Since You Asked

On a recent camping trip at the coast, several of us got to wondering if there is any connection between Humbug Mountain on the coast and Humbug Creek in the Applegate Valley. When I got home, I did some research and learned that Humbug Mountain was indeed named for an event, not a person. I couldn't find anything about our local Humbug Creek. Can you help?

— Julie M., Jacksonville

We briefly considered establishing a geographic names division here at SYA, but quickly dropped the notion when we realized we would be competing with Lewis A. and Lewis L. McArthur, the father/son duo whose "Oregon Geographic Names" has been recognized as the ultimate authority on place names hereabouts since it was published in 1928.

"Humbug" has been used since the early 1700s to describe delusion, trickery, cheating, sham or fraud. The best known usage is probably Ebenezer Scrooge's denunciation of Christmas as "humbug!" in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

According to the McArthurs, Humbug Mountain in Curry County earned its name after an early exploring party got lost on the Oregon Coast. Capt. William Tichenor, who sailed the West Coast during the early days of the Gold Rush, sent a party ashore with directions to climb a tall outcrop known as Sugarloaf.

The way Tichenor told the story later, the explorers ignored his instructions and got lost. They had to struggle through dense old-growth forest and thick understory brush to reach the summit, and gave the mountain a new name: "Tichenor's Humbug."

The captain's name eventually fell out of use, but the Humbug part of the name had more staying power.

The McArthurs say our local Humbug Creek was named as the result of a quarrel over the value of a mining claim. It's not hard to imagine how that could have happened.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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