On March 25, 2015 · 2 Comments

I continue to make progress with the logistics supporting my recently-revealed 2015 Travel Plans. First on the docket will be a 150 mile (240 kilometre) bicycle adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland. I’ve been scoping the route and noticed a peculiarly-named town on the Maryland side of the border, Mount Savage (map). It seemed as if it would have fit within the theme of an earlier 12MC article from 2012, "Carnage, Slaughter and Mayhem." Too bad I didn’t discover the town until now.

Mount Savage
Mount Savage by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

Hopefully in a few short weeks, and assuming all goes well, I will be able to substitute my own photograph for the one I borrowed above. I figured Mount Savage must have been named for someone with the not completely uncommon Savage surname. Did the surname have its roots in people who were wild, primitive, barbaric or possessing other seemingly impolite behaviors? Well yes, and no, and sort-of.

In the British Isles, Savage appeared to trace from the Latin silva (forest) then to Old French then to Middle English. Source material was scarce although a cluster of consensus implied that the word meant something similar to courageous and unconquerable during the Sixteenth Century and would have been a compliment. It shifted to its current uncouth definition later.

In Eastern Europe, Savitch and variations existed independently and were frequently associated with Jewish populations. Savitch often became Savage when immigrants bearing the name settled in the United States. The etymology was even more obscure. It may have derived from the Sava River (map), a tributary of the Danube flowing through current Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. Alternately, it may have derived from the first-name Sava, possibly a Slavic form of Saul. No source seemed definitive.

Mount Savage was named for "a land surveyor, Thomas Savage, who happened to be traveling through the area in 1736." There was an even larger town elsewhere in Maryland called simply Savage (map). Its name derived from "John Savage Williams, a Philadelphia merchant with interest in a mill on the falls of the Little Patuxent." Both of these Savage surname usages appeared to tie back to the British Isles derivation as did other examples I discovered.

Neen Savage, Shropshire, England

Ford at Neen Savage by Ollie Brown, on Flickr (cc)

I expected to find at least one Savage in the United Kingdom given the surname’s ancient pedigree. Neen Savage in Shropshire came to the forefront as the leading example (map). I teased its history from an old book, Shropshire: Its Early History and Antiquities (1864)

Neen Savage. The Celtic nene signifies a river and the word nan a brook is said to be a remnant of a primitive language. Certain it is that two of the Shropshire Neens are intersected by a stream. Neen Savage is the subject of the following entry in Domesday Book: — "The same Ralph holds Nene, and Ingelrann [holds] of him. Huni held it [in Saxon times] and was free"… Neen and Neen Savage were held by two several feoffees of Ralph de Mortemer who himself held of the king. The family of Le Savage descended from the Domesday Ingelrann hence the latter place acquired the name Neen Savage its present title.

It seemed appropriate to select an image of the ford over the body of water that inspired the Nene of Nene Savage for this part of the article.

I also learned a new word, feoffee ("a trustee who holds a fief (or ‘fee), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner.") I don’t imagine I’ll get to use that one much in casual conversation.

Savage River, Tasmania, Australia.

Savage River by caspar s, on Flickr (cc)

Savage River (map) defined a body of water, a town and a national park in Tasmania. Of the name, "Although it is tempting to think that ‘savage’ was a description of the river, it is equally likely that the river was named after Job Savage, a storeman at the Pieman River sometime before 1881."

I was actually more fascinated by legends of the aforementioned Pieman River (map). Rumor had it,

The Pieman River gained its name from the notorious convict Alexander ‘The Pieman’ Pearce who was responsible for one of the few recorded instances of cannibalism in Australia. In a bizarre footnote to the history of the region Pearce and seven other convicts attempted to cross the island to Hobart where they hoped they could catch a merchant ship and escape to some ill-defined freedom. They lost their way and in the ensuing weeks all of the escapees disappeared except for Pearce. When he was recaptured unproven accusations of cannibalism were made against him. The following year Pearce escaped again accompanied by another convict, Thomas Cox. Once again Pearce found himself without food and, to solve the problem, he killed and ate Cox.

That was amazing stuff. In a land known for its characters the Pieman took the, um, cake. He was even more extreme than Captain Thunderbolt. Too bad the Pieman River wasn’t actually named for him. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Alexander "The Pieman" Pearce really was executed for cannibalism though.

Other Travel Plans

Some travel plans go well. Others change. The Thousand Islands trip is off. Apparently we waited too long to start looking for places to stay so maybe we’ll try that again next year although search a little earlier. Instead we will travel to Asheville, North Carolina (something may have piqued my interest there). Does anyone have any Asheville suggestions?

