Room to Grow

On November 29, 2012 · 4 Comments

I got a wake-up call when I went into Google Analytics and took a look at the volume of Twelve Mile Circle readers by metropolitan area. That’s not a tab I normally examine. I’m much more interested in the state and town totals. I was taken aback because it suggested that there were a handful of places where nobody had ever visited 12MC.

12MC Popularity by Metropolitan Area

It seemed confounding, preposterous even, that after five years of running Google Analytics on the site and logging literally hundreds of thousands of visitors, that not a single person had viewed the blog from several locations. Those places appear as the non-shaded spots (completely white) in the screen grab reproduced above. It turned out to be a glitch. I found metropolitan user statistics for all of those areas when I went into the individual state maps and drilled down from there. Apparently Google Analytics didn’t shade places with fewer than a hundred visitors in some instances, although not in all instances, when viewed on its national map. Weird.

12MC has indeed received visitors from every metropolitan area in the United States. Clearly there’s room to grow in several of those places, though. Here are the locations sending fewer than 100 readers over the last five years:

  • Twin Falls ID = 98
  • Lima OH = 93
  • St. Joseph MO = 86
  • Laredo TX = 81
  • Yuma AZ-El Centro CA = 76
  • Meridian MS = 71
  • Greenwood-Greenville MS = 67
  • Alpena MI = 59
  • Zanesville OH = 48
  • North Platte NE = 43
  • Victoria TX = 41
  • Glendive MT = 4

I still can’t explain why some of these areas appear on the Google Analytic U.S. map in the expected manner with properly recorded visits, and others do not.

My mind wandered naturally to the bottom of the list where I noticed Glendive, Montana. Four visits? Really? That’s less than a single visit per year. I dug a little deeper. Three visits came from the town of Glendive proper and landed on my US ferry map, my pathetic Montana counties page, and an account of the sliver of Canada that drains to the Gulf of Mexico. The fourth visitor came from tiny Terry, Montana expressing an interest in river headwaters and sources.

I decided I must know more about Glendive and why it sent so few visitors to the site. First, there’s no truth to the rumor that it attracted my attention because it’s only 100 road miles from Ismay (Joe). That was a happy coincidence. Glendive is a genuine Google mapping anomaly completely on its own. The unit that’s labeled Glendive is quite small considering its geographic placement and the population density is quite low. It is surrounded by much larger geographic units labeled Great Falls, Billings, Rapid City and Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson. Why does Glendive stand on its own amongst those much larger cities and areas.

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As I searched through various maps the closest equivalent I could find to the map used by Anaytics was Nielsen’s Designated Market Areas®. People are probably more familiar with this concept in the form of "Nielsen Ratings" for television and radio programs in the United States. Nielsen divides the U.S. into 210 media markets for purpose of viewer measurements and advertisement rates. I would never claim that Google borrowed Nielsen’s breakouts as the basis for their Analytics tool although there are some striking similarities including the Glendive anomaly.

All kidding aside, if anyone knows of a better source for the Analytics map please let me know in the comments. It seems to make some sense that it’s based roughly on the DMA concept since Google Analytics is designed to measure viewer consumption of a media product too.

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Glendive and its Broadcast Antenna (Lat/Long via FCC website)

The City of Glendive is actually quite large for its rural area with nearly 5,000 residents. On the other hand it’s a very small media market area. In fact it’s dead last, number 210, with only 4,050 households (note: residents vs. households obviously aren’t the same). Glendive is served primarily by Glendive Broadcasting, with an AM station (KXGN), FM station (KDZN), and television station (KXGN) that broadcasts both the CBS and NBC networks on digital channels 5.1 and 5.2 respectively. The larger Glendive area has around 30,000 homes. Glendive Broadcasting notes:

Over 53 years of service to Glendive and the surrounding area… Glendive and Dawson County are the trading nucleus for nine counties of the East-Central border area of Montana and Western North Dakota. One of the richest areas of the state with an income generated by wheat, sugar beets and cattle ranching.

That still doesn’t answer why Glendive has its own media market. I couldn’t find an answer. I’m going to guess that it had something to do with the longevity of television broadcasting in that location combined with a lack of coverage from surrounding areas.

Here’s the best part though. A 30-second advertisement during prime time can be purchased for only $36. Think of the possibilities. I could send the station a homemade 12MC promotional video, run it three times for barely more than a hundred bucks, and probably quadruple the number of Glendive visitors to the website in a single evening!

