01 February 2012

The Real Nicknames of Guernsey County, #4

You grow up and marry the neighbor kid and then move in or take over an old trailer on your family's land. Then your kids grow up just like you and they marry and move onto the land with you. As a generation passes, you move up into the better trailer or you might even clear off a piece of land and build a little house on it....

There's a family 'round Byesville with the last name Gombeda. I always wondered about the surname. It was unusual in our county—just the one family is named that, far as I knew. So I was looking it up.... Surprisingly, I couldn't find an origin for it. Maybe Italian? Not many Italian Appalachians in Guernsey County, but the Hatfield/McCoy histories have them getting mixed up with rival Italian moonshiners. And, well, Hatfield/McCoy 'R' Us.

An even bigger surprise to me was that Gombeda is so rare a name that only Ohio and Pennsylvania have any more than ten white page listings for it. And it must not be Italian—Jersey only has two. I wonder if the Gombedas I know realize all this....

You have to think that the Gombeda family is partial to nicknaming. Some evidence that comes to mind are Mud Gombeda, Jug Gombeda, and Speed Gombeda.

These boys were given regular names at birth. Mud's name is Daniel. He owns a bar in Byesville.  Jug's name was Ronald; Speed's was Michael. The latter two died young—I don't know why but if I think to find out, I'll do an update. Now, if it weren't in poor taste, I would take bets on whether the boys' nicknames appeared in their obituaries. I know they appeared in their sister's obit—here's what I found in the local paper, from 2009:

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by two brothers, Michael "Speed" and Ronald "Jug" Gombeda. She is survived by seven brothers... [six men's names, with no nicknames noted] and Daniel "Mud" Gombeda of Byesville. 

Did I mention that Mud's bar is called "Mud's"?

'Round back, Mud has a wooden log "flowerbed."

I remember one spring, log flower beds suddenly sprung up in yards all around Byesville. Sometimes there were two or three, if the yard held more than one trailer. One day, driving around, Tice asked if we should get one for our yard and I said, "Uh, no, Dad."


  1. My family name is Germanic and we are originally from a part of Germany that later came under control of what is today the Czech Republic. My "Americanized" name was originally spelled Gombita and was changed after the trip across the pond. Every Gombeda, no matter where they are located, are related. The family split up and went separate ways when they originally came here. Some went to Guernsey County, some went "up North" to the Akron/Canton area. Others went to New Mexico, Alaska, PA and New Jersey. As for me I reside in Guernsey County and I am named after my uncle Ron "Jug" who died at a young age from a blood clot. Michael "Speed" Gombeda was murdered, stabbed 12 times by an ex gf's then bf (he claimed self-defense but 12 times seems a bit excessive for self-defense). Mud Gombeda is actually a twin however him and his brother share separate birthdays (one born before midnight and one after). His twins name is Don/Donnie and his nickname is EggBeg (I do not know why). Originally there were 10 Guernsey County Gombeda siblings however only 6 are currently living. The others are John, Jim, Phillip and my father Dave. By the way the bar you show as being my uncles is not! That bar is called the Cross Roads Tavern. Muds bar was originally the Green Lantern and is now called the Corporation Limit Lounge but everyone calls it Muds. The family also owns a bar in Buckeyeville (Doggtown) called Doggtown or Frannies bar. I really enjoyed your article, thanks for writing it!

    Ronald D. Gombeda
    Cambridge, Ohio

  2. HI, Ron! I'm glad you stopped by again (today, 12/22/13). I'm also glad you enjoyed the post and that you added so much interesting information.

    I knew it was Crossroads Tavern's photo I was using, but I just pulled a representative Guernsey Co bar because I couldn't find a real photo of Mud's. I'd forgotten about the "official" name but I may go find a good picture because Mud's is far more interesting and colorful, as I recall.

    I want to express my condolences for the many losses your family has suffered. I wasn't aware when I first started writing. I've just always had the interesting name Gombeda in my head from my childhood there.

    Please write again if you like, or if you have any details or anecdotes to add. Yours, tapu