In light of the quietly celebrated publication of the 200th issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, I have been pondering the origins of this noble and venerable periodical.
So I went straight to the most authoritative source: Mr. Doug Slocum, Slippery Rock Gazette Founder and former co-owner and President of Braxton-Bragg. I discovered that during his college days, he often imbibed a beverage with the curious name of Slippery Rock. "I always liked the name and I thought it had the right "ole timey" sound when coupled with the word Gazette," Slocum said. The Slippery Rock Gazette certainly has become a bulwark of the Stone Industry, just as visionary Doug Slocum predicted, and passing the milestone of 200 issues while still going strong is clear evidence of this.
But where did the name Slippery Rock originate? This writer, along with Art Director Larry Hood, ventured into the upper northwest region of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to investigate. There we found a charming town which, according to our research, is the only town in the United States to bear this name. But it took some digging into the past to reveal the mystery behind this unusual name.
As far back as the 1700s, Native Americans as well as colonists referred to a small section of a creek, located in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, as the Slippery Rock. It may well be because of a small oil seep at a very specific place in this stream at a common fording location, according to an 1874 geological survey. Another story has it that the creek was named during the French and Indian War. As a British colonial led his forces down an Indian trail, across the creek, a horse fell on a large smooth rock, severely injuring the rider. The soldiers in the party then christened the stream "Slippery Rock."
Another tale attributed the naming of the creek to the Delaware Indians who called the stream "Weschachachapehka:" Slippery Rock.
However, according to William Ralston's Early History Along the Slippery Rock, the name of the stream is derived from the fact that before the advent of the coal mines, the water had a peculiar quality. It had many stone riffles and rocks in its bed in the middle course and these rocks had the quality of collecting slime. Some would hold an inch of it and "sloping ice or soft soap was scarcely as slippery." By the time the first settlers arrived the creek was known as "Slippery Rock." Later a Postal Station was set up in this area, and named after the creek. It was only a matter of time before the village, which grew up there, was named for the Post Office.
However, an anonymously published poem in an old area newspaper (discovered in someone's attic) sheds new light on this enigma:
Young Timothy Jones was a muscular man With big broad shoulders and skin of tan. But this husky fella was just too darned shy To get him a sweetheart afraid to try.
Abagail White was a comely miss Who had reached 20 summers with nary a kiss. She was pretty and witty and healthy and sweet, But never had managed a beau to meet.
One day when Abby for a sweetheart was wishin' She spied young Timothy, at the creek fishin', She gathered her courage, gave her pert head a toss Waded into the creek and started across.
When Tim saw her coming, he wanted to scream But he decided to help her across the stream. Miss Abagail White was thrilled to no end, At last she had found herself a manly friend.
But halfway across the beautiful creek Miss Abagail chose a rock quite sleek On which she stepped, and slipped and fell And went down ker-flop! with a plaintive yell.
Tim Jones picked her up in his big brawny arms And marveled at all of her beautiful charms. The rest you can guess they were married that spring With a big church wedding and a gold wedding ring.
Now long years have passed since that slipping occurred And perhaps this story you never have heard; But to Abagail White goes all honor and fame: It was she who gave Slippery Rock Creek its name.
Like the original editorial letter to a little girl named Virginia published in the New York Sun, yes, there's a Slippery Rock, but sadly I can't find the beer anymore. However, there is an excellent brewpub in Slippery Rock, PA, that does make their own excellent beverage. So if you are so inclined this Octoberfest, raise a glass of your own favorite brew in honor of our humble beginnings.