thought of a Scaggsville address. That would make them Scaggsvillians -- not a chic identity at cocktail parties attended by Washingtonians and New Yorkers or even Baltimoreans and Annapolitans.

Some newcomers prefer Rocky Gorge, the old name for the nearby T. Howard Duckett Reservoir. But that name does not lend an air of sophistication, either. Other residents prefer North Laurel, a name which usually applies to another community to the east.

The U.S. Postal Service is the only neutral party in this squabble; letters and packages having any of those names will be delivered as long as the proper 20723 ZIP code is included, postal officials say.

Long-time residents, on the other hand, value tradition. The community was named for the Scaggses, an old farming family. But these old-timers, with their modest homes ringed by farmland, are being replaced by residents in subdivisions with prices at $300,000 and above.

The dispute recently spilled into the naming of a new middle school in the area. Newcomers demanded Rocky Gorge Middle. School officials preferred Fairview, a historical name. Murray Hill Middle is the compromise.

Several years ago, the name of another local community was changed: Whiskey Bottom became North Laurel Park, and Whiskey Bottom Elementary became Laurel Woods school. Tradition didn't account for much in that controversy, either. But the argument that the word "whiskey" did not mix with a grade school was potent. Bottom wasn't flattering either.

There is no shame, though, in Scaggsville. Yes, it's a little quirky -- "Savage doesn't sound all that great, either," a Scaggs family member points out -- but that's part of the charm. Scaggsville deserves its place on the map.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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