People following Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew something must be happening. Suddenly tweets tagged to places like Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau in Missouri began to appear on my feed just before Easter. I hadn’t announced the trip ahead of time although I’d been planning it for several weeks.
I’ve been aiding and abetting my wife’s scheme to run a race in all 50 states for quite awhile. Now she wanted to add Missouri, otherwise she’d face an alarmingly obvious Midwestern doughnut hole by the end of the summer. That seemed like a great excuse for me to do some exploring, and I hatched a crazy plan. I had to work most of the week so I’d fly to St. Louis on Friday morning to meet my wife who’d already be there, then we’d drive to Cape Girardeau to be ready for the race the following morning. After the race we’d drive as far as the middle of Ohio, stay overnight, then drive the rest of the way home to Virginia to celebrate Easter with family. A two-day road trip covering a thousand miles (1,600 km) plus a half-marathon, then dealing with dysfunctional relatives? What didn’t sound great about that?
Breaking it Down
The Route. New Counties in Dark Blue
All reservations melted away when I discovered that I could tweak the route and add 19 new counties on Saturday while driving only 20 minutes extra. I could also grab five new Missouri counties on Friday. My county counting list would jump by 24 over the course of a single weekend. I plotted a route on the special Mob Rule page that I use for experiments. Previously unvisited counties appeared on my map in dark blue while those I’d visited before appeared in light blue.
I didn’t have a lot of time to play around so the preponderance of new pickups would have to be Interstate Highway counties. That seemed a fair trade-off. I needed to capture them eventually so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity now. The basic route left Missouri, went over to Interstate 57 in Illinois, then to I-64 crossing Indiana, leading to I-71 in Kentucky and Ohio, then on to I-70 heading east out of Ohio, and finally home.
I also added a couple of new "overnight" counties; Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Muskingum County, Ohio . I considered those new members of the gold standard of county county visits. In my mind, staying overnight added a much higher level of prestige and credibility to a capture than simply crossing the border for literally a few seconds as happened with some of the others. I’ve now completed an overnight in 227 counties. I don’t think I could ever finish that odd quest though. It would take 8.6 years to spend the night in every county if I slept in a different one every night until completed. I’m not nearly that obsessive.
Jogging Not Racing
Jogging to Counties
The racing would take place on Saturday morning on foot. However, that still left plenty of time for jogging, and definitely not the kind on foot. Those involved little jogs that I took as we leveraged our proximity to snag a handful of additional counties. Two of those happened on Friday. With minor detours, really just a couple of miles out of the way, I captured Bollinger and Scott Counties in Missouri. The next day I took a similar short diversion and captured Hamilton County, Illinois. As I said to my son, "it would be a crime to come so close to (Bollinger/Scott/Hamilton) and not cross the border." The family collectively rolled their eyes even though I knew they’d appreciate it someday.
Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the kids participated in this adventure too. They were on spring break from school so mom drove out with them to St. Louis. They took a nice, leisurely route getting there and then they went sightseeing for a few days. Their friends all went to Florida or the Caribbean or Europe, while they had to go county counting in the Heartland. I’m sure their therapist somewhere in the distant future will get an earful. Whatever.
My county counting total stood at 1,390 (or 44.2% of all counties in the United States) as the trip concluded.
Uh Oh, Doughnut Hole
Pulaski County, Illinois – Doughnut Hole
Solving one problem can sometimes create other problems, and that happened here too. My frenzied pace and inability to deviate much from the most efficient route created a clearly visible doughnut hole. Someday, and I don’t know when, I will need to return to this area to cross the border into Pulaski County, Illinois. However, it will have to stand alone at least for the foreseeable future. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll find myself unexpectedly near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers again. I never expected a second opportunity only three years after my original visit to the area. Lightning could strike a third time.
Recently Twelve Mile Circle focused a couple of articles on the boundaries of Virginia’s independent cities. That led loyal reader Scott Surgent to comment on an equally strange situation in Broomfield County, Colorado. I certainly knew about Broomfield because of its status as one of the newest and smallest of U.S. counties. It didn’t exist until 2001 and it covered only 34 square miles (88 square kilometres). I’d even featured it on 12MC before, such as when county counter extraordinaire Fritz Keppler recalled his visit to Broomfield on the first day of its existence. However, I’d never examined its borders before.
Take a look at Broomfield on Mob Rule or Google or even the county’s official street map. The borders seemed nothing if not bizarre. Narrow tendrils extended along roadways or tethered nearly-detached rural acreage. Broomfield included a couple of enclaves of neighboring counties within its body. It also owned a narrow exclave along a major roadway, barely wider than the lanes of traffic itself.
