I came across an interesting naming string as I researched Noble Layers. It didn’t quite fit the definition of that earlier article. Even so I found it fascinating in its own right, and it deserved to be highlighted.
It began, maybe, in a remote corner of Normandy a millennia ago. There stood the village of Richemont (map), now a commune in the present-day Seine-Maritime department of France. Richemont in the old Norman language translated to something like Strong Hill. It never grew into much. Fewer than 500 people lived there even in the modern era.
Sources diverged on whether the Norman Richemont inspired the name of Richmond in North Yorkshire, England (map). Maybe it did, or maybe North Yorkshire’s Richmond truly served as the "Mother of All Richmonds." A long line of Earls and other nobles of Richmond hailed from Yorkshire’s Richmond starting in 1071. William the Conqueror bestowed the initial title of 1st Lord of Richmond upon Alan Rufus (Alan the Red) of Brittany who lived in Richmond after the Norman conquest of England.
Earls of Richmond existed through several creations, held by more than twenty men over the next four centuries. Henry Tudor claimed the title indisputably in 1485. He went on to win the Battle of Bosworth Field to effectively end the War of the Roses, becoming King Henry VII of England. Henry VII moved to the royal palace of Sheen outside of London. It burned down in 1498 so he replaced Sheen with a new palace on the same spot. He called it Richmond Palace (map) after his Earldom. Very little of Richmond Palace survived besides its original Gate House. The rest was demolished soon after Charles I died in 1649.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, adventurers streamed into the Virginia Colony. They focused their settlements along the James River. They brought familiar place names with them too.
As early as 1608, the English settlers eyed a community near the seven-mile-long series of rapids that divided the head of navigation at the river’s downstream end and the calm stretch of water upriver from it. The area provided a series of strategic advantages: as a port, as a location for mills, and as a transitional territory between the Tidewater-based Powhatan Indians and the Monacan Indians of the Piedmont.
It took more than a century for a town of significance to form along the James River’s fall line. A prominent colonial plantation owner, William Byrd II, provided the necessary land in 1737. He named it Richmond (map). The view of the James River supposedly reminded him of the view of the Thames from the Richmond near London.
Richmond, Virginia existed before most of the places in the new United States. It also served as the capital city of the Confederate States. Its longevity and significance inspired people to name newer communities in its honor. Thus, Richmonds sprouted successfully in Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, California and many other states. The one in California arose soon after California gained statehood.
[Edmund] Randolph, originally from Richmond, Virginia, represented the city of San Francisco when California’s first legislature met in San Jose in December 1849, and he became state assemblyman from San Francisco. His loyalty to the town of his birth caused him to persuade a federal surveying party mapping the San Francisco Bay to place the names "Point Richmond" and "Richmond" on an 1854 geodetic coast map.
California’s Richmond later included several neighborhoods incorporating the Richmond name. These included Central Richmond, East Richmond, Richmond Annex, Richmond Heights, and Southwest Richmond Annex. I wondered if people living in any of those places realized the unlikely string that connected their communities back in time a thousand years.
Several other Richmond strings existed to lesser degrees. I also found Richemont, Seine-Maritime, France –> Richmond, North Yorkshire –> Duke of Richmond –> Richmond Co., New York (Staten Island) –> Richmond, Alabama. In addition there was Richemont, Seine-Maritime, France –> Richmond, North Yorkshire –> Duke of Richmond –> Fort Richmond –> Richmond, Maine.
So many Richmonds existed that the possibilities seemed endless.
Washington State provided a nice example of presidential layering down to a county, a community and ultimately to a body of water. I couldn’t find any better example. However, I wondered whether I might be able to do something similar on a different tack. Many eastern states reflected another set of leaders, the noble men and women who ruled the mother homeland as the North American colonies arose.
Potentially, it might be an easier investigation too. Several states gained their names from nobility. These included Delaware (Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr), Georgia (King George II), Louisiana (Louis XIV of France), Maryland (Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I), New York (Duke of York, later King James II of England), Virginia (Elizabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen) and West Virginia (also Elizabeth I). I checked them all. The best example I could find came from the Carolinas, from North Carolina specifically (map).
North and South Carolina derived their names from the same monarch, King Charles II. I consulted one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary. It explained that the name Charles began as Karl in Middle High German, meaning "man" or "husband." In Medieval Latin this became Carolus, then Charles in French and then English adopted it. Early explorers and settlers used the Medieval Latin variant when naming the Carolina colonies.
Naturally, noble names extended downward to the county level although not necessarily in recognition of a reigning monarch. North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County (map) offered an excellent example. This county grew in importance in recent decades as a financial and banking center, recently achieving a population of more than a million residents. However it began humbly on the Piedmont frontier, carved from an earlier existing county. Mecklenburg recognized Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who married King George III just before the county formed.
Charlotte seemed an odd choice as a wife for one of the most powerful men in the world. She came from a minor German duchy far removed from Europe’s powerful families and she spoke no English. Royal Central explained,
As a young woman, Charlotte received a very meager education, and what few opinions she had, she kept to herself. This quality of hers appealed to the young King George III, who desired a wife who had no experience of power politics and party intrigue.
George III married his German fiancée site unseen. She undertook the journey from her home duchy and the marriage took place six hours after she arrived at St. James’s Palace in London. That’s how they did things in royal circles back in the day with those arranged marriages. It was more important for George to start expanding his royal lineage than worry about niceties like getting to know his prospective bride. Apparently they got to know each other pretty well because Charlotte bore fifteen little princes and princesses.
