branchhead n [ branch n 1 + head]
1 The source of a stream, usu including the area, typically low-lying, damp, and heavily overgrown, surrounding it. chiefly S Atl, esp sAL, sGA, nwFL
1670 in 1940 AmSp 15.159 VA, Beginning at a Corner white oak by a Slash or branch hed. 1879 GA Weekly Telegraph & GA Jrl. (Macon) [19 Aug 6]/3 ceGA, Mr. Bridges’ attention was attracted by the flying up of buzzards near a branch-head, and not far from the house. 1882 Pascagoula Democrat–Star (MS) 6 Oct /4, Commencing at the mouth of Old Fort bayou, and thence following along said bayou to the branch head of said bayou and to the old road leading from the branch head of said bayou to the township line. 1889 Atlanta Constitution (GA) 27 Jan 13/1 csGA, If I started rabbit hunting Ponchartrain was dead certain to tree one [=a cat] . . in the persimmon tree down in the branch head. 1913 Pensacola Jrl. (FL) 1 June 7/3, I heard about a big deer that a man saw at a nearby branch-head a few days ago. 1933 Montgomery Advt. (AL) 25 May 9/4 csAL, On a certain Sunday night, it appears, this complainant was escorting his “girl” home from preaching when the “lion” roared in a branch-head nearby. 1940 Times & Democrat (Orangeburg SC) 20 Apr 7/6 neSC, Ross has developed 10 acres of good permanent pasture in a branch-head area. 1959 AL Conserv. 31.1.3, The bottoms and branchheads that the landowners are being asked to leave in hardwoods represent some of the best growing land they own. 1966 DARE (Qu. C1, . . A small stream of water not big enough to be a river) Inf GA4, Creek, branchhead. 1979 Bowden Always Rivers Flow 9 nwFL (as of 1930s–40s), In summer, the Methodists would move their prayer meetings outside under the pines, oaks and sweetgums of the branchhead. 1986Pederson LAGS Concordance (Swamp) 1 inf, cwFL, Branch head—wet and boggy, nothing grows there; (Creek) 2 infs, swGA, nwFL, Branch heads. 2010 Neshoba Democrat (Philadelphia MS) 4 Mar (Internet) sGA, Several branch heads were on our place, and Papa explained that Indians would wait around these branch heads for animals to expose themselves once they had drunk from the stream and moved beyond the protection of the underbrush. 2013 in 2018 DARE File—Internet nwFL, We were sitting on opposite sides of a branch head Monday morning, where the day before I had heard a Buck chasen [sic].
2 By ext: a remote rural area, usu in reference to it as a political force; hence freq in comb branchhead boy a small farmer, usu as a member of a political constituency. Note: This use was popularized, and very likely originated, by James E. “Big Jim” Folsom, a native of Coffee Co. AL, in his 1946 gubernatorial campaign, and subsequently adopted by W. Kerr Scott of NC in his 1948 gubernatorial campaign. chiefly AL, NC Cf wool hat n
1947 Montgomery Advt. (AL) 28 Oct 5/1, Gov. Folsom yesterday said Luverne would be the first stop in his tour of the “branchheads” of the State to see if the people are still behind his program for “mailbox” roads, bigger pensions for the aged and a constitutional convention. 1948 AL Jrl. (Montgomery) 25 May 7/5, It was the opinion of some that the small farmers in the state—who Governor Folsom calls his “branch head boys”—would not take time out to vote for or against him in any event. 1949 Statesville Daily Rec. (NC) 5 Feb 1/7, I settled on the amount after six months of surveying needs, and I think I’m right. Besides, we can’t pass up the the branch-head boys again, as Jim Folsom would say, or they’ll be left with no roads at all. [DARE Ed: Quoting Gov. W. Kerr Scott] 1955 Parris Roaming the Mountains 24 swNC, Some of the branch-head boys were gathered on the porch at Ed Bumgarner’s lodge here in the hills above Wilmot where there is always good talk and good food. 1958 Atlanta Constitution (GA) 17 July 4/2, Taxpayers at the boondocks and branchheads as well as in the cities are getting tired of being “politicked” out of their hard-earned dollars. 1964 Statesville Rec. & Landmark (NC) 14 Mar 5/6, Tart is 33 years old and describes himself as one of the “branch-head” boys. He is the sixth Democrat to enter the race. 1978 Anniston Star (AL) 27 July sec A 5/1, But the Tuscambia attorney [=Howell Heflin] is working the Alabama “branchheads,” the small towns, and working them hard. 1984 Advertiser (Montgomery AL) 10 Feb sec A 18/6, A familiar political tale has an irate neighbor in one of our remote and rarely-visited branchheads protest that his friend has just helped vote into major office a transparent scoundrel. 2000 Asheville Citizen–Times (NC) 7 Jan sec B 5/5, Phipps said she hoped to get some help from the “Branch-Head Boys,” rural politicians who helped elect her grandfather, Kerr Scott, governor.