For once I wasn’t looking for the geographic center of something, as problematic as that could be given various definitions. Not in Michigan. And for the record, the town of St. Louis claimed to be the "middle of the mitten." It moved to a spot a few miles north-northwest of Cadillac taking the Upper Peninsula into account. However, that was beside the point. Instead I came across two Michigan place names while searching for completely different things. Their similarities deserved closer scrutiny.
Actually I started by investigating Warren, Michigan and I noticed a hole. A big one. A nice rectangle right in the middle of it (map). Naturally I drilled down and discovered the town of Center Line. The much larger city of Warren completely surrounded it. Center Line described itself as "a small close-knit community of 8,257 residents… nestled inside the state’s 3rd largest city"
Warren and Center Line both began as villages in a rural corner of Macomb County. However, Center Line incorporated first, becoming a city in 1936. Warren also started growing rapidly around that same time. Warren Township minus Center Line incorporated as a city in 1957. It simply exploded in population to the point that it completely overshadowed Center Line over the next couple of decades.
I also wondered about the name. There didn’t seem to be any line and it certainly didn’t seem to be the center of anything other than the city of Warren itself, which it predated anyway. The town’s website mentioned "several theories" which also meant nobody really knew the answer. The most plausible explanation seemed to be,
There were three Indian trails leading from the fort at Detroit to other trading posts in the northern wilderness. The first was the river trail which followed the river and ended at Port Huron; the second was the Saginaw trail and ended at Mackinaw at the Straits of Mackinaw. Through the center of the two trails, the Indians had beaten a trail which followed the "center line" [as observed] by the French.
Later I also discovered Michigan Center. Center Line and Michigan Center fell nowhere near each other. A good 85 miles (140 kilometres) separated them. Nonetheless finding a second Center in Michigan excited me. It doesn’t take much to get me going.
The name derived from the Michigan Meridian. Benjamin Hough surveyed the meridian in 1815, marking 84° 21′ 53″ west longitude. Settlers then moved into the area and platted Michigan Center a few years later in 1837. However, the meridian didn’t pass directly through Michigan Center. I measured it. The meridian ran between Michigan Center and the neighboring town of Jackson. I guess they figured it was close enough. Who would really know? Seriously.
Then I went down a little tangent. I wondered why Hough followed such an odd longitude when he surveyed the Michigan Meridian. The line actually pointed farther south into a neighboring state. There stood Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers (map). A town called Defiance, Ohio later grew up there.
Following the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne utilized Fort Defiance as his base of operations. He ordered the destruction of all American Indian villages and crops within a fifty-mile radius of the fort… Until the War of 1812, Fort Defiance served as one of America’s western-most outposts in the Ohio Country and helped protect local citizens from American Indian attacks…
Fort Defiance also figured in the 1807 Treaty of Detroit. The United States negotiated the treaty with several Native American tribes, namely the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandot. Land to the east of a line drawn due north of Fort Defiance came under American control. That’s why Hough needed to survey that line. It served briefly as an international boundary.
It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and I’m feeling a bit lazy. I think I’ll just ramble on for awhile instead of writing a real article. Those of you reading from countries without a similar holday may not understand much about Thanksgiving. In the United States it involves several days of overeating to the point of immobility, and sitting on a couch watching (American) football games all day. I’m not motivated to put the necessary research into writing something mentally stimulating. You might want to skip today and come back next time.
A slightly more athletic Thanksgiving activity formed in recent years, a "traditional" running race known as the Turkey Trot. Races tended to start early on Thanksgiving morning before culinary indulgences could sideline potential participants. They covered short distances, like maybe 5 kilometres or 5 miles. That way people could pretend they were behaving in a healthy manner when, in fact, they were simply getting ready to stuff themselves silly in a few hours.
My local Turkey Trot a couple years ago. I didn’t take any photos this year.
Our local neighborhood began its Turkey Trot about a decade ago. My wife took great pride in signing me up the last couple years. I think she enjoyed tormenting me. There I stood on the start line once again this year at precisely 8:00 am, ready to hit the pavement with 3,000 of my closest friends. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I finished in first place for my age bracket. That should never happen. I’m not that fast. Then I noticed that she’d accidentally signed me up as a woman. For a few brief moments I claimed to be the fastest middle-aged woman in town. Once corrected however, I fell down to fourth place for my age bracket. That still sounded impressive although it also included participants dressed as pilgrims, or with plastic turkeys on their heads, or in full Santa Clause outfits, or walking dogs. My effort wasn’t all that notable in that context. Then I spent the rest of the day eating, as expected and customary.
That reminded me. I’ve just started planning for the next marathon race series. Longtime readers probably remembered several previous trips. I don’t run those distances, I simply drive my favorite runner from state-to-state for each event in sequence and count counties. We’re looking at the Heartland Series for 2017. That event will arrive before I know it even though it won’t happen until late May. Races will be held in Bryan, Ohio; Niles, Michigan; Portage, Indiana; Fulton, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; Sparta, Wisconsin and Albert Lea, Minnesota. Seven races, seven days, seven states, beginning May 28, 2017. We probably won’t do the last two races. I can only take a week off from work and it would put us too far from home to get back in time.
Anyone knowing about interesting things to see along the way can let me know in the comments. I’d also love to meet anyone who wants to race one or more races (they do have shorter options all the way down to 5K). I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be much of an intersection between the 12MC audience and this activity, though. Nobody took me up on similar offers in previous years, and that’s fine too. I’ll put it out there just in case.
Since I’ve called this article Ramble On, feel free to take a break and listen to Ramble On.