I cheated a little. I already understood that the city of Charlotte (map) in Mecklenburg County also got its name from Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That little peculiarity served as a minor footnote in an earlier Twelve Mile Circle article, Ten Seats in North Carolina. A better example would avoid repetition, however I didn’t find any of those. Maybe someone in the audience can enlighten us with a different set of layering.
It surprised me that the places named Charlotte and Mecklenburg survived the Revolutionary War. The county formed in 1762 and the city in 1768, just a few years before the United States declared its independence. The Revolutionaries hated King George III and everything he represented. They had a perfect opportunity to dump his wife’s name and yet it persisted.
Then I started stretching the layers, maybe past their natural breaking points on North Carolina’s Highway 27. NC 27 "has had a tumultuous history through Charlotte. It has always served as a major east–west route through the city, but it has been rerouted numerous times on different city streets as traffic patterns changed." Since 1924, the route included Albemarle Road. Various Dukes and Earls of Albemarle existed as a peerage of England and the name reflected in several places on the colonial landscape.
The most significant usage in North Carolina happened on the body of water separating its string of barrier islands from the mainland. It became Albemarle Sound. This recognized George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. I found no evidence although I suspected Albemarle Road derived its name from Albemarle Sound. Even if it didn’t it must have come somehow from the extended family of Albemarle nobility. An odd name like Albemarle wouldn’t crop up completely by chance.
I carried the layering ever more tenuously to the Albemarle Road Playground. It seemed to be a nice place. The city of Charlotte described it as 21 acres of "picnic shelter, playground, recreation center and multi-purpose field." However, I noticed it didn’t abut Albemarle Road. On the other hand it did seem contiguous with Albemarle Road Elementary School and Albemarle Road Middle School. They sat at the end of an access road that did in fact connect to Albemarle Road.
Thus, North Carolina contained a county of Mecklenburg with a city of Charlotte bisected by Albemarle Road featuring an Albemarle School complex and a playground.
Can anyone do better? I didn’t check Canadian provinces. That could be a possibility.
Twelve Mile Circle discovered quite the layering of Presidential place names recently, completely by accident. I tried to find a better example during the larger part of an afternoon and never came close. Someone from the audience should feel free to post a comment with better results.
George Washington as the first President of the United States certainly deserved places named for him in abundance. He probably didn’t need Washington Ditch although I couldn’t fault those responsible for digging a path through a swamp for seizing the opportunity. New York City served as the US capital at George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and it moved to Philadelphia the following year. In 1791, Washington appointed a commission to establish a new capital city in accordance with the Residence Act. The Commissioners came up with a new name for the city… Washington. I mentioned that because a really important place — namely the capital city of the United States — honored George Washington from the very earliest days of the nation.
Settlers moving to the Pacific Northwest north of the Columbia River wished to split from the previously-established Oregon Territory in 1853. They wanted to call their news state Columbia. Oregon Territory’s nonvoting representative in Congress took their case to the floor of the House of Representatives. Then things took a strange twist.
Upon the completion of Lane’s speech, a new issue was injected into the proceedings. Suddenly the question was not whether the new territory should be created, but what name it should be called. Representative Richard Stanton of Kentucky rose and moved that the bill be amended by striking the word "Columbia" wherever it occurred and substituting "Washington." The House then voted favorably on the motion.
Despite legends to the contrary, the change was actually just one of those things that happened on a whim. They weren’t trying to prevent confusion with the District of Columbia. Congress simply wanted to honor George Washington even more. Thus the US ended up with a Washington State (map) not a Columbia State.
Washington State eventually subdivided into 39 counties. Several of them honored presidents other than Washington: Adams; Garfield; Grant; Lincoln; Jefferson and Pierce. Lincoln County (map) appeared in 1883, one of many places named for Abraham Lincoln in the US in the decades immediately following his assassination. The western states settled quickly during that era. Only Native Americans lived in what became Lincoln County a decade earlier.
"Wild Goose Bill" (Samuel Wilbur Condit) might have justly claimed the honor of being the first actual white settler of Lincoln County as he claims his advent into this country as a settler where the town of Wilbur now stands in 1875. Wilbur, named for its founder in 1887, was incorporated in 1889. While out hunting Mr. Condit once mistook a settler’s poultry and shot a fat gander. Ever after he was known as "Wild Goose Bill". Before he platted and named Wilbur, his trading place was known as "Goosetown".
I liked that some guy accidentally shot a neighbor’s goose and they stuck him with a lifelong nickname. People on the frontier could be cruel.
Within Lincoln County I found a community of Lincoln. Sure, I’d prefer another president instead of the repetitious Lincoln. That didn’t happen. Lincoln County honored no presidents other than Lincoln although the notion of a President Fishtrap intrigued me. So I took what I could get. Nothing much distinguished the community of Lincoln beyond an RV Park/Campground and a post office with its own ZIP code (99147). It’s possible to send mail to people living in Lincoln, WA 99147.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake
Actually one thing distinguished the tiny community of Lincoln. It stood on the banks of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake.
Lake Roosevelt formed as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River (map). Construction began in 1933 at the beginning of the Roosevelt Administration and it took nine years to build. Its massive reservoir stretched 150 miles (240 kilometres), and the dam produces more electricity than any other facility in the United States even today. The President didn’t name the lake after himself, though. That happened after he died. I don’t know if this was the first place named for Roosevelt after his death although it had to be somewhere near the top of the list. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes selected the name only five days after Roosevelt died.
The spectacular presidential layering to beat in this silly competition: Roosevelt Lake, with the community of Lincoln on its shores, in the county of Lincoln in the state of Washington.