What’s in a town name?

north-carolina-apex-clockAs part of my journey to locate gems among small towns, here is another reflection of a community in North Carolina – Apex.   
Sometimes time seems to stand still in small towns where life slows and people enjoy their lives with close-knit communities.
north-carolina-buttercream-bake-shop
Buttercream’s Bake Shop on Salem Street has sweets to enjoy – some of the home town delight.
According to the Apex website, http://www.apexnc.org, and Wikipedia, the early history of Apex stems from a railroad station that was chartered in 1854, although the first train did not pass through town until 1869.
north-carolina-apex-csx-railroad
Railroads such as CSX keep the rail business alive through Apex.
The first settlers came to the area in the 1860s and the town was incorporated in 1873. The town was named Apex because the community was the highest point on the Chatham Railroad between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida.
It’s amazing to me how transportation creates opportunities for communities to develop and influences economic growth.
Apparently the town’s name of Apex was also warranted because water that accumulates on one side of Salem Street flows to the Neuse River while water on the opposite side of the street flows to the Cape Fear River.
A small community developed around the railroad station and the dense forests in the area were cleared for farm land. As one of the first towns to develop around the North Carolina’s state capital of Raleigh, Apex became an active trading and shopping center. Since the train station was located in the heart of a vast pine forest, Apex became a shipping point for such products as lumber, tar and turpentine.  By the turn of the 20th century, the little town of Apex boasted a population of 349.

north-carolina-apex-blistered-pig-and-tobacca-exchange
The Tobacco & Mule Exchange building that houses the Blistered Pig Smokehouse restaurant on Salem Street.

Tobacco farming became an important part of the local economy in the early 1900s when a plant disease forced many tobacco farmers in nearby counties to relocate. Many farmers discovered that the land around Apex produced excellent tobacco crops and decided to move to the area.

The first tobacco auction market in Wake County was established in Apex in 1905.
Based on website information, the town’s early growth was shaped by two disastrous fires in the early 1900s.
In February 1905, a fire destroyed a number of frame commercial buildings in the town.  A second fire in June 1911 destroyed much of the business district, including many of the old frame stores, the Merchants and Farmer’s Bank, and the postmaster’s house.
The fires provided merchants with a strong incentive to replace the old frame structures with fireproof brick buildings.
As the town hall was built to host government and community events the town began growing along with newer structures.  

apex-nc-shops-on-salem-street
Shops along Salem Street offer the quaintness of a small, friendly town.
The population of Apex had grown to 1,000 by 1920, but the tobacco market declined during the 1920s.  By the 1930 census, the population had dropped to 863. The great economic depression of the 1930s hit Apex hard and, by 1934, only 4 train stops were made at the Apex depot.
The town of Apex is still thriving, at least from this travelers perspective.  It provides the flavor of a small, quaint town and is only about 20 minutes drive from the major city of Raleigh.  The website http://www.visitraleigh.com states that Apex is restoring its turn-of-the-century railroad heritage.  In 2015 Apex was also named Money magazine’s Best Place to Live in America,
While the trains still run through Apex, isn’t it evident transportation again impacts small towns and economic growth?  How has transportation impacted your community and do you have some interesting town names?

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