I noticed an interesting aside on a Wikipedia entry for Moscow, Idaho while I examined background information about the University of Idaho for the recent What State U article:
It was reported by early settlers that five men in the area met to choose a proper name for the town, but could not come to agreement on a name. The postmaster Samuel Neff then completed the official papers for the town and selected the name Moscow. Interestingly, Neff was born in Moscow, Pennsylvania and later moved to Moscow, Iowa.
I couldn’t let an utterly fascinating tidbit like that go unchallenged without examining it further. One would imagine that something so precisely-stated would withstand a little scrutiny and basic fact checking. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, Samuel Neff existed, he very likely suggested the name Moscow and he did live in the states of Idaho, Pennsylvania and Iowa. The part labeled "interestingly" was bogus though, in my opinion.
Feel free to come back in a couple of days for a new article now that I’ve revealed the punchline, or follow along as I unravel the strings.
Most online sources and even the City of Moscow itself repeated a variation on that same theme. Allegedly Neff was postmaster and filed a permit circa 1877 requesting a new post office named Moscow in Idaho because he came from Moscow, Pennsylvania (and in many other versions also once lived in Moscow, Iowa). Most of these sources seemed to have copied directly from each other with or without attribution, and converted verbiage to fact.
The Idaho State Historical Society took a slighly different twist. In its version, Neff sold his farmstead on a site that would subsequently become Moscow to Asbury A. Lieuallen, and it was Lieuallen who filed the new name with postal authorities. Thereupon, "S. M. Neff, who previously had lived in Moscow, Pennsylvania, and Moscow, Iowa, took credit for suggesting that Lieuallen’s townsite on his farm be named Moscow."
I’ll note that this topic has inflamed passions and led to spirited Intertubes discussions on a number of fronts. The ones I reviewed focused on the timing of the founding of the various Moscows and ignored Neff. I examined both.
I reviewed the "History of Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming Counties, Pa" (Google eBook). On pages 483-484 it noted, "This village the principal one of the township was so named by Henry W. Drinker from the fact that there were living here a number of natives of the famous Russian city of that name" and referenced the first home as that of one belonging to Rev. Peter Rupert, a log house build in 1830. This explanation of etymology has been questioned because of a lack of physical evidence (e.g., lack of Russian surnames in the population, lack of appropriate architecture) that cast doubt upon the existence of early 19th Century Muscovites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Nonetheless Moscow, PA existed prior to Moscow, ID, and that’s what really mattered. I could search for Neff there.
I had to make sure I looked in the right place so I consulted the Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. It confirmed that Lackawanna County, where Moscow can be found today, did not exist until 1878. It was part of Luzerne. U.S. Census records produced zero matches for Neff or any logical variations of that surname including soundex for anywhere in Luzerne County between 1840 – 1860.
Moscow existed in Iowa during the requisite period as noted by the Muscatine County GenWeb page. Moscow "was one of the first townships organized in 1842." The Newberry atlas confirmed the county boundaries. Nonetheless, I found no signs of Samuel Neff. I did see a single Neff family in various records for Muscatine over several decades, the household of George W. and Rebecca Neff and their children, however they were from Ohio not Pennsylvania and none of them were named Samuel.
The Migration of Samuel Miles Neff
SOURCE: The Spokesman-Review, Sept. 30, 1957,
via Google News
Several sources converged to identify Samuel Miles Neff, son of John Neff and Mary Grubb, born in 1841 in Pennsylvania, married to Josephine Adline Terhune in 1883, and died in Puyallup, Washington in 1927, as the likely Samuel Neff of Moscow, Idaho. A wildly exaggerated version of the Moscow, Idaho origination story printed in a 1957 newspaper article confirmed my theory. It was based upon family folklore as told by one of Neff’s daughters to the person who wrote the article. It never mentioned the other two Moscows, and believe me, it was so over-the-top that it most certainly would have made such a claim if it was even remotely true.
Federal census records showed that he resided in Indiana Township, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania in 1850. That’s nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) (map) from Moscow, Pennsylvania. State census records showed that he then lived in Iowa, appearing in Jackson County first in 1852, a place where his father remained until at least 1880. That was 80 miles (129 km) (map) from Moscow, Iowa. He might also be the same Samuel M. Neff who appeared in the Civil War Draft Registrations Records in Mahaska, Iowa, even farther away from Moscow.
Neff seemed to slip between the most obvious records as he dropped briefly into Idaho (he slid in between the 1870 and 1880 Census). There were plenty of other sources that placed him there so that didn’t bother me too much. I feel quite confident that he was in Moscow, Idaho upon its founding.
Neff Was Here; Puyallup, Washington
He spent the second half of his life in Washington state. By 1920, the tail-end of his life, he resided in Puyallup at 315 2nd Street Northeast. Today that’s the home of Yellow House Yarns. Consider that for a moment as we ponder the paper and digital trails we leave behind us in the modern age.
