The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.
– Pierre Bonnard
Before Augusta had subdivisions with nice names, it had neighborhoods with nicknames. They weren’t always sweet.
We had a Pinch Gut. A Shake Rag. A Cow Town.
You almost never hear these names anymore, but 100 years ago if you talked to someone in Augusta about going to Dublin or Lick Skillet, they knew what you meant.
Back in 1946, Mary Carter Winter, one of the Chronicle’s foremost reporters, set out to detail the city’s former neighborhoods, perhaps because many of the old residences had been torn down in the postwar building boom.
Some of the names simply had no geographic boundaries: Foxes Bottom, Splinterville, Goat Hollow, The Island, Gold Dust and Thank God Alley.
Other places – Harrisburg, for example, or The Hill – remain in common use today.
And then there’s Pinch Gut.
Pinch Gut is pretty much what we today call Olde Town. I’ve heard several stories about how Pinch Gut, or “PG,” got its name, but Winter seems to have some documentation. She said that in the 1840s, when Augusta experienced one of its bad floods, residents in the neighborhood down on lower Broad were cut off by rising water and “marooned” without food.
A man on a boat rowing through the soggy neighborhood noticed the hungry look of small children without anything to eat and remarked on their “pinched gut” appearance.
Those people weren’t always hungry, however. Many eventually moved to The Hill. Maybe that explains the long rivalry between boys from the city’s lower section of town and the young men from its highest.
It was perhaps Augusta’s first “gang rivalry,” and Winter says the boys often had fights in which they threw bricks at one another.
Not so with Shake Rag. This was closer to town, roughly bounded by Fifth to Seventh streets and Fenwick down to old Gwinnett Street.
She said that when Hill boys ventured into this community, perhaps to court its girls, they were quickly sent running home by the fierce, young men of Shake Rag – fleeing in such haste that their shirttails came out, “shaking” as they ran away.
Cow Town was over by Magnolia Cemetery, Winter said, where many of the city folks liked to keep cattle – their personal mini-dairies.
The Dublin neighborhood had Augusta’s large Irish population and was roughly around Seventh to Ninth to Fenwick, near what is today’s downtown post office.
Next to it, and heading west, was the community of Canaan. Winter said she had no idea how this promised land got its name, but the late historian Ed Cashin once pointed out that there was a Jewish synagogue on 10th Street.
Frog Hollow was the area around what is now University Hospital. Even today, the water backs up when it rains, and we can see why the frogs would like it.
The Harrisburg section – which today is rather large – used to just be the area to the east of the Augusta Canal, on the downtown side of King Mill.
As for the west side of the canal, opposite Sibley Mill, that was Lick Skillet.
Winter was told that people in that neighborhood were known for a fondness for fishing. After frying them up, they enjoyed it so much they would lick the skillets clean.
What a quirky name for what would become the home of the Kroc Center.