Most people say that Toad Suck, Arkansas in Perry County got it’s name because riverboat crew members would stop at the local tavern and drink until they swelled up like toads but that’s not the truth.
The true story of the origin of Toad Suck, Arkansas is extremely difficult to track down. I am an Arkansas Native and it wasn’t until recently I heard a version of the story that is most likely the truth.
According to the Toad Suck website, “Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River. When the water was too shallow, the captains and their crews tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now span the river. They refreshed themselves at the local tavern. Neighbor folks said, “They sucked on the bottle ’til they swelled up like toads.’ Hence, the name Toad Suck.” -source
This version might be funny to those who like to attend the popular Toad Suck Daze in the Spring each year but, for the residents of Toad Suck and nearby Conway, the truth needs to be told.
Recently, I was discussing this with my friend,Vivian. I told her about what I read on the Toad Suck website and she asked me if I wanted the truth. See, Vivian is a lifelong resident of Conway and a lover of history and all things Arkansas. If anyone knew the truth or where to find it, it would be her.
Vivian told me about a book called “Arkansas Place Names: from Apt to Zinc” By Ernie Deane.”
“Ernest Cecil (Ernie) Deane—journalist, teacher, historian, and folklorist—was best known for his newspaper columns, “The Arkansas Traveler” and “Ozarks Country.” -source
As a teacher of journalism, Mr. Deane often said to his students, “I was trained in the old journalistic school of striving for accuracy, clarity, honesty, courage, fairness, completeness, and timeliness.”–source
Mr. Deane knew how to dig for the truth.
According to his book, the origins of Toad Suck’s name doesn’t have anything to do with riverboat crews, gamblers, and men drinking whiskey until they swelled up like toads or who where sucking on the bottle like a toad.
“A researcher for the U. S. Board on Geological Names, Reston, VA, expressed the following opinion: “The word ‘suck’ is a true generic in its own right and seems to have at least two meanings when used in place names. Its use extends from West Virginia, through Kentucky, Tennessee, to Arkansas. One appears to be used by animals for a water supply. The other meaning of the word applies generally to a constructed area of water in or on the side of a stream. Here it may be somewhat analogous to certain meanings associated with the French word ‘chute.’ The word also appears to have been used for narrow channels between an island and the river’s bank.” -Arkansas Place Names: from Apt to Zinc By Ernie Deane
The water in these narrow channels of the Arkansas River recedes and leaves behind shallow water (or a “suck”) which is an attraction for frogs or toads.
“Toad Suck”…get it?
If you think Toad Suck, Arkansas is alone, well…it’s not.
Suck Creek in Tennessee has the same problem. A person might think that this creek was named because it’s just a terrible creek to float but, as we now know, it was named for the hazards along the creek that posed huge problems for traveling pioneers.
So, the next time you want to laugh at a funny Arkansas town name like Toad Suck, take a minute to think about where that name possibly came from. Chances are, there is a terrific history lesson waiting for you.
Fun Things Near Toad Suck
Toad Suck park is one of the BEST campgrounds in Central Arkansas. Many people consider it their favorite place to camp in Arkansas.
Toad Suck is also known for Toad Suck Daze Festival that happens every spring. (It’s actually in downtown Conway.) Growing up, this was one of my favorite festivals to attend. It usually happened on the weekend of my birthday in May and I loved seeing all the vendors and eating all the wonderful festival food!
If you’re looking for a unique place to eat nearby, look no further than Toad Suck Buck’s! Read all about it here: 10 [UNIQUE] Restaurants in Arkansas that are unforgettable