Samuel Miles Neff was a real person who lived in Idaho, Pennsylvania and Iowa. He has been credited with providing a name to Moscow, Idaho, although the extent of his involvement in the founding of the town and the reasoning behind his recommended name may never been known. The true history has been obscured by an overabundance of embellishment, oral tradition and fanciful tales, some likely started by Neff himself in his old age as he spun yarns in a home that later became a yarn store.
It is unlikely that Neff ever had a connection to three different Moscows. He did own land that became Moscow, Idaho. It is doubtful that he was born or lived in Moscow, Pennsylvania or that he lived in Moscow, Iowa.
And I so wanted the Triple Moscow nexus to be true.
I began to consider confluences while pondering the Confluence Brewing Company during my recent Geo-BREWities exercise. Maybe I should credit Google Map’s auto-completion function for the suggestion after I typed the brewery name into an address bar. It noted that at least one town of Confluence existed. A quick check of the Geographic Names Information System uncovered two more although the occurrences in Kentucky (map) and Alabama (map) barely registered as pinpricks.
By comparison, Pennsylvania’s Confluence was a veritable metropolis, and home to several hundred residents nestled in the hills of the southwestern corner. Confluence was even large enough to justify its own Tourism Association.
The Confluences of Confluence, Pennsylvania, USA
Confluence, the town, recognized a couple of distinct riverine confluences. First, Laurel Hill Creek flowed into the Casselman River. A few hundred feet later a slightly-enlarged Casselman River flowed into the Youghiogheny River. Truly this Confluence represented the facts on the ground. Abundant water descended from neighboring hillsides and joined near a common spot where a settlement sprouted.
(A) Fallingwater (B) Kentucky Knob (C) Town of Confluence (D) MDPAWV Tripoint (E) PA Highpoint
The situation went beyond those literal confluences as I considered the surrounding landscape. Confluence, the village, offered a gateway to a confluence of interesting historic and geographic features within remarkably close proximity.
Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob
Fallingwater, photographed by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Fallingwater (aka the Kaufmann Residence) — Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 architectural masterpiece — perched on a hillside nearby. This was arguably one of the most visually recognizable homes ever built, an iconic symbol certainly within the United States and perhaps beyond. The unusual cantilever design constructed over a natural waterfall has been hailed as a masterpiece.
Lesser known, Wright designed another home only seven miles (11 km) away, Kentuck Knob (aka the Hagan House). This property remains a private home, owned by Lord and Lady Palumbo of the United Kingdom who reside there part of the year. It has become available for limited tours only recently.
Great Allegheny Passage
Great Allegheny Passage Trail Outside of Confluence
The Great Allegheny Passage bicycle and walking trail blazed directly through Confluence. This Rails-to-Trails project followed the path of several lines abandoned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad and Western Maryland Railway. Someone could bike 150 miles (240 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland on the Great Allegheny Passage, and from there pick-up the C&O Canal Towpath all the way to Washington, DC, stretching the ride to more than 330 miles (530 km).
Maryland-Pennsylvania-West Virginia Tripoint
Confluence and the MDPAWV Tripoint
Government officials drew artificial lines all over the eastern side of the continent during Colonial times and tweaked those boundaries in the early years of the newly-independent United States. That resulted in a tripoint for the current states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia very near where Confluence later grew. The MDPAWV Tripoint should be a readily-approachable waypoint for those fascinated by borders and boundaries. It maintained additional historic significance as a marker along the famed Mason-Dixon Line.
Mount Davis Observation deck by David Fulmer on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
As an added bonus, nearby Mount Davis marked the highest point of elevation for Pennsylvania at 3213 feet (979 m). Summit Post said,
Views from the top are nice, especially with the very tall observation tower, that allows for expansive views in all directions. You are surrounded by mountains, and you can also see modern wind turbines on a nearby ridge.
For a lazy highpointer such as myself, I noticed that a visitor could drive almost all the way to the very top and reach the summit with a short, easy hike.
Now that I’ve considered it more, I think I’ll have to put Confluence on my list for a long weekend. This should be a feasible itinerary for anyone living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Someday maybe I’ll take this trip and report back to the 12MC audience.
I mentioned OGG as the three-letter airport code for Kahului Airport on the Hawaiian island of Maui in the Middling article for no greater significance than I found it amusing and it sounded like something a caveman might say. A little Intertubes sleuthing led me to an easy explanation at Airport ABCs, an article reprinted from the December 1994 edition of Air Line Pilot. Why OGG? The designation was created "in honor of aviation legend, and Lihue native, Capt. Bertram J. Hogg (pronounced Hoag)."
The International Air Transport Association a trade group of "240 members comprise 84% of the total air traffic" and known more commonly by its acronym IATA, assigned these codes. Most visible to the average airline traveler, those are the sometimes cryptic three-letter combinations one sees printed on baggage tags that route them to their proper destinations. Usually. Unique codes identify hundreds of distinct airports everywhere around the world, large and small, served by commercial airlines.
