Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A


Mud Creek flows along the Oklawaha Greenway near North Main Street. Mud Creek flows along the Oklawaha Greenway near North Main Street.

Related Stories

If you ask old-timers what Oklawaha means, they'll answer straight away: Mud Creek.

The question came to mind with the news, reported in last week's Hendersonville Lightning, that the Housing Assistance Corp. wants to build an 84-unit development of homes and apartments on land off North Main Street near Mud Creek — literally, one might say, on the banks of the Oklawaha. The development would be called Oklawaha Village.
One way or another, Oklawaha and Oklawaha Village and Mud Creek are going to be in the news as we raise the curtain on 2015. It occurred to us that we could perform a public service by spreading what's known about the word.
We have Frank L. FitzSimons Sr. (1897-1980) to thank for popularizing the name Oklawaha. A Marine Corps veteran of World War I, teacher, Register of Deeds, farmer, Curb Market founder and radio broadcaster, "Mr. Fitz" was known universally in these parts for the broadcasts he made "From the banks of the Oklawaha" and the studio of WHKP. His three-volume collection of the same name is an essential ingredient in the libraries of consumers of history and lore about our corner of Southern Appalachia.
"I think that the name Ochlawaha (also spelled Oklawaha and Okliawhahah) is a pretty name," FitzSimons writes in Chapter 25 in Vol. I. "It is the Cherokee name for the creek that became the first southern and eastern boundary of what is now the city of Hendersonville.
"The Indian name Ochlawaha translated into English means 'slowly moving muddy waters.' When the early settlers began to file into our area, they found it hard to pronounce the name that the Indians called the creek and even harder to spell it, so they began to call the Ochlawaha 'Mud Creek.'
"Before the turn of the century, the name 'Ochlawaha' was very popular in our city and county and was identified with a number of businesses. In 1885 and subsequent years, the leading real estate firm in Hendersonville was the Ochlawaha Land Company."
Around the same time, "A.E. Fletcher was advertising for sale in carload lots grain and baled hay at his Ochlawaha Warehouse in Hendersonville," FitzSimons continued. A popular joke around the potbellied stoves at filling stations was this:
"Do you know why the Ochlawaha always has plenty of money?"
"Because it has a bank on each side of it."
"The name is too pretty to be allowed to vanish," FitzSimons concluded, "and it should be used more often."
So, with gratitude to Mr. FitzSimons, there you have it.
Humble though it is, the Oklawaha is the body of water defines us. It nourishes crops. It floods Greenville Highway. It meanders merrily along, the mother of tributaries like Wash Creek, King Creek and Clear Creek. It feeds the French Broad. It's our Mississippi, writ small and, of course, muddy.