Buried inside of central North Carolina is a small town named Seagrove. It’s home to about 225 people and is best known for the surprisingly high amount of pottery produced in the area. If you were to draw perimeter encompassing an area approximately 15 square miles around Seagrove, you’d find more than 100 potteries to visit. And some people do, in fact, visit the area for that reason; the local highway, North Carolina Route 705, is often called the “Pottery Highway” and marks what many consider the pottery capital of the world. Everything in the area is focused on pottery; even the Seagrove train station — which stopped providing rail service in 1951 — is now used as a pottery museum.
For Seagrove’s neighboring communities — a collection of a half-dozen unincorporated areas which act like even tinier towns — that should be their claim to fame. There isn’t much else notable about the towns of Star, Erect, Westmoore, Robbins, or Happy Hollow (although Star apparently is the home of the state’s oldest Christmas parade). But that’s because each of those towns put more thought into their name than the final community in the greater-Seagrove area: Whynot.
Yes, “Whynot,” pronounced “Why not,” or, more descriptively, “Why not?” is the name of an actual, unincorporated community in North Carolina. (It’s not technically a “town” but let’s call it one anyway, okay? Thanks!) Only a handful of people live there and there’s not much to do — beyond the pottery shops, the town has a general store and, well, not much else. It was founded by German and English settlers in the late 1700s and while it’s certainly more modern now — there are roads and electricity and the like — it’s hardly a bustling hub of technology and innovation.
And yet, when it came to naming the town, its citizens must have had something better to do. Because, as Jeopardy! Champ Ken Jennings wrote, “it’s probably the world’s only town named out of sheer boredom.” Tammy O’Kelley, the Executive Director of the Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau, explained to Southern Living magazine why that’s true. It turns out that the early residents of the town now called Whynot didn’t initially have any intention of giving their home a name — whybother? — but as the postal service grew, a name became necessary. How else could the mail find its way to this otherwise generic little town in the middle of the state? So one day, the community gathered at the local church with the intent of naming their collective selves.
It didn’t go well. For reasons lost to antiquity, the townsfolk couldn’t decide on a name, and the debate went on for hours. Finally, as O’Kelley told Southern Living, “a frustrated farmer said, ‘Why not name it ‘Why Not’ and then we can go home?” And everyone else agreed.
The town later changed its name slightly, merging the two words into “Whynot,” but still pronouncing it the same way.
From the Archives: Nothing There: Nothing, Arizona, which has something, but only barely.