What does ''Stony Lonesome'' mean?

There are many roads in New York State called “Stony Lonesome Road” (including one in the town where I grew up, and one in West Point). Now I learn there’s a stream in Alabama, a town in Indiana, a bluegrass band from Minnesota, and a poem by Langston Hughes of the same name. There’s also a novel called The State of Stony Lonesome.

For years I assumed it referred to a sparsely populated place with rocky soil (which describes the area along the Stony Lonesome Road of my hometown). When I searched Google for the phrase, I couldn’t find a definition. I did come up with some sites that seem to imply that it refers to a cemetery (a lonesome place with headstones?), but more that seem to imply that it’s a jail (a lonesome place with stone walls?).

What exactly does it mean, where did it come from, and when was it first used?

Giving this a bump.

Ah, good ol’ Stony.
The lanky son of Gabe and Myrna Lonesome.
Stood exactly five feet tall and weighed in at an impressive 87 pounds.
I went to college with him. A boxer he was. Could barely lift twelve-ounce gloves to protect himself in the ring. Had a cauliflower ear and a nose that pointed that-a-way. Fifteen amateur and thirty seven professional fight, and he never won any of 'em. Could be counted on to drop before the end of the first round. I once actually saw him soil himself when he found out that he had to BACK in the ring for “round two”.

I’ll miss Stony.

Was sucked into a stormdrain one rainy evening and never seen again.
<removes hat and dabs away a tear>

As far as the OP goes, I’ve heard stony lonesome used as a euphemism for prison. Only a few times though; it doesn’t seem to be very common.

Not that The Simpsons is any kind of reputable reference to cite, but I recall one episode where Bart and his friends are playing near the abandoned prison. “Ah, Old Springfield Prison,” Bart says (and I’m paraphrasing; I cannot recall the lines word-for-word), “the Big House, Up the River, the old Stony Lonesome…” He goes on stating all kind of euphemisms for prison for a while.

Doesn’t help explain the roads, streams, and towns using the name though. Maybe there was once a prison or a jail on or near them…?

I’ve also heard stony lonesome used as a euphemism for prison, in sort of an old-fashioned way. Or at least the term seems old-fashioned to me, like maybe turn of the century. I’m guessing places with this name were once associated with prisons some time in the past.

BTW, I think “Stony Lonesome” would make a good name for a thoroughbred race horse.

It’s a good term for getting high alone, too :smiley:

— G. Raven