Flickr user Jimmy Emerson
Flickr user Jimmy Emerson

8 Towns that are Numbered

Flickr user Jimmy Emerson
Flickr user Jimmy Emerson

Towns with strange names are an opportunity to peek into the past to determine where those names come from. It's also a window into the many marvelous places in the United States, as each community has a story to tell. Here are the stories behind the names of six communities named after numbers.

1. Hundred, West Virginia

Photo credit: Hundred Area Pride.

Hundred, West Virginia was founded by Henry Church, one of its earliest settlers. Church was born in 1750 and was sent to America to help put down the colonies' rebellion. After the Revolutionary War, he elected to stay, and built a cabin in West Virginia along with his new wife, who he met in America. Church stayed at his farm until he died in 1860 at the age of 109 (shortly after his wife died at 106). Locals called this first inhabitant of the area "Old Hundred," and the town took on that name in his honor. The post office was established in 1886, and was named simply Hundred.

2. Fifty-Six, Arkansas

Photo credit:

Fifty-Six is a town of 163 people in Stone County, Arkansas. In the 1920s, Reva Newcomb opened a general store and applied to establish a post office in the community. He requested the name Pleasant Hill, but since that name was already used in Arkansas, the postal service responded by approving his second-choice name, which was Fifty-Six, the number of the school district. Fifty-Six is nestled in the Ozarks, and offers several tourist stops, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns and Mirror Lake.

3. Ninety Six, South Carolina

The town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, dates at least to 1730, the earliest documentation of a general store, which served traders traveling to Cherokee country. The name is thought to have been derived from a surveyor's estimate that the town was 96 miles from Keowee, an important Cherokee community. A fort was built at Ninety Six in 1775 to defend the community from the British. The British took the town, built a new fort in a star shape, and held it until 1781, when they left and burned the community behind them. In 1783, a new Ninety Six was built next to the ruined fort. The location of the original Ninety Six fort and the Star Fort are now designated as a National Historic Site.   

4. Twentysix, Kentucky

Photo credit: Wikipedia user Coal town guy.

Twentysix is an unincorporated community in Morgan County, Kentucky. The story is that the community's first postmaster, Martha Rowland, submitted 25 possible community names, and then jotted down "26," which was the year she submitted the list -1926. The post office was officially established in 1927, and closed in 1957.

5. Eighty Eight, Kentucky

Photo credit: Flickr user Jimmy Emerson.

The town of Eighty-Eight, Kentucky, is in Barren County, near Glasgow. It was named in 1860 by postmaster Dabnie Nunnally, who figured that "88" would be readable even in his own bad handwriting. The number came from the amount of change in his pocket. In the 1948 presidential election, the community reported 88 votes for Truman and 88 votes for Dewey, which earned it a spot in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Photo credit: Donald.

Then in 1988, postmistress Donnie Sue Bacon noticed an increasing number of letters were being sent for the purpose of having them stamped with the Eighty Eight postmark. The community took advantage of the special year and had a celebration on August 8, 1988. A parade (held the day before, as 8/8/88 was a Monday) was led by a child who would turn eight on 8/8/88, and the grand marshall was 88-year-old Eighty-Eight resident Elsie Billingsley. A couple drove in from Wyoming to be married in the community at 8:08 PM on 8/8/88.     

6. Seventy-Six, Kentucky

The town of Seventy-Six, Kentucky, was named for nearby Seventy-Six Falls, on Lake Cumberland. Seventy-Six Falls is actually easier to reach by boat than by road. The number has nothing to do with the height or width of the falls, but was the designation on a surveyor's notes for the nearby station number. The town was settled in 1806 when John W. Semple built a grist mill, and later a general store. The small town thrived for about 100 years, and then began a long decline. The mill burned in 1943, and the area is now a park.

7. Eighty Four, Pennsylvania

Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, is a community of over 600 people about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The community was originally called Smithville, but there was another Smithville in Pennsylvania. The local postmaster selected Eighty Four as a new name because the year was 1884. Or it could have also been named after a local railroad mile marker. Other stories about the name abound, like the one where settlers killed 84 marauding Indians, or that only 84 settlers survived a bad winter. The most likely explanation is the postmaster who "just didn't have a whole lot of imagination." Eighty Four was the birthplace of 84 Lumber, the largest privately-held building materials chain in the U.S.  

8. Sixes, Oregon

Photo credit: Flickr user Larry Myhre.

The town of Sixes, in Curry County, Oregon, is named for the Sixes River. The consensus is that the river was named Sixes as an English corruption of a Native American term, but which was the original term? It may have been "sikhs," meaning "friend," or "Sa-qua-mi," which is thought by some to be the original native name of the river (early maps label it the "Sequalchin River"), or maybe it was "Sik-ses-tene," the name of a local tribe.

See also:
10 Loud Places That Are Actually Nice and Quiet
The Origins of Weird State Park Names
10 Town Names That Will Make You Hungry
and Origins of 8 of the Strangest Place Names in Canada

8 Surprising Uses for Peeps

You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.


Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.


Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)


If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.


With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).


Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.


There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.


We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.


Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family

In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.


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