Many people have played the excellent Carcassonne board game, and some know that its name comes from the walled city of Carcassonne in southern France. Very few know, however, that there is another Carcassonne, and it’s in Kentucky.
The tiny settlement of Carcassonne, Kentucky is located in Letcher County on Elk Creek, and is near the town of Whitesburg. It was established on March 27, 1907 as the Gander post office; local legend says the name came about due to the many wild geese in the area.
Gander remained the settlement’s name until the early 1920s, when a school was established in the area. Local legend again has it that the many cliffs around the school reminded a young teacher so much of the city in France that she successfully petitioned to have the settlement’s name changed to the Carcassonne Community Center. In 1937, the post office as well was officially renamed Carcassonne.
I discovered Kentucky’s Carcassonne quite by accident. Many years ago my family operated a chain of movie theatres, and one of those theatres had been in the small village of Vicco, Kentucky. I couldn’t quite remember where Vicco was located and, while looking over a map, noticed a “Carcassonne” in the area. Since I was making a trip to the region anyway, and my partner is a huge fan of the board game, I decided to have a look and see what exactly was there.
Carcassonne, Kentucky is not easy to find. I drove through the heavily forested area, up and down mountain roads, trying to follow my map, until the still-paved road became barely wider than the rental car I had. I’d have missed the turn, but someone had helpfully spray-painted
on the side of a rock. Following the narrow road up another hill, I came around a curve, and there was the settlement, set in among the cliffs that gave it its name.
It’s not much more than some houses, a small park with nice new playground equipment and a large building. Over the door of that building was a sign: “Carcassonne Community Center”. I almost felt as if I’d found a lost city.
Rennick, Robert M. Kentucky Place Names
. Lexington, Kentucky
: The University of Kentucky