One Star Many Centers

On November 27, 2012 · Comments Off on One Star Many Centers

I stumbled upon an interesting point as I researched U.S. State Capital Surnames. While Austin, Texas may have been the first and only capital of Texas once it became part of the United States, it was not the original or by any means the only capital of the Republic of Texas. This isn’t the first time I’ve been interesting in roving capitals. The distinction this time is that these towns were national capitals rather than state capitals. This independent nation, albeit short lived, had anywhere between four and eight capitals between 1836 and 1844, depending on how one defines "capital"

Washington-on-the-Brazos (March 1836)

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Washington-on-the-Brazos was not a permanent capital although it is a little more special than some of the other sites that followed, as noted by the Texas State Historical Association’s Texas Almanac. The town holds the distinction of being the "Birthplace of Texas." A convention of delegates met and adopted a Declaration of Independence at this location. March 2, 1836 was the Texas Republic equivalent of July 4, 1776 in the United States.

Washington on the Brazos Independance Hall 02
SOURCE: Runcer, on Flickr; via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

The designation didn’t last long. Delegates toiled quickly, drafting their Declaration along with a Constitution, and then established an interim government that would serve until a proper democratic election could take place. They fled Washington-on-the-Brazos a couple of weeks later, March 17, as the Mexican army advanced upon them.

A replica of the Texas Republic’s Independence Hall can be found today at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site

Capital on the Move (March 1836 – October 1836)

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The tides of war forced the capital, then a concept more than a physical place, to keep one step ahead of General Santa Anna and the Mexican troops. First it moved to Harrisburg. Then it transferred to the steamboat Cayuga for several days. The President and his cabinet didn’t offloaded at Galveston until after the Battle of San Jacinto assured a Texan victory. Next the capital moved to Velasco (now part of Freeport). Santa Anna, then a prisoner, was forced to sign the Treaties of Velasco on May 14 to recognize Texas independence. The capital remained in Velasco through October.

Columbia (October – December 1836)

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Columbia (now West Columbia) is often considered the first "real" capital of the Republic of Texas even though its reign, like the other sites, ended quickly. Three months. However this was the first capital site with an elected government. That simple fact elevates its importance. Here the Congress of the Republic of Texas met for the first time, and here, Sam Houston was inaugurated its first President. It was also here that Stephen F. Austin, who had been appointed to serve as Secretary of State passed away from pneumonia unexpectedly that December.

It was a humble capital. A reproduction of the capitol building standing near the West Columbia City Hall gets that point across rather effectively. An historical marker explains:

About 1833 Leman Kelsy built a story-and-a-half clapboard structure near this location. When Columbia became capital of the Republic of Texas in 1836, the building was one of two which housed the newly formed government. The First Republic of Texas Congress convened in Columbia… The 1900 storm destroyed the original capitol. The replica at this site was built in 1976-77.

The operative phrase is "near this location." The actual location almost became a Walgreens Pharmacy parking lot

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Notice the skinny ribbon with the star in the middle of it along E. Brazos Ave. This is a recognition of recent vintage. Concerned citizens decided that it would be a travesty to pave over a location of such obvious historic importance, the actual site of the original capitol of the Republic of Texas. Their efforts led to the linear-shaped Capitol of Texas Park: "The park includes a walking path with 21 stations, each consisting of a black granite monument depicting the people and events of the early Republic, and a central plaza which is representative of the Seal of the Republic."


The rest of the story is anticlimactic. In December, president Houston moved the capital to Houston which sounds somewhat like a conflict of interest. However two years later a Capital Commission selected a new site at Waterloo, a town soon renamed Austin. It moved briefly back to Houston and finally back to Austin in 1844 where it’s remained ever since.

King of Portmanteau

On November 25, 2012 · 2 Comments

If Portmanteau was a nation, Albert J. Earling would have been its king.

Albert John Earling
Albert J. Earling (1848 – 1925)
SOURCE: Chicago Daily Tribune, November 11, 1925

By now most readers understand Twelve Mile Circle’s fascination with portmanteaus, a birth of creative new words resulting from the smashing together of two or more existing words. Previous articles dealing with this device included Mardela to Delmar and Dueling Portmanteau Placenames.

I am fascinated by Albert J. Earling at the moment although he’s hardly a household name. His primary achievement involved working his way through the ranks of railroading to become president of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad until his retirement in 1919. During his tenure he expanded his railroad from the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, opening a corridor through the Dakotas, Montana, the Idaho panhandle, and through Washington state to terminate at Tacoma in 1909. It would be the last of the great transcontinental railroads constructed.

This route became known as the Milwaukee Road, an engineering achievement still celebrated by railfans such as the Milwaukee Road Historical Association and the Milwaukee Road Archive. Earling favored new technologies too. He electrified more than 500 miles of the line including the first such segment over the Rocky Mountains which allowed his trains to take steeper grades. Later the railroad would add the expansion to its official name by becoming the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, continuing to operate in various forms until around 1980 until it was absorbed into other companies including the Soo Line.

