Canadian Landmark

On August 26, 2014 · 0 Comments

I found a genuine Canadian landmark in the form of Landmark, Manitoba, a village of about a thousand people in the Rural Municipality of Taché, southeast of Winnipeg. Sure there were other Landmarks in Canada including mountains by that name in British Columbia and Yukon plus a point in Newfoundland and Labrador, although the Landmark in Manitoba was the only inhabited one.

The Landmark Chamber of Commerce mentioned some attractive entertainment options recently including "’Redneck Nite’ at Keating Mechanical & Landmark Christian Fellowship Church" featuring both a Lawnmower Race and a Roadkill Supper. That wasn’t intended to be sarcastic or mocking. I grew up in redneck territory and I appreciate that kind of corny stuff. As we used to say back home, "there ain’t no fun like redneck fun." I’ve even featured lawnmower racing on the pages of 12MC before. The roadkill supper, well, maybe I’d take a pass on that.

Landmark took special pride in its fortuante geographic prominence, astride the "Longitudinal Centre of Canada."


Longitudinal Centre of Canada
SOURCE: Google Street View, Longitudinal Centre of Canada near Winnipeg, Manitoba; April 2012

If one started with the extreme eastern and western edges of Canada and used them to calculated the national midpoint, the resulting line would run along a longitude of 96° 48′ 35″ west. That’s what the experts said. I didn’t fact-check it. I figured if people bothered to place official signs along the Trans-Canada Highway attesting to this unique situation, that it was either correct or I didn’t want to dispel their hard work and effort. That would be rude.

Some might have speculated that English-speaking Canadians recognized a slightly different longitudinal centre of the nation than their French-speaking brethren because the government posted two separate signs. That might not be far-fetched although I disproved it. Based on my eyeball estimate, the line ran between the two signs on both sides of the highway. The English version came into view first for drivers traveling in either direction so it all evened out. French Canadiens might still have a valid complaint, as I think about it, because the English signs came first. I’m sure the opposite would have occurred had the longitude crossed through Québec instead.



The Longitudinal Centre described the same basic precept as the better-known 100th Meridian, a metaphor for the emptiness and beauty of the Canadian prairie. Musicians found inspiration in these geographic designations. I mentioned one instance a couple of years ago in Tragically Hundred. Now I’ve learned that John K. Samson of The Weakerthans focused on the Longitudinal Centre in his 2012 debut album Provincials, which "delves deep along roads into the Canadian landscape of Manitoba." He even mentioned the signs:

How the wind strums on those signs that say
The Atlantic and Pacific are the very same far away.

Canadian musicians had a better appreciation of specific longitudinal designations than their counterparts south of the border, apparently.

Any 12MC readers in Winnipeg, or anyone crossing the Great Plains on the Trans-Canada Highway for that matter, should consider a road trip extending from the Longitudinal Centre to the 100th Meridian. The journey should take about three hours between the two points, never leaving Manitoba. That could be a nice day trip. Don’t forget to send photos.



Longitudinal Centre at Landmark, MB

Now, if only the Longitudinal Centre actually ran through Landmark. That was a cheap shot. The line fell extremely close, maybe even clipping the very last house in town (map). I’m sure it won’t be an issue much longer when the town continues to grows as a bedroom community for Winnipeg.

Ironically, the name Landmark had nothing to do with the Longitudinal Centre and inexplicably it had nothing to do with anything apparently. Landmark went by various names into the early 20th Century including Prairie Rose, Linden and Lorette, in addition to Landmark. Sources differed. Landmark was either a name assigned arbitrarily by the government to a local post office or it was picked randomly by one of the early settlers. Either way the name stuck and it certainly seemed appropriate given Landmark’s fortunate geographic placement.

Presidential Distances

On July 8, 2014 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle talked about birthplaces and death locations of the Presidents of the United States. Now let’s finish this off with a comparison of distances between those two points. This involved a rather simple process of dropping the lat/long coordinates for each president into a great circle distance calculator and recording the results. Then I plotted the distances between birth and death onto a chart.


Distance between Birth and Death of US Presidents

Don’t get too hung up on the lack of presidential names. Readers can always cross reference the numbers to each administration on the shared spreadsheet if curious. Also, don’t be concerned that it’s not scaled to time, either. Administrations lasted from a single month (William Henry Harrison) to just north of twelve years (Franklin Roosevelt). The more important point was to confirm in graphical form that distances between birthplaces and death locations increased quite remarkably for latter administrations. This wasn’t entirely unexpected as it tracked nicely with growth and settlement patterns in the United States.


Shortest


LBJ's Birthplace
LBJ's Birthplace by Jim Bowen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Four presidents came to this earth and shuffled off this mortal coil at spots less than two miles (3.2 kilometres) apart. It didn’t surprise me to see this happen for some of the earliest presidents. Travel was more problematic and the landed gentry tended to stick close to their ancestral estates for multiple generations. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren all passed away within extreme proximity to their birthplaces.

The shortest distance, less than a single mile, caught me off-guard completely. Lyndon Johnson? He didn’t serve until the middle of the 20th Century, and died in 1973. By no means did it seem logical for Johnson to be lumped into the same category as presidents born during the colonial era. And yet, not only was he there, he led the pack.

Johnson was an anomaly of course and a throwback to an earlier time. Paraphrasing from the Handbook of Texas, Lyndon Johnson’s grandfather, Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr., built a home near Stonewall, Texas in the 1880′s. Lyndon’s father, Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr., occupied the home in 1907 and Lyndon was born there in 1908. The adjacent ranch was purchased by a relative of the Johnson family. Lyndon purchased that 438 acre ranch in 1951.

