On Madison County’s coonrod competition

Madison County historian Charlotte Bond explains the origin of the “Coonrod” area of Madison County GA.

“Coonrod, Norcross and Shiloh. These are the names that identified the same little community at the crossroads of Jones Chapel-Shiloh road, Hwy. 174 and the Fort Lamar Road…”

“Coonrod was the more popular name back in the 1920s and ‘30s and old timers still love to call it that. The name always invokes questions about the origin of the name by new comers. They seldom, if ever, get an answer. It took nearly 50 years for me to get the answer. I don’t know the exact year the name originated, but I do know how it came about.”

“There was a rather large country store on the corner of present day Hwy 174 and Jones Chapel-Shiloh road, where our Fire Department now stands. It was owned by John Chapel Tyner and Thomas W. Dean. It operated prior to the Civil War. They had order forms bearing the name Dean & Tyner. One of these was carried by a young soldier, probably as writing paper, into battle and afterwards he wrote a poem on the paper about his fallen comrade and friend.”

“The store became a gathering place for the whole community, but especially the men. They sat around, chewed their tobacco, played checkers, a game of cards and discussed world affairs, i.e., the local gossip. Most of the men were hunters; fox, rabbit, squirrel, dove, opossum and raccoons. They were competitive when it came to their dogs. “My dog can tree a coon quicker than yourn!” The competition spilled over into story telling and the size of their last catch. The competition ran its gamut though, when they started keeping a chart at the store for the one who brought in the longest rod a raccoon.”

“Now if you’re shy or easily embarrassed, don’t read the rest of this story. OK, I warned you!”

“The “rod’’ of the raccoon was his male appendage. It had a small bone that ranged from 2 and a half to 3 inches long with a curved hook on the end. These were measured and the results posted on the chart. I imagine the prize for such a feat was the prestige it brought.”

“Now, if you think these men were a little strange, just hang on! They had a specific use for these little “Coon-rods”. They used them for toothpicks. You can let go now and catch your breath! They were called Arkansas tooth-picks. Why the name? I don’t know. I’m told they made a great tooth-pick because of the curved end that would reach to the back of the tooth.”

“Well, all I can say is, truth is stranger than fiction.”
By Charlotte Bond


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