Codes ranged from AAA (Anaa Airport, French Polynesia) to ZZV (Zanesville Airport, Ohio, USA), and offered a dizzying array of entertaining combinations. It would border on negligence if I failed to mention the best of the lot even though it’s already well known. I just couldn’t help myself. You knew what was coming — Sioux Gateway Airport serving Sioux City, Iowa.
This Airport SUX
The SUX designation had been applied in an earlier time before "sucks" became so closely synonymous with lousy situations and things. Sioux City politicians began lobbying for a new code in the 1990′s. They abandoned their effort a few years later and decided to stick with SUX after being offered nothing better. They later came to embrace SUX as a marketing tool. Now the airport website proudly proclaims flysux.com and sells merchandise.
Twelve Mile Circle reviewed every three-letter code to gather the best of the rest. I got about halfway through my task and discovered I’d collected primarily a list of obscenities. Being a family-friendly site, or at least a family-tolerant site, I felt an obligation to start anew and shift my focus away from the profane and tack back towards odd. Sorry Fukuoka Airport and your ilk, I discarded you. Actually a couple of codes were even more explicit — enough to make 12MC blush — and I won’t even hint at those.
I gathered some of the vast array of remaining options and placed them in a few logical groupings. Readers can play this game at home with other groupings. Options are practically endless.
D’OH!: Doha, Qatar
Several codes might be completely harmless in their home languages while failing to instill a level of confidence through a prism of English language and popular culture. To wit, Doha, Qatar’s DOH came perilously close to Homer Simpson’s D’OH!
Other difficult transits might be inferred by,
- BAD – Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana, United States
- BOO – Bodø Airport, Bodø, Norway
- EEK – Eek Airport, Eek, Alaska, United States
- LIE – Libenge Airport, Libenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- MUD – Mueda Airport, Mueda, Mozambique
- SAD – Safford Regional Airport, Safford, Arizona, United States
- WAA – Wales Airport (FAA: IWK), Wales, Alaska, United States
FLY to Finley, NSW, Australia
Other airports seemed to imply vastly superior experiences. I don’t know how tiny Finley, NSW, Australia managed to snag FLY, though. I would have thought airports around the world would have fought hard for that one. Any city in Florida or Finland might have also put that code to good use.
A few other attractive options,
- ACE – Lanzarote Airport, Arrecife, Canary Islands, Spain
- EZE – Ministro Pistarini International Airport Ezeiza, Argentina
- SKY – Griffing Sandusky Airport, Sandusky, Ohio, United States
- TLC – Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport, Toluca, Estado de México, México
- WOW – Willow Airport, Willow, Alaska, United States
Have a COW; Coquimbo, Chile
I needed to come up with something innocuous and family-appropriate after my earlier thematic failure. An "Old MacDonald" farmyard motif arose from the lengthy list, although admittedly UDR for udder might have been stretching things a bit too far (no pun intended).
- ARF – Acaricuara Airport, Acaricuara, Colombia
- BAA – Bialla Airport, Bialla, Papua New Guinea
- CAT – New Bight Airport, Cat Island, Bahamas
- COW – Coquimbo Airport, Coquimbo, Coquimbo Region, Chile
- DOG – Dongola Airport, Dongola, Sudan
- MOO – Moomba Airport, Moomba, South Australia, Australia
- PIG – Pitinga Airport, Pitinga, Brazil
- RAT – Raduzhny Airport, Raduzhny, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia
- UDR – Udaipur Airport, Udaipur, India
Airport in Timbuktu by James Joel on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
Then I got selfish. Which airports, I wondered, had three-letter codes that mattered to me personally. Obviously TOM would rank high on that list, although Timbuktu, Mali might not be the best place to visit at the moment due to civil unrest and rebellion. The code TOM derived from it French language spelling, Aéroport International de Tombouctou, a remnant of French colonial rule that lasted into the 1960′s.
TOM in Timbuktu, Mali
In recognition of my given name, my immense EGO, my fondness for food and fermented beverage, and my geo-oddity proclivities, I selected,
- EGO – Belgorod Airport, Belgorod, Russia
- TOM – Timbuktu Airport, Timbuktu, Mali
- BBQ – Codrington Airport, Codrington, Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda
- HAM – Hamburg Airport, Hamburg / Fuhlsbüttel, Germany
- PIE – St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Pinellas Co., Florida, United States
- ALE – Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport, Alpine, Texas, United States
- IPA – Ipota Airport, Ipota, Erromango, Vanuatu
- RUM – Rumjatar Airport, Rumjatar, Nepal
- GEO – Cheddi Jagan International Airport (Timehri Int’l), Georgetown, Guyana
- LOL – Derby Field, Lovelock, Nevada, United States
- USA – Concord Regional Airport, Concord, North Carolina, United States
That would be an interesting world tour.