Johnson united the properties. Then, as the National Park Service explained,

Lyndon Johnson took great pride in his heritage and his roots here in the Hill Country of Texas. In order to share that heritage with interested visitors, President Johnson hired architect J. Roy White of Austin, Texas in 1964 to reconstruct the birthplace home. President Johnson and Roy White relied on old photographs of the original birthplace house as well as family members’ memories to guide the project.

Thus, Johnson consciously and explicitly chose to move near his extended family and then later in life he focused on preserving his legacy.


Median


President William McKinely Birthplace
President William McKinley Birthplace by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I used median rather than average because outliers threw the average way off. The median distance from birthplace to death location equated to about 130 miles (210 km), while the average came in closer to 430 miles (690 km). Three presidents scored very close to the median; Woodrow Wilson, Millard Fillmore, and William McKinley.


Longest



Ronald Reagan Estate, Bel Air, California

Then there were presidents who found themselves a long way from their birthplaces — more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) — when they passed away, some unexpectedly and some at a ripe old age. John Kennedy and Warren Harding both died in office. Kennedy and Nixon died in hospitals. The vast majority of the 12MC audience would already be familiar with Kennedy’s story so I won’t dwell on it other than to mention that I visited the Grassy Knoll in 2008. Warren Harding died in the Presidential Suite of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, probably from a stroke or congestive heart failure. His wife’s refusal to allow an autopsy led to conspiracy theories the continued to persist even through the present.

I guess I have to use Ronald Reagan’s estate to illustrate this section since he was the only member of the 1,500 mile club who died at home.

The president who died farthest from his birthplace was Richard Nixon. He was born in Yorba Linda, California and died in New York City, a great circle distance of 2,436 miles.

Lockport

On June 24, 2014 · 2 Comments

The website hit came from Lockport, Illinois. Lockport sounded familiar, although from a different time and place than Illinois. It also seemed quite descriptive, a lock on a canal combined with a port (or perhaps a portage). Locks would be ideal places for settlements during the heyday of canal travel a century or more ago. Commerce naturally congregated at places where barges had to slow down or sit in a queue for awhile before going through the locks.

Lockport, Illinois


I&M Canal, Lock 1
I&M Canal, Lock 1 by Eric Allix Rogers, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The random visitor from Lockport, Illinois (map) came from an historic town founded in 1830. Lockport served as a key point on the Illinois and Michigan Canal (now a state trail).

The I&M canal became the initial link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico through the continental interior, joining a huge section of North American into to a single transportation system. The canal itself connected Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River by coupling the Chicago River to the Illinois River via a 96 miles (154 km) waterway. The I&M was replaced later by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (where engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River) and closed altogether after the completion of the Illinois Waterway in the early 20th Century.

Lockport was the headquarters of the I&M and eased settlement of the Upper Mississippi watershed during the second half of the 19th Century. Chicago would not have become the dominant city of the Midwest without Lockport thirty miles inland to bridge the eastern continental divide.


Lockport, New York


Lockport New York 099
Lockport New York 099 by Jim Jordan, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I was more familiar with Lockport, New York, a town of similar size and function except on the Erie Canal (map). This one had personal meaning to me. The Old Howder Homestead stood nearby. The other side of my family traveled up the canal and through the locks at Lockport on their migration to the Midwest in 1844. As I said in that earlier article:

In one of life’s odd coincidences, my mother’s side of the family (in a canal boat) and my father’s side of the family (farmers living near Lockport) came within amazingly close proximity of each other on or around the evening of Thursday, October 17, 1844 — literally a "ship that passed in the night." The families wouldn’t get another chance for more than a hundred years and in a completely different location.

The Erie Canal did what the I&M did, a generation earlier in a different place. It connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes in a direct fashion beginning in 1825, crossing the width of New York state.


Lockport, Manitoba


Locks at Lockport, Manitoba
Locks at Lockport, Manitoba by Dan McKay, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Canada had plenty of canals too, and naturally a good name like Lockport couldn’t confine itself to the United States. Manitoba had its own Lockport. (map). The lock and port in this instance occurred on the Red River, on a stretch where the St. Andrew’s Rapids complicated navigation. Engineers responded by constructing the appropriately-named St. Andrew’s Lock and Dam that opened in 1910: "This lock system allows access to Lake Winnipeg from the south and Winnipeg from the north."


Lockport, Louisiana


Lockport Company Canal Bridge
Lockport Company Canal Bridge by C Hanchey, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

There were fewer canals in the southern part of the United States, nonetheless Louisiana had its own Lockport too (map). This was borne from an early canal completed in 1847 that connected Bayou Terrebonne to New Orleans. The canal went out of operation long ago, however Lockport continues to sit along a branch of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In a sense it still retains a connection by water to all of the major cities of the Gulf Coast.


Lockports Elsewhere

There were several more Lockport towns and villages along waterways, particularly in the Northeastern and Midwestern states. Pennsylvania deserved special mention. The U.S. Geographic Names Information System mentioned five populated places there.

  • Lockport on the Conemaugh River (map)
  • Lockport on the Juniata River (map)
  • Lockport on the Lehigh River (map)
  • Lockport on the Susquehanna River (map)
  • Lockport on the West Branch Susquehanna River (map)

That was an impressive number of Lockports.


Announcement

Due to conflicting schedules of those who wanted to participate in the 12MC Geo-Oddity Bicycle Ride and couldn’t, the ride has been postponed until Fall. I’ll try to figure out a better date later.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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