I wondered how this happened. Next I drilled down a little closer into Broomfield’s multiple geo-oddities.
Broomfield as a Municipality
Broomfield’s origin explained its shape. It did not begin as a county, nobody originally envisioned it as a county, and it probably never would have become a county except for its unusual growth near four other counties. The county’s history page said that Broomfield began as a little village around the turn of the last century in the southeastern corner of Boulder County. Construction of the Boulder Turnpike in 1950 offered opportunities for growth. Then the Turnpike Land Company purchased acreage nearby and created a master planned community. Development led to further development and Broomfield continued to expand. It incorporated as a municipality in 1961.
A local publication, the Broomfield Enterprise, commented on the community’s success on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2011. Everything stemmed from bold actions. Broomfield didn’t compete with counties that surrounded it; rather Broomfield competed with nearby municipalities. Both offensive and defensive annexations occurred. Broomfield skillfully grabbed land in favorable locations and blocked other municipalities from doing the same. This led to a crazy patchwork of boundaries typical of many municipalities in the United States.
Broomfield as a County
However, the municipality of Broomfield started to encounter a number of issues as it expanded. Once confined to Boulder County, it eventually flowed into Weld, Adams and Jefferson Counties, too. That meant it had to deal with four different governments, each with its own set of regulations, adjudication, taxation, services and schools. Governance in a quad county town became tedious and difficult.
Fortunately Colorado offered precedence. The state amended its constitution in 1902 to form the consolidated City and County of Denver. Could such a device also work for Broomfield? In 1998, the municipality reviewed the possibility: "Formation of a Broomfield City & County — Is it Feasible?" (pdf). The study concluded favorably. However, implementation required a state constitutional amendment. It also needed to survive a referendum by the citizens of Broomfield. Those steps happened and the municipality of Broomfield became the City and County of Broomfield on November 15, 2001.
Nonetheless, the amendment — Article 20, Sections 10-13 — placed limits on expansion. If froze Broomfield’s existing municipal borders until it could become a county. Afterwards, Broomfield could expand only after approval of a seven-member panel that included voting representatives from the four counties that surrounded it. That effectively cemented the weirdness of Broomfield’s final municipal boundaries into its county boundaries.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Broomfield Border Overview
Borders of Broomfield County
I had a hard time following some of the borders so I drew them out by hand with a wider line. I marked some of the peculiarities with letters. Hopefully that will make it easier to follow along when I show close-up images, below. I started at the top and proceeded clockwise.
(A) Weld County Enclave
Weld County Enclave within Broomfield
There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason for the tiny enclave of Weld County embedded within Broomfield. All I could figure was that maybe the owners of that land didn’t want to belong to Broomfield. In Colorado, local residents needed to vote affirmatively to join a municipality. Somehow this little pocket escaped Broomfield’s clutches as it expanded.
(B) Broomfield’s Eastern Tendril
The Eastern Tendril
The little patch of Broomfield south of W. 152nd Ave. almost qualified as an exclave. I took an optimistic look, hoping it might be true. However, the width of Huron Road extended as a tendril connecting what appeared to be nothing more than an empty field, to the rest of the county. Who knew what future use Broomfield intended for this space? Regardless, Broomfield grabbed it.
(C) Broomfield’s Southwestern Tendril
The Southwestern Tendril
I thought I might have spotted a boundary cross. Upon closer inspection, however, I dispelled that possibility. Broomfield stuck a narrow corridor between Boulder and Jefferson along W. 120th Ave.
(D) Northwest Parkway Corridor
The Confusing Northwest Parkway
I could only describe the Northwest Parkway Corridor as a complete mess. Clearly, Broomfield coveted the parkway as it grew. Maybe if it controlled the parkway it could control access to and from the parkway. Like a castle wall, it could keep other municipalities at bay. However, in the process, it created a confusing situation. It left a section of Boulder connected to its home county by two narrow corridors, along S. 104th St. and U.S. Route 287. It created a Broomfield exclave along the parkway and an adjoining exit ramp. It also created a Boulder enclave within Broomfield, separated from the rest of its home county solely by the width of W. Dillon Road.
(E) The Zigzag
The strangeness of one section of the border between Broomfield and Weld completely confounded me. First, I didn’t know how to describe it. Zigzag seemed to fit, except it formed rectangular lines rather than triangular. Second, why? What purpose would it serve for Broomfield to erect that figurative wall so close to its own border? It didn’t even seem to include anything consequential. Maybe it had something to do with the golf course immediately to the west. I don’t know.
