2011 City Guide: Quoz
Q is for quoz, a queer-sounding quartet of letters that, surprisingly, qualifies as a legitimate English word. While hardly quotidian, quoz is more than an unqualified coup in a Scrabble game (twenty points before bonuses).
The word quoz was resurrected from the abandoned quarry of archaic words by William Least Heat-Moon, author of the 1982 classic Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. In 2008 he published Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey, the chronicle of a 16,000-mile road trip he took with his wife, looking for “quoz,” which he defines as “anything strange, incongruous, peculiar, mysterious.” He goes on to add that “every road, every alley, the course of a creek, all are a route to quoz for any traveler willing to question.”
In our neck of the woods questioning travelers will discover a bounty of quoz. Take a good look at a detailed map of WNY like the marvelous New York Atlas & Gazetteer from DeLorme or the old fold-up maps from Marshall Penn-York that show every highway, dirt road, and trickle of water. You’ll find the towns we recognize—Amherst, Lockport, Hamburg, Buffalo and so on—but you’ll also find unfamiliar names that perhaps you’ve never encountered. These just might be quoz.
The Gazetteer map of my hometown of Aurora, for instance, shows the village of East Aurora and the hamlet of West Falls, known to most. But there are four others on that map—Griffins Mills, Jewettville, Blakeley, and Taylorshire—that I would wager are known to only a few. Jewettville, I discovered with a little digging into local lore, was named for Henry Jewett, a horse owner and builder of the “world-famous” one-mile covered track who thought himself important enough that he should have an eponymous town. If you know where to look you can even find vestiges of his old track, and (legend has it) his 1,500-foot-deep well that dispensed curative waters. Griffins Mills, now a collection of 19th century homes surrounding two churches and a cemetery, was where, 200 years ago, Mr. Obadiah Griffin ground great quantities of grain in a mill alongside Cazenovia Creek and established a church that would become a famous stop on the Underground Railroad.
These quoz are fascinating; they are mysteries that, when solved, give us a better understanding of our little part of the world, providing windows onto our landscape and insight into our history. Take West Seneca. You can guess that the hamlet of Gardenville, barely more than a neighborhood but in bold type on the map, is a holdover from the town’s agricultural and horticultural heyday. Likewise its neighboring hamlet Blossom in Elma. But Ebenezer, along Union Road? Any guesses? A visit to the Deer Head Lounge on Clinton Street turned up some armchair historians who informed me that the now-bustling commercial district gets it name from a variety of onion that was a staple crop there a few generations ago.
Quoz can throw you a curveball now and then, making your adventure all the more intriguing. Kaisertown in the southern end of Buffalo may have been settled by the German immigrants who named it, but a field trip to local watering holes convinces you that it’s now a bastion of ethnic Polish pride. Versailles, near Gowanda on Cattaraugus Creek, is hardly the palace its name suggests. In fact it’s just the opposite: An enclave of forlorn homes desperate for repairs. And when you drive to Brooklyn, New York—the one off Route 219 south of Springville—you will find exactly one church, one farmhouse, several acres of corn, and lots of wildlife.
Here, then, is a list of twenty-six possible WNY quoz, from A to Z, with zip codes to help you along. It’s nowhere near a complete list; hopefully it’s just enough to pique your interest.
Ferry Village 14072
Green Acres Valley 14150
Jerusalem Corners 14047
New Oregon 14111
Quaker Town 14167
Uneeda Beach 14131
molyneauX Corners 14094
Yorkshire Corners 14173