What’s in a name? Conetoe, NC

Conetoe: A small but wonderful community in eastern Edgecombe County, about 6 miles southeast of Tarboro.

First, let’s get the pronunciation correct; it’s cuh-NEAT-uh, according to the NC Gazetteer. Don’t even think about pronouncing it Cone Toe. Ok, I’ll confess, I can’t help but think “Cone Toe” when I see Conetoe. It sure would help if they would revert to the original spelling. What is the source of this town’s unusual name?

The small town of Conetoe was not established until the late 19th century.1 However, its namesake, Conetoe Creek, has a lengthier and more varied history.  According to the NC Gazetteer, Conetoe Creek rises in eastern Edgecombe County and flows generally south, emptying into the Tar River in Pitt County. This named creek “appears in county records as early as 1745.” I don’t have those county records in front of me, so let’s take a look at the cartographic history of the Conetoe place name. Remember, it’s cuh-NEAT-uh.

The first published maps with variant spellings of Conetoe erroneously place the name on Great Contentnea Creek, a tributary of the Neuse River. These maps include Edward Moseley’s map of North Carolina, and Henry Popple’s map of North America, both published in 1733. The Moseley map shows “Conneghta Creek” and the Popple map shows “Coneghta R.” (This is my favorite spelling of the name; it actually looks like it sounds.)

Conneghta (misplaced) on 1733 map

Detail from Edward Moseley’s 1733 map of North Carolina, courtesy of East Carolina University.

William Churton, the preeminent mid-18th century North Carolina surveyor, correctly placed the name “Coneghta Cr”; the creek follows the eastern border of the “Great Coneghta Pocoson”, as shown on the Churton-Collet map of 1770.

Coneghta on 1770 map

Detail from the Churton-Collet map of North Carolina, 1770, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A selection of subsequent maps and their annotations are as follows:

1808 Price-Strother map of NC:  Keneightan Ck.

1833 MacRae-Brazier map of NC: Keneightan Cr.
This label is unchanged on multiple later states of this map, including Samuel Pearce’s 1859 edition.

1857 Cooke map of NC: Congeto Creek (yes, G before E) and Coneeto Swamp
The Cooke map was engraved and printed by J.W. Colton. The Colton firm used the same nomenclature on numerous maps during the following 30 years.

1864 Gilmer map of region: Corntoe Creek. Manuscript map.

1872 Pearce-Williams map of NC: Congeto Swamp; the creek is shown but is not named.

1882 Kerr map of NC: Coneetoe C. Almost there!

1884 Post route map: town of Conetoe, likely its first appearance on a map

1886 Shaffer’s Township Map of North Carolina, town of Conetoe, Coneto Creek and Lower Coneto township.

Conetoe on 1884 map

Detail from 1884 Post Route Map of the States of North Carolina… courtesy of the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Conetoe on 1886 map

Detail from Shaffer’s Township Map of North Carolina, 1886, courtesy of the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The population of Conetoe was numbered at 287 in the year 2013, down substantially from a peak of 365 in the 2000 census. Given that decline, why did I describe it as a wonderful community? Well, that may have been an understatement. If you want proof, please check out these two videos:
Video 1
Video 2

You can read more about the Conetoe Family Life Center on their home page. Would you believe it?! I was saying cuh-NEAT-uh Family Life Center as I typed that. There’s hope for me yet.

For our post next month, you may want to queue up Billy Preston.

References

  1. A very nice and succinct history of Conetoe is available from Daniel Chasse on his blog.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Conetoe, NC

    • Coneghta/Coneeghta/Conetoe/etc is likely Iroquoian/Tuscarora in origin, but the NC Gazetteer does not provide any further information. Of the Contentnea Creek, a nearby tributary of the Neuse River, the NC Gazetteer states, Contentnea is from the Iroquoian/Tuscarora phrase meaning “fish passing by.” Perhaps Coneghta means, “Our fish are bigger than yours.” 😉

        • Tuscarora here..

          Conetoe is Kahténu· (Kanhato) which means sunken pine or otherwise a cypress. Katonah name as a village was relocated with some Tuscarora in NY. The Katenuaka, (People of the sunken cypress) still live within North Carolina today where the language still exist despite the marginalization.

          Contentnea is related by not entirely. it is Kaʔnaháhnu·ʔ which means Cypress Island… Our original homelands along the Neuse.

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