Monday, August 15, 2016

A Quick Visit to Bug Tussle

This post is yet another entry in the series I'm doing on various places my brother Richard and I visited in July on our annual trip to explore Alabama and family history. I've written about Bessemer and Jasper visits here and here. On Saturday morning after we left Jasper we headed toward our next stop, Colony, a town founded by African Americans just after the Civil War. I'll do a future post on Colony, but now it's Bug Tussle's turn. 

Bug Tussle is in Cullman County at the intersection of state highways 69 and 91. We didn't find much there. The sign below announcing the Bugtussle Steak House was inviting, but the place was closed, as in permanently. We did stop at the Bug Tussle Marketplace, which has a couple of reviews and photographs on Yelp. Google Earth also shows a Dollar General and a few dwellings near the intersection. 

State highway maps list the location as Wilburn (Bug Tussle). Virginia Foscue's Place Names in Alabama indicates Wilburn was the original name of the area, given to it by Charles Sandlin, the first postmaster. A post office operated there from 1903 to 1906. Foscue cites the "general assumption" that Bug Tussle indicates the presence of bugs in the area. However, that pretty much describes all of Alabama.

Note that the address given on the sales receipt below for the marketplace is "Bremen, AL", which is an unincorporated town further north on highway 69 toward Dodge City. Bremen is the location of Cold Springs Elementary and High Schools. According to Foscue, Bremen was originally called Empire when founded in 1860. After his appointment in 1879 the first postmaster James Macentepe changed it to avoid confusion with another town of that name and to honor the German city.  

A 1990 Tuscaloosa News article discussing strange town names in Alabama can be found here. That article gives the origin of Bug Tussle this way: an old man climbed a nearby mountain [perhaps Cold Springs Mountain] and thought the movement of people below looked like bugs tussling. 

Alabama's town is not the only U.S. Bug Tussle. The one in Texas is also spelled as two words, the ones in Kentucky and Oklahoma are one word. On January 4, 1967, a season 5 episode of the Beverly Hillbillies entitled "Mayor of Bug Tussle" was first broadcast. The Clampett's home state was never specified in that series, but in this episode Bug Tussle is identified as their home town.


  1. I remember eating at the Bug Tussle Steakhouse back in the 80's. The rumor I heard about why it closed was because the owner got arrested for cattle wrangling. Apparently he was stealing cows and selling the cooked goods in his restaurant. I remember the ribeye steaks literally hanging over both sides of a large plate. Me and my mom would share a small and still take a lot home with us. My dad would order a large and take most of it home. Great place to eat, great drive to get there.

  2. Thanks for sharing these great stories!

  3. I ordered the Friday night speacial.
    Two 18 oz New York strips steaks for 7.95.
    With salad, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, stuffing, green beans and more.
    The owner came out and asked us how was the dinner.
    I told him it was the best steakhouse in all the world?
    He was proud and said the Alabama football team eats here.
    Simply fabulous........

    1. This was the first time I have ever heard of the big steak if you could eat it all it was free but most had to pay

  4. Went there several times during the 70s and 80's. The last time I ate there was just before a high school basketball play-off game--9our school) Geraldine-vs Cold Springs. Of course the food was delicious--the outcome of the game not so good! Then sadly, it burned to the ground shortly after that. Any chance of reopening someday???

  5. My parents took me to eat at a bbq restaurant there in the 1970's. Can't recall the name of it.

  6. I live 2 or 3 miles from there. The original "Bug Tussle Steakhouse" burnt to the ground in the late 90s, if I remember correct. The newer cafe, came later on. It's been closed for years now. I moved here from Birmingham in '90 or '91. I only ate, at the original spot once or twice. It was good for sure! I was probably 12 or 13. I never heard anything about any cattle wrangling, but Mr. Robbins, the owner of both the restraunt and store next door, was quite a character! He was always nice and cutting up with is kids. I went to high school with his grandaughters. Them was the days... Hope this helps.

  7. Thanks so much for your comments and information!