SHOULD BIG MOUNT SAVAGE (PA/MD) BE RENAMED?
There is a movement on to change names of historical sites, both man-made and geographical, to conform to political correctness and the sensitivities of a limited number of people. The following came in my email, with a petition to support the action:
Unknown to most people, there is a mountain named “Negro Mountain” which straddles the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D, Philadelphia) is introducing legislation to change the name.
This made me wonder if two other mountains (and a river) I have researched also have a movement to change their names: Big Savage Mountain, Little Savage Mountain, and Savage River, along the Pennsylvania/Maryland border.
Apparently I’m not the first person to consider this thought:
The Montgomery County school system has voted to ban team nicknames, mascots
and logos with American Indian themes. The Poolesville High Indians had
circled the wagons and voted to keep their mascot. But it didn’t help.
They, too, will be forced to change. More recently the Havre de Grace
Warriors of Harford County announced they will be forming a 12 member panel
to discuss their mascot’s fate (and eventually decided to retain the same.)
It’s with this thought in mind that I think we should be ready if at some
point someone attempts to impose a similar ban on us. Here’s one
The editorial, titled Politically and historically correct, continues: :
Big Savage Mountain, as well as the Savage River, take their names from John
Savage. John was among a group of 17 surveyors sent to the area by the King
of England, George II, in 1736.
Their purpose was to determine the great Northern Neck boundary of Lord
Fairfax’s land and locate the headwaters of the Potomac River. The
expedition, after battling two snowstorms, soon ran out of provisions and at
one point began considering the killing and eating of the most expendable
member of their party.
John Savage, a surveyor whose eyesight was beginning to fail, was the
obvious choice. Some say he even volunteered himself. Fortunately,
provisions arrived just in time from Lord Fairfax (one version says a group
of wild turkeys happened by), and the surveyors, feeling somewhat remorseful
over what they were going to do to their friend, named the “raging river”
flowing near their camp, near present day Bloomington, after their intended
supper; hence the “Savage River.” Eventually, the mountain took the name
from the river and the community at the foot of the mountain took its name,
An English survey team in the mid-1700s lost its way in these isolated hills of the Allegheny Plateau. In desperation and delirium from lack of food, the group made a grisly decision: to eat the weakest members of the party. Rescued before carrying out its act, the thankful group named the mountain after its first intended victim, John Savage.
Big Savage Mountain is a part of the Appalachian Mountain Range that is frequently overlooked. It’s almost hidden in the north-west Maryland panhandle, but is not hard to reach for those who know of it. And it offers a quick retreat for victims of the urban shuffle. Perhaps the visions of hardship that the name suggests keep people away — and its rugged terrain well-deserves the name — but all the better for those seeking solitary refuge.
Occasional panoramic views of the Savage River Watershed to the west and Dans Mountain to the east open up the Big Savage Trail, but most of it meanders through heavy forest. The trail is quite rocky, but some sections cross an old logging road that eases the terrain a little.
As I near the northern end of the Big Savage, I hear the whoops and shrieks of kayakers twisting through slalom gates and punching holes in the rapids. One of the steepest rivers in the world, the flood-controlled Savage River drops 85 feet per mile. When the dam lets loose, water gushes at 1,000 cubic feet per second. The Savage River recently dared the world’s best paddlers to survive its demolition-derby whitewater during the World Slalom Canoe and Kayak Championships.
With calf muscles aching, I sit on the bank and let the roar of whitewater envelop me. I’ll have to come back another day to try the wilder, watery side of Big Savage.**
Many of us do not realize the names of the hills, streams, and mountains came down from these early settlers and Indians. Dan’s Mountain was named after Colonel Cresap’s son. Even though Colonel Cresap had the love and respect of the Indian Chiefs, the young Indians resented the intrusion of the white men. One day young Dan Cresap and a young Indian met at the top of the mountain where they shot it out. Neither was the victor for they killed each other. Wills Mountain also was named after an Indian called “Will”. He and his family, too, refused to go to the west with his tribe, but remained and lived in a cave up in the mountains. A creek was named after him and called “Wills Creek”. Even though the Indian has long passed away, every creek, valley, and mountain reminds us that we are the intruders and a great race has been lost in advancing civilization.***
As we review the origin of the names of places in the United States, must we legislate changing the majority because they are politically incorrect, or they attack the sensibilities of the a few?***
From the first draft of a chapter in my novel, when a group of French émigré, who held deeds to land in Ohio (from the Scioto Associates company in Paris) and traveled to Gallipolis. One, who returned to Philadelphia, told a new émigré about the journey, which included ascending and descending Big Savage Mountain:
“When we left Cumberland we went through a valley leading around the foot of Wills Mountain. We had to ford two streams before ascending Big Savage Mountain. What a difficulty! The two-mile rocky path was very steep. At the summit we were awestruck by the magnificent view of the coming countryside, the beauty of rolling ranges of mountains. Below was the Stony Creek Glades, a valley lying between the Alleghenies and the Laurel Hills.
“Then discouragement truly set in when we realized that we had to cross the mountains beyond on our way to Ohio. We looked down the path descending the western slope of the mountain, and wondered how we would ever reach the bottom safely.
“Although the morning had been relatively cool, the day grew progressively hot. When we reached the mountain top we were in dire need of water, but none could be found except a standing puddle in which the bears wallowed. This caused sickness and fatigue to set in. We were fortunate that Dr. Lemoyne was accompanying us.
“Before descending the mountain we had to repair our damaged wagons. We were tired and our thirst still was not satisfied.
“When the wagons were repaired we managed to descend Big Savage Mountain. It was rugged and at times it was frightening, being so steep we sometimes lost our footing. When we reached the bottom we came to Savage River. We finally had water fit to drink, the first we’d had in over a day. We satisfied our thirst and the horses drank their fill before we located a favorable place to ford the river.
“By now we knew that the best way to ford any stream was at or slightly below the mouth of a tributary, where there was usually a riffle caused by the formation of a bar of sand, gravel, and mud. The crest of this riffle is a very practical spot for fording.
“Some hunters told us that Savage River is broad and deep in the winter. However, we had no problem fording it because it becomes an insignificant stream in the autumn.
“We forded the river…
The editorial continues:
It is for this, what I believe to be historically correct reason, that I now
propose, should it ever become necessary, that the official nickname of the
Mount Savage School Indians be changed to the Mount Savage School
Although I have visions of 500 alumni, students and fans at this summer’s
anniversary celebration chanting “Devour Them, Devour Them,” I’ll leave
speculation on a mascot, logo and other such varied chants of school
support, or past referee and school board decision disapprovals, up to the
My only concern is that we do not run afoul of the Maryland Commission on
Cannibal-American Affairs. As to the “Campers”, well that’s another story.*
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