Selectmen Nix 'Monomoy River'

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: History

Muddy Creek, not the Monomoy River.  SPENCER KENNARD PHOTO

CHATHAM Some matters coming before the board of selectmen are muddy, but not the proposal to rename Muddy Creek as “Monomoy River.” Board members summarily dismissed the idea Tuesday.

The proposal came from Chatham resident George Olmsted, who argued that the name “Muddy Creek” is a poor description for the estuary, which has better water quality and clarity since the installation of the Route 28 bridge. Calling the waterway “Monomoy River” would be more historically sensitive, he added.

Selectmen thanked Olmsted for his extensive research, but rejected his conclusion.

“If we name it 'Monomoy River,' it's just going to be another thing in town that's going to be called 'Monomoy,'” board member Dean Nicastro said. “Perhaps we should consider renaming the town to Monomoyick.”

Selectman Seth Taylor said, based on his personal knowledge of town history, the waterway is rightly called Muddy Creek.

“That's the respect that this town deserves, to keep the names without us doing anything to them to try and gentrify them for some particular reason.”

The name “Monomoy River” was coined by real estate developer Harold Moye in the 1960s for his new subdivision, Riverbay Estates, “as an advertising ploy,” resident Norma Avellar said.

Antique maps expert Bob Zaremba said he pored over maps of Chatham from 1831 to the 1960s, and each one referred to the waterway as “Muddy” creek, river or cove. It is inaccurate to assume that the name is related to changes in water quality after the installation of the dike at Route 28 nearly 100 years ago, he said.

“It was already Muddy Creek at that point,”Zaremba said. Renaming the waterway would contribute to “historical erosion” of town places, he added. “I think place names are just one more part of that history, that we should revere them and be very cautious about what we do with them,” Zaremba said.

Selectmen voted unanimously not to support the name change. Olmsted said since the U.S. Board on Geographic Names will only approve place name changes that are endorsed by local officials, he will not proceed with his request. While he had intended to bring the matter before Harwich selectmen – since Muddy Creek is the border between the two towns – that no longer appears to be necessary.