Friday, April 10, 2009

TARHEEL TRIVIA: Where'd we get that name?

I’m starting a new feature here on my blog. Think I’ll call it Tarheel Trivia. Whenever you see that title, get ready to learn something about my home state!

Fortunately, I have the assistance of my 7th grade Social Studies book! Well actually, I turned that copy in at the end of the school year. Since then, my sister, Jeannie found this one at a yard sale and loaned it to me! I'll start with the term “Tarheels”. (In case you've wondered where the 2009 Basketball Champions got their name?)

It’s like this...

Once upon a time, North Carolina had huge forests of longleaf pines. The pine trees produced sap which could be used to produce turpentine, pitch, rosin, and tar. Making and selling these products for shipbuilding industries was our main industry. (Just ask Mr. Tarheel)

Of course you can’t make tar without stepping in it occasionally. ICK!

Hence our name. North Carolinians have been called tarheels at least since the time of the Civil War. It's that simple. Although, if you're more inclined toward a legendary explanation, will be happy to oblige!

A few related things:

  • The long leaf pine is our state tree.
  • A few North Carolina towns which reflect the long leaf pine influence are Pinehurst, and Pineville, Tarboro, and Southern Pines.
  • We even have a Tar River.

Thankfully, the Tar River is made of water!


  1. Now I know. I've been wondering, particularly last week. Now can someone tell me why we're called Hoosiers? I saw a self-published picture book on the subject that could have been great. But wasn't.
    The area north of Indianapolis where I'm from grew because of the gas boom. Hence, Gas City, Gaston. Weird.

  2. Nathan,

    It appears that the meaning/origin of Hoosier is much less certain than tarheel. Too bad. I was going to suggest that you write a picture book about it. In second person, of course.