Texas Trails

Clay Coppedge, Southern Livestock Standard

July 8, 2024

When honey and water mix

Some place names are easy to discern. You don’t have to know that Stillhouse Hollow was once a favored site for moonshine stills to make an educated guess that the name has something to do with the brewing of illegal whiskey. Metheglin Creek rises in eastern Coryell County and runs about eight miles into Lake Belton and like any number of Stillhouse Hollows, Moonshine Creeks and Whiskey Rivers, the creek takes its name from a homemade liquor. 

Metheglin is made by boiling a mixture of honey and water and letting it ferment then adding spice to taste. Without the spice, it’s generally called mead and sometimes honey wine. Metheglin was a favored drink of intemperate pioneers, partly because it was easy to make and it packed quite a wallop, or so it was said.

Alexander Dienst, writing in Legends of Texas, tells of an early pioneer in northwest Bell County named Morrison who built his home close to a then-unnamed creek. Morrison’s first name was Horatio but his wife never called him anything except “Honey.” Horatio “Honey” Morrison believed temperance, as a virtue, was way overrated. He made and sold metheglin but he preferred the manufacture and consumption of moonshine whiskey. 

One day his wife asked Honey to fetch a pail of water. Like Jack of Jack and Jill fame, Honey fell down while fetching said pail of water. This created the mixture of “honey” and water used to make metheglin, or mead, depending on your preference. In just such a manner, the creek was named Metheglin Creek. As far as anybody, including J. Frank Dobie, has ever been able to tell, it is the only Metheglin Creek in the country. 

Today, Metheglin Creek slows to a trickle in dry times, but after a good rain runs fast and clear near The Grove, Owl Creek and Moffat, same as it ever did, but now it empties into Lake Belton.

Metheglin, the brew, has also fared well in the intervening years. From being the drink-of-choice for intemperate settlers, it’s now bottled and rhapsodized over like fine wine. Spice— lavender, ginger, mint, lemongrass and cinnamon are some of the most common— is the key to good metheglin. It can be pricey as well as spicy. Reviewers can be as pretentious and pedantic as any wine snob, with lines like “its bold taste is elegant, yet delightfully understated, with vague suggestions of chocolate and an invigorating whiff of mint.” 

While the story of Morrison and his tumble into the creek is the most popular and widely accepted story about how the creek got its name, it’s not the only one. 

Another story, this one passed on some time ago by judge James Kuykendall Evetts, has the creek named for a man and his “honey” riding double on a horse across the creek. The woman fell off the horse and into the creek — another unfortunate intertwining of honey and water. The dunking doused whatever passion the young woman might have had for the man prior to the ill-fated ride but resulted in the naming of the creek. Or so says Evetts. 

If there is a moral to either story and I’m not sure there is, it is that the course of true love, like the course of a creek in a land of unpredictable rainfall, does not always run smoothly.

Southern Livestock

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