Finish West Virginia
When last I left West Virginia, only six counties remained on my county counting list before I could finish the state. I spent a few moments sketching out what it would take. The result, above, demonstrated that I should be able to complete West Virginia during a long weekend. Inauguration Day falls on a Friday in 2017. I’m thinking that might be an ideal time to get away from the Washington, DC area if the weather cooperates. It will happen sometime in the next few months if it doesn’t happen then.
Blog spam largely disappeared when Google changed its algorithms to penalize websites referenced by spam links. However, it seemed to make a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of months. That meant I could start tweeting the best examples again on the 12MC Twitter account: "I such a lot indisputably will make sure to don’t put out of your mind this website and give it a look on a relentless basis."
The Political Graveyard
Grave of US Senator Zachariah Chandler – Elmwood Cemetery – Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Michael Noirot on Flickr (cc)
I’ve enjoyed a slightly morbid site called The Political Graveyard lately. Want to know the final resting place of practically any politician in the history of the United States? The Political Graveyard probably catalogued it. As an example, for my recent article on Winfield Scott (who ran as the Whig candidate for President in addition to his long military career), could have noted his burial at the United States Military Academy Cemetery (map). I’m not sure what that would have added although I still found it addictive.
How about somebody completely obscure. I selected Zachariah Chandler (1813-1879) somewhat randomly. He served as mayor of Detroit, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Senator, amongst other offices. He "Died, from a brain hemorrhage, in his room at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, Cook County, Ill., November 1, 1879 (age 65 years, 326 days). Interment at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Mich." (map). See what I mean by addictive? It served no practical purpose. Maybe that’s why I liked it.
Stuff from Readers
Reader Joe sent a couple of interesting article links. One in particular might apply to the 12MC audience: The Sun Has Set on Barrow, Alaska for the Final Time… Ever. Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska went dark on November 18. The sun will rise again on January 22. However, its name will change to Utqiaġvik on December 1. They’ve ditched their English name for an Inupiat Eskimo name to better align with their culture. Native speakers pronounced it something like "Oot KHAH’-ghah veek." It reminded me of the recent change of the Wade Hampton Census Area to Kusilvak in another area of Alaska a few months ago.
Reader Rowland wondered what the U.S. map would look like if states were redrawn with equal populations. I’m still pondering that one. What would be the best way to do that? Would we also have to change boundaries, I wondered, after every decennial census?
It occurred to me that a great general like Winfield Scott probably influenced place names beyond the recently-featured Scott’s Addition in Richmond, Virginia. Citizens considered him a national hero during his lifetime even if we don’t hear much about him today. This period also coincided with a rapid expansion of population and migration. They needed names for all of those settlements they built on the frontier during the first half of the 19th century.
I wanted to use a better image of Winfield Scott than the unattractive photo of the elderly, bloated man near the end of his life from the previous article. The equestrian statue at Scott Circle in Washington, DC (map) seemed appropriate. Certainly I could uncover more significant geographic designations than a roundabout. How about five Scott counties named for him? They sprouted in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia
The Iowa county named for Scott probably measured as the most significant. It’s primary city, Davenport (map), held nearly 170 thousand residents.
Winfield Scott’s legendary career covered half a century. He served as a general in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Mexican–American War, and the Civil War. His wide ranging exploits inspired place names throughout his lifetime. Scott County, Iowa traced its named to the Black Hawk War that broke out in 1832. He commanded troops during the brief campaign (losing many more men to cholera than warfare) and helped negotiate the treaty that ended it. Much of the fighting unfolded in the vicinity of future Scott County, in neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin. Scott seemed an appropriate figure to honor when Iowa formed the county in 1837, just five years after the war ended.
An entire Independent State named itself for Scott. It wasn’t really independent though. Nothing official. Scott County, Tennessee traced its beginning to 1814, named for Winfield Scott because of his War of 1812 activities. Geographically, much of it fell within the Appalachian Mountains. People living there farmed small plots on rocky hillsides on the far side of the frontier. They held little in common with people across the mountains and their culture of plantations and slavery. Scott County refused to join the rest of Tennessee when it seceded from the Union during the Civil War. It’s been called the The Switzerland of America both for its mountains and its neutrality.
Scott became a Union enclave, proclaiming itself an Independent State no longer beholden to Tennessee. The county had little strategic importance to either side so the Confederacy never tried to force it back into the fold. Scott did not officially rescind its "independence" from Tennessee until 1986.
The county also founded a town of Winfield (map), so a handful of residents now live in Winfield, Scott. It straddled U.S. Route 27 — Scott Highway.
There couldn’t be too many 19th century U.S. Army officers named Winfield Scott, or so I figured. Yet, inexplicably, there was one more. Winfield Scott — the other Winfield Scott — came into this world in 1837. I assumed his parents named him for the more famous Winfield, and the time period seemed to fit. However I didn’t find any evidence to prove it. He became a minister, later accepting a commission as an Army captain and serving as a chaplain during the Civil War. His legacy did not come from his military service.
In mid February of 1888, Winfield Scott was invited to the Salt River Valley in Arizona. Some residents of Phoenix had heard of Scott’s reputation as a promoter and wanted him to help promote Phoenix and the surrounding area. Scott was impressed with the valley and on July 2, 1888 made a down payment of 50 cents an acre for a section of land… His brother, George Washington Scott, came at Winfield Scott’s request to clear the land. He planted 80 acres of barley, 20 acres of vineyards and a 7-acre orchard.
The land he settled became Scottsdale, Arizona (map). Recently Scottsdale erected a statue in his honor (photo).
A quarter-million people live in Scottsdale now and it continues to grow rapidly. Ironically, the most famous place named for Winfield Scott recognized the man who was practically insignificant to American history. They named Winfield, Kansas after him too.