Various saints appeared in recent Twelve Mile Circle articles, most recently On the Feast Day. I didn’t intent to fixate on them. The names of saints, both notable and obscure, kept coming to my attention as I researched other articles. I couldn’t simply ignore them. Take Saint Alban, for instance. Perhaps if I lived in England I might have known something about him. That’s the place where his story began. English explorers, colonists and settlers took his name and spread it wherever they migrated. I saw a town by that name in the United States and I naturally wondered, who was this Saint Alban?
Saint Alban figured prominently in the cast of revered characters of England’s Christians. Many considered him the English protomartyr, the original Christian martyr for the nation. The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban later rose near the site of his martyrdom in Hertfordshire (map). The surrounding town took his name too. However, during the Roman period, somewhere around the third century, they called it Verulamium and they did not tolerate Christians.
Alban sheltered a stranger who happened to be a Christian priest, the legend said. The priest practiced a forbidden faith, an act punishable by death. Alban learned more about the priest’s religion as he hid him from capture, leading to Alban’s conversion to Christianity. Meanwhile the authorities continued searching for the priest so Alban swapped clothes with him so he could escape. This angered the local magistrate who decided to punish Alban the same way he intended to punish the priest. He ordered Alban’s beheading on a hillside just outside of town. Alban became an instant martyr. Even now, 1,700 years later, pilgrims return to the site of St. Alban’s martyrdom, especially on his feast day, June 22.
The story evolved over the centuries, and in reality St. Alban may or may not have actually existed. Nonetheless, that didn’t matter. He meant a lot to Christians in England and his name spread as they sailed around the globe.
Actually, I first noticed the name in West Virginia. St. Albans sat just a few miles west of Charleston on the southern bank of the Kanawha River (map). The town began as Coalsmouth in the late eighteenth century at a place where the Coal River joined the Kanawha, thus at the mouth of Coal. I guess that sounded like an odd name for a town. Coalsmouth got a new name when it incorporated in 1872; "named by the chief counsel of the C&O railroad and close friend and railroad builder Collis P. Huntington, H. C. Parsons, in honor of his hometown in Vermont."
St. Alban made it over to Canada too. There it retained a possessive apostrophe, the Town of St. Alban’s on the island of Newfoundland (map). The original settlers arrived at this spot on the Bay d’Espoir sometime around the middle of the nineteenth century. They called it Ship Cove. However, that caused problems.
… the community’s name was changed in 1915 at the suggestion of parish priest Father Stanislaus St. Croix, in order to avoid confusion with numerous other Ship Coves. The present name of the community honours an English martyr and was chosen to reflect the fact that St. Alban’s is one of the few predominately Roman Catholic communities in Newfoundland where the majority of inhabitants are of English (rather than Irish or French) origin.
Logging once generated most of the jobs in St. Alban’s. Today aquaculture and hydroelectricity fuel its economy.
Another continent, another St. Albans (map). I didn’t find much specific about this particular representation, though. In fact, even the History of St. Albans said,
Surprisingly for a neighbourhood as old and as big as St Albans, there is very little written about its particular history, i.e. its own history as a neighbourhood. This is because it developed across the boundary between Sunshine and Keilor and was thus divided between these two municipalities.
First came a railway station named St. Albans in 1887. The town grew around it after land speculators purchased small farms nearby. One gentleman, Alfred Padley, actively subdivided many of the plots and resold them. His wife, according to the website, had a family link back to the St. Albans in Hertfordshire. Thus the name transferred to the station and to the town.
One publication called St. Albans "the homicide capital of Victoria." It experienced sixteen homicides in two years. There are cities in the United States that probably experience that many homicides in a week. Sixteen — while certainly tragic for those involved — didn’t seem extreme enough to warrant such an onerous label.
St. Albans, New Zealand
I figured I might as well finish my virtual world tour by taking a look at New Zealand. Yes, a St. Albans grew there too, as a suburb of Christchurch. Look at its splendid border. The jagged edge made it appear like somebody tore it from a sheet of paper. I wondered what led to such an unusual shape, seemingly skipping or included houses and businesses at random. Alas, I never found out. However I did discover how it got its name. Apparently, before the town existed, St. Albans was the name of a local farm. The owner, George Dickinson, named it for a cousin. She was Harriet Mellon, the Duchess of St Albans.