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What does any of this have to do with portmanteaus, you may be wondering? Plenty. There was a reason why this was the last transcontinental route: almost nobody lived out there. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad wished to remain competitive, however the pickings were slim by the time the clock ticked into the Twentieth Century. This railroad didn’t connect a string of existing towns as much as it had to create them along the way and then vigorously promote homesteading in nearly empty quarters such as rural Montana.

All of those dozens of new towns had to be named. According to Earling’s obituary in the November 11, 1925 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune (which is not available on a publicly-accessible website so you’ll have to take my word for it):

Even after he became its president, Mr. Earling continued to keep in touch with details of the road. It is said he would spends nights in the yards, riding switch engines and talking to the men. When the extension was being built Mr. Earling spent weeks on the construction, working night and day watching every detail of line work.

It’s reasonable to assume that Albert Earling had a personal involvement in naming towns along the line given his active role, some of which were portmanteaus influenced by various family members. An excellent map of the new transcontinental route and its various stops can be found on the Portal to Texas History, which seems odd because the railroad never serviced Texas. Whatever. There are several candidates to consider.

Ismay, Montana

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Remember Ismay? It was the town informally named "Joe, Montana" as a publicity stunt that 12MC featured recently. That’s how I discovered the Earling connection. Ismay was reputed to be a portmanteau of Isabella and May, two of Earling’s daughters. There’s only one problem and it’s huge: Albert Earling had only one daughter and her name was Harriet. Some sleuthing on my part did turn up a granddaughter, a child of Albert’s son George Peck Earling, who was named Isabel Mary. She was born in 1903 — a young child during the construction of the railroad expansion — and later living in Washington, DC under her married name Isabel Van Devanter as late as 1940.

Some sources note that Ismay might have been named for the daughters of another railroad official, George R. Peck, who also seemed to be a namesake for Albert’s son George Peck Earling. I did locate Peck in the 1900 Census in Chicago, IL, and he did have daughters named Isabel and Mary (listed as Minnie in other records). It’s even possible that Albert’s son George may have named his daughter for Peck’s two daughters. Given Earling’s personal involvement, and noting other examples, it seems likely that he created the portmanteau to honor both his own granddaughter as well as the two daughters of a close colleague and friend. I think this is why two separate yet plausible histories evolved.

Marmarth North Dakota

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The naming of Marmarth seems more definitive. As noted in Welcome to Historic Marmarth:

With the arrival of the railroad in the fall of 1907, the town of Marmarth was established. By 1908, structures were being built in what is now the City of Marmarth. Marmarth was named for Margaret Martha Fitch, granddaughter of Albert J. Earling, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.

Margaret Martha Fitch, a daughter of Harriet Maud Earling and granddaughter of Albert Earling was born in 1902. She passed away in 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This is why I believe a granddaughter may have figured at least partially into the naming of Ismay too. It’s hard to imagine the President of the railroad naming a town for one granddaughter and not the other when they were both approximately the same age (Martha b. 1902, Isabel b. 1903) and both were young children during construction of the Pacific line.

Alberton, Montana

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Mr. Earling also honored himself with a weaker portmanteau, combining his given name with "town" to create Alberton. He also shared namesake credit here and thus gave credence to what may have been a similar situation in Ismay. As the Town of Alberton explains:

When the Milwaukee railroad established its trans-continental line to the pacific coast, Albert J. Earling chose the route on the north side of the river. The Milwaukee railroad was surveyed in 1907 and was built in 1908-09. The catchy name of the town at that time was Browntown. It was then changed to Alberton, after Alexander Albert who was one of first settlers in this valley. His homestead was south of the river across the natural pier bridge. It was also named after the railroad president, Albert J. Earling.

Earling, Iowa

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This last instance isn’t a portmanteau at all. I just wanted to note that Albert Earling wasn’t beyond having a town named in his personal honor. Earling, Iowa was founded in 1882 while he was still working his way up through the ranks of the railroad hierarchy. With that notch already attained, he had to get much more creative when he became President of the line and needed to craft names for all those other towns.

There might be a couple more Earling portmanteaus along the Milwaukee Road:

  • Maudlow, Montana: Perhaps Albert’s daughter Harriet Maud Earling figures into this?
  • Melstone, Montana: Mel Stone has to be someone?

I conducted a quick search and didn’t find any useful information on those final two possibilities.

Completely Unrelated

We visited the Garden Maze at Luray Caverns on the way back from Thanksgiving on Thursday. I mentioned that location in Hazy Hedge Maze Memories a few months ago. I posted a photo on findery if you’d like to see it from ground level.

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