02/03/2013 10:28 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! Champ, Discovers A Nameless Town

Not every place name on the map can be instantly memorable. According to the U.S. Geographic Names Information Service, there's a place called Riverside in 46 of the 50 U.S. states. (Only Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Oklahoma are missing one.) You'll find a Centerville in 45 states, and 43 have a Fairview. But those names seem downright lively and colorful next to perhaps America's least imaginatively named community.

Welcome to Nameless, Tennessee.

*The unincorporated community of Nameless, Tennessee, is located at the top of a ridge along the scenic back roads of Jackson County, a couple miles southwest of the Cumberland River. During its heyday around the turn of the 20th century, Nameless had a population of 250 residents, who sent their children to Nameless Elementary School and mailed letters at the Nameless Post Office.


Photo: Brian Stansberry / Creative Commons

*Local folklore disagrees on how the town got its paradoxical name. Davis Watts, whose family once owned the town's general store, says that residents couldn't agree on a name when they sent Washington, D.C., their application for a post office. Because the "Name" field on the form had been left blank, the form was stamped "Nameless," and the name stuck. In another version, a local official tried to name the town "Morgan," after a Jackson County attorney general, but the name got vetoed by the post office because it was still too closely associated with Confederate war hero John Hunt Morgan. In the resulting standoff, the town stayed "Nameless."

*The author William Least Heat-Moon set part of his 1982 road memoir Blue Highways in Nameless. In the book, Davis Watts's mother, Ginny, tells William that the town's road signs often get stolen by mischief-makers, but defends her home's nameless name. "You think Nameless is a funny name...I see it plain in your eyes. Well, you take yourself up north a piece to Difficult or Defeated or Shake Rag. Now them are silly names."

*Today the school, post office, and general store have long been closed, but there are still a couple hundred Nameless people living in the Nameless area. There's still a Nameless Community Center and a Nameless Volunteer Fire Department. The Watts family has even bought back the old general store and refurbished it into a Nameless museum. The tiny town, it seems, will be Nameless for some time to come.

-- Ken Jennings for Condé Nast Traveler

This story originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveler's website.

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