Cargile Creek Or is it Cargile? Or Cargyl? Or Gargyl? Or Cargal? Or Cargel?
Some new information, but the waters are still muddy. By Chip Gates, H.O.B.O. Historian
My wife’s grandparents all came from Sicily, and her dad’s father last name was Tamburello. He was able to keep the proper spelling of his surname when he emigrated and settled into his new country. However, for some immigrants, especially those whose English language skills were not good or non-existent, variations in spelling sometimes occurred. Near the southern end of our lake we have our own example of how many ways one can spell a last name.
The story I was first told a few years ago was that there was a man who owned a sizeable amount of property on or near the Coosa River, and this property also bordered both sides of a creek that came to bear his name, Cargile. I use this spelling because I had to start somewhere, and this seems to be the most common spelling today. A 2003 printing of the Lake Mitchell Recreation and Fishing Guide map by Atlantic Mapping, Inc., available at your local WalMart, uses this spelling for the eastern part of the “creek”. This is from about a mile west of G.R.A.C.E.S. Marina, to where it flows into the lake proper. However, if you follow the blue trace on the map as it meanders westward upstream towards its headwaters somewhere near Poplar Springs Road, you find it is also labelled Cargle Creek. Perhaps Atlantic Mapping was unsure and used both spellings, hoping one was correct. The Cargle spelling is also used on the General Highway Map of Chilton County, published by ALDOT in 2012. But before you think this is a recent variation, this same spelling was used on the old map that was featured in the fourth quarter, 2013, Newsletter. Going further back in time, large survey maps of the Duncan’s Riffle Development, kindly provided by George Jackins, use the Cargle spelling. These maps, drawn up in 1918-1919 by Alabama Power Company, are extremely detailed and show the areas to be flooded by the soon-to-be-constructed Mitchell Dam. This should be the end of it, seeing as how these were Alabama Power Company maps. If this was the only variation, life would be less complicated, and we would most likely be on a different topic. But nooo.
A very nice color map I found online and published by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 1911 used the spelling Gargyl Creek. Yes, that’s starting with a “G”, and the remaining letters have a bit of a Scottish influence. Being the Federal Government, and knowing they don’t make mistakes, that should have been the end of it. But no again. By the way, this same map also depicts the Blue Creek Logging (Rail) Road, but that’s another story and I digress.
I know I have seen a map somewhere that used the spelling Cargal. You, too, may have a map or document that has some other variation. With all these maps and competing names, I decided to look to another source. I was able to reach Mr. Bill Tharpe, the Archivist for Alabama Power. I explained my interest, hoping to learn the person’s name who sold the land bordering the creek to Alabama Power. Bill went to work and in just a few days was able to provide not the person’s name but at least some deed information. In 1840 the area was called Calloway Creek. In 1915, Calloway Creek was again found on a deed, but in the same year it was called Cargel’s Creek on a different deed. In 1920 it was referred to as Cargal’s Creek, only to revert to Cargel on a deed in 1921. These last two would have been closest to the proper time frame, because, according to Mr. Tharpe, the dam construction started on August 1, 1921. No doubt all the required land would have been secured way before then, since it had to be cleared before the water started to back up behind the new dam. While you’re considering all this, Bill had one last tidbit to add: there was a deed in 1970 with the spelling Cargyl. This is remarkably close to what was on the 1911 USDA map. How easy it might have been back then for a cartographer to mistake a handwritten “C” for a “G”, or vice versa.
So the search continues. No doubt there are some tax records, or a cemetery, or family history somewhere that will finally lay this question to rest. Perhaps one of our readers can shed some light on this mystery, this tale of variation. Until then, I am reminded of the game show To Tell the Truth which debuted in 1956: “Will the real “Cargile” Creek, please stand up?”
Lake Mitchell HOBO, P.O. Box 1324, Clanton, AL 35046