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York County authorized to name summit Buzzards Roost

Buzzards Roost in the river hills west of Accomac (1997 Topographic Map)

Such an authorization by an agency of the United States Government happened some 50 years ago.  Local headlines could have been ‘York County authorized to name summit Buzzards Roost.’  A headline would have been warranted because substantial effort is required to obtain approval for a summit name to appear on a USGS Topographic Map.

Names in the United States that are printed on federal maps are determined, under Public Law 80-242, by the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.  This is an agency within the U.S. Geological Survey of the Department of the Interior, and composed of at least one representative from each of the Departments of State, Defense, Post Office, Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, and from the Government Printing Office, and the Library of Congress.


As far as map names go, Buzzards Roost in York County is relatively new.  This named summit in Hellam Township first shows up on the 1964 USGS Topographic Map.  Buzzards Roost was not on the 1956 or earlier topographic maps.  I’m curious who made the application.  I’m also interested in seeing the various statements presenting the case for such a name.  I’ve sent a query to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, when I get a reply, it will be posted.

TRIVIA:  In 1890, the U. S. Board on Geographic Names decided that the final h was to be dropped in the names of all cities and towns ending in burgh.  This included Pittsburgh, although throughout the period 1890-1911 locally the h was retained. In 1911, after protest from citizens who wished to preserve the historic spelling, the United States Board on Geographic Names reversed its decision and restored the h to Pittsburgh.

Government approved     Buzzards Roost summits

The USGS defines a summit as a prominent elevation rising above the surrounding level of the Earth’s surface.  The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has given approval for Buzzards Roost to be used as the name on 13 summits throughout the United States.  York County’s 843-foot Buzzards Roost elevation ranking versus the other summits is shown in this table.  Three-foot elevation Buzzards Roost summits in Florida and Georgia; come on, really!

A search of the Internet reveals many more summits in the United States named Buzzards Roost; these just have not gone through the Government approval process to be listed on federal maps.  One of the more famous is in Georgia.  General Sherman’s Georgia Campaign during the Civil War resulted in the battle and capture of Buzzards Roost at Hovey Gap, Georgia.

Capture of Buzzards Roost at Hovey Gap, Georgia  (Page 216 of ‘The Soldier in Our Civil War’ by Frank Leslie, 1893)  CLICK ON IMAGE FOR GREATER DETAIL

Gibson’s History of York County notes that York County native Dr. William D. Bailey, a surgeon in his regiment, with the rank of major, participated in this battle of Buzzards Roost in Georgia.  Following the Civil War, Dr. Bailey set up a medical practice in Dillsburg and continued to serve that community until his death in 1892.

It is doubtful if there is any connection between the Civil War battle and Buzzards Roost in Hellam Township.  It is a remote possibility that one of Dr. Bailey’s descendants could have lived in that area 50 years ago when the application was made to name the summit Buzzards Roost.  Once I get a reply from my query to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, we’ll know the real story.

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