Shortest Town + State Combo

On March 11, 2015 · 3 Comments

I wondered what town and state had the fewest letters in its collective name. For example, my hometown of Arlington, Virginia had 17 letters. That wasn’t very short. Why would anyone care? I don’t know. Maybe someone had a job where they had to write down their town and state repeatedly to the point where they’d want to move to a place to minimize their task. Maybe it was a Bart Simpson chalkboard thing.

But oh wise 12MC — I’m sure the audience interjects even as we speak — it wouldn’t matter whether people lived in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations or any other state for that matter, they would still shorten it to a two-letter postal abbreviation. Simply pick the shortest town name and be done with it. Forget about the state. That wouldn’t be a challenge and we don’t take the easy path on the circle. We need to do this the hard way.

States with four-letter names seemed to be the optimal starting point: Utah, Iowa and Ohio.


Hill Aerospace Museum
Hill Aerospace Museum. My Own Photo

There were a couple of towns in Utah with three letters. One was Roy; so Roy + Utah had 7 letters. That was pretty good. The Utah History Encyclopedia explained Roy’s short name.

Twenty-one years after Roy’s first settlement, the town’s few residents met to start the wheels of progress turning by obtaining a post office. The first requirement was the selection of a permanent name for the town. Roy had been called Central City, Sandridge, the Basin, and Lakeview. One member of the group, Reverend David Peebles, a schoolteacher, recently had lost a child to death, a young boy named Roy. Peebles exerted pressure to have the town named after his son, and the local citizens were sympathetic to his plea.

Roy may have started small although it now has nearly 40,000 residents (map). It abutted Hill Air Force Base on its southeaster corner right next to the Hill Aerospace Museum which I visited previously. That signified two dimensions for me personally, (1) I’ve been to Roy although I didn’t realize it at the time because one must pass through Roy to get to the museum, and (2) I can illustrate this entry with one of my own photographs instead of borrowing one from some unsuspecting Flickr user. Roy might be in the background of that photo somewhere. Actually I think Roy might be in the opposite direction, behind me.

The other 7-letter combo was Loa, Utah (map). This town appeared previously as one of my bloggy finds. It demonstrated that I should never recommend other websites because it automatically curses them into never publishing again.

The Utah History Encyclopedia also mentioned Loa. The name "… was suggested by Franklin W. Young, who had once resided in the Hawaiian Islands and had been impressed with Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s second highest mountain."


N. Side Dows St. W. Ely Iowa
N. Side Dows St. W. Ely Iowa by Waterloo Public Library, on Flickr (cc)

There were many different 7-letter combos in Iowa. Ira, Iva and Ute were amongst them. I focused on Ely, Iowa (map). It had the largest population of the grouping so it seemed to deserve more attention. The The History of Linn County, Iowa (1878) had a simple explanation for the short name. "Ely was laid out June 5, 1872 by T.M. Johnson, Surveyor, on parts of Sections 30 and 31, Township 82, north Range 6, under the proprietorship of John F. Ely."

Too bad Ely wasn’t founded by Chuck D because then it would have scored even better. The awesome 5-letter combination of D, Iowa would have been unstoppable. Imagine how Iowa might may evolved if that had happened. We may never be able to work out the time/space issues necessary to transport Chuck D back to the 1870’s so he could start a town although that would be amazing.

Those vintage buildings shown in the photograph still exist by the way (Street View)


Ohio had its share of short-name towns including Aid, Fly and Ray. I was prepared to talk about Ray because it was significant enough to have its own post office (45672). That wasn’t necessary because I found something even better.

Yes, we had a winner: the six-letter combo of Ai, Ohio (map)! Some websites claimed that Ai was a ghost town. Clearly, people still lived there so how could that be true? About the name,

The origin of its name has been a local controversy: some say that it was named after the biblical city of Ai, while others believe that it was named after one of its founders, Ami Richards. Ami was a man, so others dropped the ‘M’ from his name to make the town’s name more masculine.

I had a hard time believing explanations based upon a destroyed city or androgyny. I had my own theory after watching the video. The general store featured the village’s name printed on its side in capital letters, AI. That looked a lot like A1, aka superior. That would be a great town name. Did that expression even exist when the town was founded circa 1843? Etymology Online examined A1: "… in figurative sense of "first-rate," 1837, in Dickens; from Lloyd’s of London designation for ships in first-class condition (with the letter referring to the condition of the ship and the number to that of the stores)."

I guess it might be possible. Probably not. I still like it better.

Nestling Newark

On March 8, 2015 · 4 Comments

It began as a simple enough proposition once I noticed Newark, Ohio on a map. Was it related somehow to the Newark in New Jersey, and what about the Newark in Delaware? Did they all intertwine in a way? It sounded like a mystery that needed to be solved.

Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New Jersey USA

I noticed Newark, Ohio because Newark, New Jersey was still fresh on my mind after appearing in the recent Small Change, Big Difference article. Honestly I didn’t know much about the appearance in New Jersey except that it seemed to be overshadowed by nearby New York City and it had a lousy airport (map). I think all of us who have traveled in the northeast corridor of the United States have at least one Newark Airport horror story, and probably many more. It placed perennially at or near the bottom for on-time performance. Twelve Mile Circle readers from Newark should feel free to defend the honor of their fair city in the comments. I’m sure there must be wonderful attributes that could rebut my negative travel associations.

The name had biblical roots. A group of Puritans lost power when the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven united. They migrated to New Jersey, founding Newark in 1666. However it wasn’t Newark at the very beginning, it was New Ark. This referenced the "New Ark of the Covenant." The Bible described the Ark of the Covenant as holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments as well as perhaps other sacred objects depending on the citation referenced. By proclaiming a New Ark, these offshoot Puritans put their stake in the ground, a foundation based upon their specific biblical interpretations.

Newark, Delaware

University of Delaware
University of Delaware by Prehensile Eye, on Flickr (cc)

Alternately, even the City of Newark, Delaware didn’t know much about its origin.

Little is known of Newark’s initial settlements. It appears our community’s early growth, like most villages of Colonial America, owed much to natural features and location. In Newark’s case, historians tell us that in the early 1700s a small English, Scots-Irish and Welsh hamlet grew along two old Indian trails and the fall line where the Christina and White Clay Creeks turn sharply eastward toward the Delaware River. In time, the area began to serve travelers on route from the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia and Maryland and colonial Philadelphia.

Many have speculated on the origin of the name as it appeared in Delaware. There it’s pronounced New-Ark and might lead one to think it also had a connection to the New Ark of the Covenant. However, the New Jersey pronunciation is Newerk so that didn’t necessarily mean anything at all. Delaware Online attempted to find an explanation and came up short.

The name: Historical evidence suggests that Newark was nameless prior to 1758. It was most likely named for a town in England, such as "Newark-on-Trent." It also may be related to the New Wark or Newark Quaker meeting held north of Wilmington, according to a 1960 "Know Your Newark" government survey published by The League of Women Voters of Newark. It is also suggested that the three Bond sisters from Cecil County’s "Nottingham Lotts" came up with the name for the city.

Newark, Delaware was notable for a couple of things. First, and most importantly, it had the good fortune to be located within the Twelve Mile Circle for which this website was named. Second, it was the home of the University of Delaware (map) whose Fightin’ Blue Hen is a rare example of a team mascot named for the female of an animal species.

Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.
Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire by Roland Turner, on Flickr (cc)

Various references mentioned Newark-on-Trent as a possible inspiration for New Jersey or Delaware. Newark-on-Trent was an ancient town, perhaps extending back to the Roman era. The name came from nearby Newark Castle (map), constructed in the Twelfth Century. The original castle spelling was Niwerc as noted in its royal charter granted by King Henry I in 1135.

I couldn’t trace the etymology of Niwerc. When I typed "etymology Niwerc" into Google it asked, "Did you mean: etymology Twerk?" No, I definitely didn’t mean that. The etymology of Twerk, by the way, was "probably an alteration of work." None of that really mattered however because it was unlikely that either the Newark in New Jersey or Delaware were named for Newark-on-Trent directly.

There was also a Newark Castle in Port Glasgow, Scotland (map), and the Newark in California was named for it. That’s not really pertinent although I thought I should reference it anyway.

Newark, Ohio

Longaberger Basket Company, Newark, OH
Longaberger Basket Company, Newark, OH by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

I mentioned finding Newark, Ohio at the beginning of this article and now I can finally return to that place. This one was actually the second-largest Newark with nearly 50,000 residents, coming behind only the one in New Jersey. According to the History of Licking County, Ohio (1881),

In 1802 however immigrants came in greater numbers and from this time forward there was a steady stream of immigration. The most important arrival in this year was that General William C. Schenck who laid out the town of Newark calling it after his native place Newark, New Jersey.

The most fascinating feature of Newark, Ohio had to be the giant basket (map) featured in 12MC’s Weird Ohio Explorations in 2009. It was the home location of the Longaberger Basket company, an office building constructed of stucco over steel.

Newark, Indiana

Newark, Indiana USA

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention tiny Newark, Indiana. The History of Greene and Sullivan Counties, State of Indiana (1884) noted, "Newark is a village of over 100 inhabitants and is situated west of the central part of the township. John Edwards had its site surveyed by Thomas Axtell who named the village after Newark Ohio."

Thus, the Newark in Indiana was named for the Newark in Ohio, which was named for the Newark in New Jersey, which was named for the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible.

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