Illinois Place Name of the Day – Oct. 14, 2008

Cover for Callary: Place Names of Illinois. Click for larger imageLickskillet. Lickskillet is a popular (usually informal) place name, occurring at least a hundred times in the United States. The stories told to explain the name are remarkably similar, usually having to do with the fact that the cook for a construction crew prepared such scanty meals that the men had to “lick the skillet” to survive or that local pets cleaned the plates. Both stories are found in Illinois. Bearsdale in Macon County northwest of Decatur was formerly known as Lickskillet, apparently taking its name from the Lickskillet School, subsequently called the Prairie Center School. How the school came by that name is unknown. Officials of the Illinois Central Railroad thought Lickskillet to be an inappropriate name for the station and changed it to Bearsdale, for site owner Sam Bear. Lickskillet, a now-vanished hamlet near a country store a mile or so northeast of Georgetown in Vermilion County, was reportedly given its name by a local doctor named Hawes who saw “how poor the land was around this store and told the folks at Georgetown that the soil was so poor that not enough food could be raised to ‘lick a skillet.’ Thereafter, whenever Dr. Hawes was called to that area, he would leave word that he was going out to ‘Lickskillet'” (Tuggle, comp., Stories of Historical Days, 16). Centerville in Piatt County came to be known as Lickskillet reportedly because it was the practice of the local innkeeper to invite neighborhood dogs and cats to clean the plates of diners, a story said to have greatly amused Abraham Lincoln (Richmond, Centennial History of Decatur, 97).


From Place Names of Illinois by Edward Callary

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