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55 Chapter Two Defining Craw During the mid-1870s, the streets and alleys of the northwest corner of the city of Frankfort began to differentiate into a neighborhood, a community of people with a distinct sense of place. Its emerging identity exceeded its reputation in the minds of local citizens—this place had a name of its own, used by insiders and outsiders alike. What the newspapers had once called “the lower part of the city” had many names during its brief history: “the Craw,” “Craw,” “Crawfish Bottom,” “Crawdad Bottom,” “the Bottom,” or just “Bottom.” Although the neighborhood never had official civic boundaries and was never separate from the municipal entity called “Frankfort,” its boundaries were nonetheless palpable. Craw’s edges never appeared as borders on maps, and no sign ever appeared saying “You Have Now Entered Craw.” Craw’s boundaries were “folk boundaries,” drawn in the minds of Frankfort’s citizens. The neighborhood’s emerging identity derived from a corpus of knowledge that attached meaning to particular city blocks, distinguishing a few streets and alleys from the rest of Frankfort. In his discussion of a district in north County Louth, Ireland, Arthur Gribben writes, “When an individual’s experience of life in a particular locality becomes encoded by a combination of meaningful landmarks and memorable human events peculiar to that place, that person has achieved a sense of place.”1 The newspaper articles quoted in the preceding pages provide evidence that this neighborhood assumed a potential for containing meanings and memories that evoked a unique sense of place for its inhabitants. But Craw evoked an equally powerful, yet very different sense of place for Frankfort’s citizens who did not live within the confines of the neighborhood. Folklorist Richard Dorson, in examining the link between folkloric expression and place, states that the folk region “lies in the mind 56 CRAWFISH BOTTOM and spirit as much as in physical boundaries.”2 Folklorists interested in the culture of a particular region often focus their attention on the relationships between a geographic location and the traditional, unmediated expressions of its inhabitants, using geographic location as the “primary basis for a shared identity that is expressed in their lore.”3 Such folklorists attempt to understand “sense of place” as a mental construct and as a profound sentiment, both of which arise from and help to form the worldviews of a place’s people. Although Craw was not a region or a city but a neighborhood, the same motives and principles apply to it. In the context of the oral history interview, perceptions of neighborhood borders intertwine with labels that represent a place contained within a remembered space. An examination of the mental maps of former residents and nonresidents of Craw reveals the intangible concept of “a sense of place” and the perceived boundaries framing meaningful memories of the neighborhood. These narratives also document the transmission of knowledge of Craw and its boundaries over time. These oral histories reveal how certain placenames for the neighborhood evolved, the general patterns of usage for them, and how the use of place names encoded some streets and alleys and houses in Frankfort as a community apart, turning them into locales that afforded not only a place to live but also “a sense of place.” “THAT’S WHERE THE NAME CAME FROM” The study of official place names is called onomastics, and its practitioners produce large volumes explaining collections of etymologies and histories of place names. Ronald Baker, a folklorist and expert in place-name legends, wrote in 1972 that place-name scholarship thus far had represented “exercises in lexicography,” focusing mainly on “spelling, pronunciation, origin, and meaning of place names as words.”4 Further, large onomastic studies have tended to concentrate on official place names. “Crawfish Bottom,” “Craw,” and “Bottom ” were never official place names, nor did the neighborhood ever have an official place name, just voting- and census-district numbers. The vernacular names for northwest Frankfort that emerged over time were place nicknames. For this reason a folkloristic approach is particularly useful for analysis in this case, closely attending to emergent folk etymologies and etiological narratives to discover Defining Craw 57 the origins and uses of a neighborhood’s word images of itself, here using both previously printed sources and contemporary interviews. As noted earlier, in the mid-1870s, Frankfort’s newspapers began to move away from the label “the lower part of the city” and to adopt “Crawfish Bottom.” It is unlikely that the neighborhood...


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