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Is Nemesis a better name for Negro Mountain?

February 27, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

There seems to be a great debate brewing in Annapolis this year. No, it’s not about jobs, or the economy, or the Maryland debt, or a “right to work” law, or whether we should have a new gasoline tax, but it’s about the name of a mountain.

From Deep Creek Lake, Md., north to the Casselman River in Pennsylvania, there is a 30-mile ridge that stretches along the Allegheny Mountains, which is referred to as Negro Mountain.

It’s difficult to say exactly how Negro Mountain received its name, but there are several stories that can be found in local folklore.

One suggests that an African-American by the name of “Nemesis” or “Goliath” died with a group of white soldiers or settlers during a skirmish with the Indians in that area.

Another suggests that this person by the name of Nemesis was either a slave or scout for Col. Thomas Cresap during the French and Indian conflict in 1756, and was killed by the Indians.
Nemesis’ actions during that battle must have been most heroic or quite exceptional to have a mountain ridge named after his race.

Perhaps he saved Col. Cresap’s life? Or perhaps he killed the most Indians? Or maybe the battle would have been lost without him.

Whatever story you happen to believe as correct, this individual apparently did something very noteworthy.

The only real problem, at least from some viewpoints, is that the mountain is named after his race.
I suspect the notion of naming a mountain after one’s race might be one of those nasty little intriguing semantic mannerisms that existed during that part of our history. Perhaps not.

The name for many years was not deemed disrespectful or inappropriate.

Today, there seems to be some debate about that position.

Now, I personally haven’t done anything great to have a mountain ridge named after me, but I always thought the “knob,” the name for a ridge on the back road of Dargan, was kind of a strange name.

In fact, my great-grandfather, Newton Waters, lived just on the other side of that ridge and farmed some fields in that area.

If someone had decided to rename the “knob” to “White Man’s ridge” in honor of my great-granddad, that would have been a little difficult for me to accept.

But if you really wanted to give my family a little “honor” or “recognition” because of our family’s connection to the ridge, you could call it “Waters Mountain” or “Newton’s Mountain.”

Now that would be, indeed, very nice.

The citizens of Dargan have not elected to consider a name change yet, and probably won’t, although my family’s history on that ridge is obvious.

I’m not going to pursue this matter in the Dargan legislature. Too many people with bigger problems are suffering.

Besides, in the next 100 years or so, everyone will be gone who knows anything about the “knob” or my family’s history. It probably won’t matter a hoot to anyone traveling through Dargan anyway.

On the other hand, Negro Mountain has been around since about 1756 and people drive by that ridge every day.

As some locals suggest, the name might truly represent a tribute and honor to the whole Negro race.
But to others the name of the mountain is objectionable because of some possible historical wounds related to race.

As for me, well, I feel a little sorry for old Nemesis himself. Apparently he was a hero of sorts, who caused someone to pause, out of appreciation, to name a mountain ridge in his honor.

When I drive by that ridge, I’m going to think about old Nemesis, who gave his life defending a bunch of white folks who, in kind gratitude, just happened to remember his race but more importantly forgot his name.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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