Durham County

Ellerbe vs. Ellerbee: What’s in a name?

Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz

You can now get more local news and commentary on my Facebook page (2,373 followers; send a Friend request). Last week I posted a link to staff writer Virginia Bridges’ story on the West Ellerbee Creek Trail extension with this comment:

“In today’s Herald-Sun: We love the creek, but why does the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association spell it with one “e” at the end the city’s maps and the trusted Gazeteer, a dictionary of Tar Heel Places, spell it “Ellerbee” with two “e’s” at the end? If you know, let us know, and read our story to learn about an open house this weekend at Durham’s newest nature preserve.

Here’s what some of you said.

Steve Harrison: Probably named after Col. W.T. Ellerbe, although his original land holdings were west of Fayetteville.

Edward C. Harrison: There are a number of spellings going back to the 18th century. In her history of Durham County (Duke Univ. Press, 1990), Jean Anderson mentions an early settler, “John Ellerby (Allerby)...[who] may have ...taken up land in present Durham, for Ellerbee Creek may have taken its name from his family.” I tend to prefer the 20th century spelling, “Ellerbe.” I expect that the ECWA can give justification for that usage.

Ted Maynor: A lot of our Durhamites do not realize that this “creek” runs all the way through and UNDER our beautiful city !! I’ve lost a few golf ball in this streem

Chris Weaver: What happens to home values of those living along the route? I sure as hell would not want a 24/7 trail in my back yard.

Sally McIntee: Name spellings for the oldest families in NC seem to vary. Hardy and Hardee, Murphey and Murphy. They didn’t seem to care much when there wasn’t so much written down. Sometimes a change in spelling indicates a family rift, religious, or political estrangement, between brothers. Sometimes names were changed to blend in, or to make it easier to sign documents. I am sure the creek doesn’t care what name is on it.

Mark Schultz is the editor of The Durham News.

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