Thanks a Million

On March 16, 2016 · 3 Comments

Longtime readers know that I check user statistics for Twelve Mile Circle daily. However, I don’t often examine figures that go all the way back to the earliest days of the blog. I did that recently, and to my surprise discovered that visitors had arrived from more than one million distinct sources since its inception. Google Analytics reported 1,012,891 users as of a few days ago. I adjusted some parameters and discovered that the site passed a million sometime early in the morning of Wednesday, February 10 — Ash Wednesday. Sure, there might have been a little double-counting, say when regular readers checked the site from home and then from work, although repeat customers were pretty small as a percentage when compared to all the one-and-done hits. I’m sure with the 12k buffer that at least a million different people have now stopped by, however briefly. Frankly, I’m completely humbled and astounded that I created something that reached so many people. If only I had a dollar for every visitor…

One Million Dollars
One Million Dollars by wbeem on Flick (cc)

Obviously my haul was considerably less although it did pay for a nice geo-oddity holiday to Saint Martin once. I supposed I should focus on more realistic celebrations such as finding places named a million. However there weren’t anywhere near a million such places. The US Geographic Names Information System listed only 47 and there were far fewer occurrences outside of the United States.

Million Acre Swamp

Winnie the Pooh overload
Winnie the Pooh overload by crabchick on Flickr (cc)

A Million Acre Swamp sure beat a Hundred Acre Wood although Winnipeg’s famous namesake warranted its own article. No, there wasn’t much noteworthy to say about the Million Acre Swamp in Wisconsin’s Pierce County (map) except perhaps to recognize its hyperbole. I found a reference to counting bears there — presumably other than Winnie — and that was about all of substance the Intertubes had to say about this swamp of an alleged million acres. I didn’t have anything further either.

Million Dollar Bridge

A million dollars used to be an amazing amount of money. It’s still meaningful to average folks and I’d be happy to take a donation of that size, however it doesn’t go a long way in government spending anymore. Back in the early 1900’s a million bucks was such an extravagance that it could bestow a nickname, like a Million Dollar Bridge in Alaska (map). "A million dollars for a bridge? — that must be one fancy bridge!" someone must have exclaimed a hundred years ago because the alternate name became more popular than its official name, the Miles Glacier Bridge. The bridge spanned the Copper River about fifty miles outside of Cordova, connecting the only town of significance in this part of Alaska to outlying communities.

It fared poorly in Alaska’s 1964 earthquake and the northern span collapsed. Did that stop people from using it? Of course not, this was Alaska. They constructed a ramp over the broken section and down to the riverbank. The Bridge Hunter website had some pretty terrifying photos of how it appeared in that condition, as did the video. As described in Alaska Dispatch News,

In the 1970’s, boards and eventually thick metal plates were put in place, somewhat precariously, creating a ramp from the bridge to its fallen span and the far side of the Copper. The span was lifted back into place in 2005, but braver locals still laugh about driving across those boards and the sound they would make as they rocked between spans under the weight of your car.

I’ll bet the repair cost more than a million dollars.

Million Dollar Pier

Night scene, Million Dollar Pier, Atlantic City, N. J.
Night scene, Million Dollar Pier, Atlantic City, N. J. by Boston Public Library on Flickr (cc)

Another million dollars, another early 20th Century structure, this time in the form of a pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey (map).

John Young’s Million Dollar Pier… included the world’s largest ballroom, named The Hippodrome, and a huge exhibit hall. The pier hosted movies, conventions, and exhibits of every description. Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech there in 1912. Some of the big bands played there including Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey and Artie Shaw.

It also hosted the 5th Miss America Pageant in 1925, won by Fay Lanphier, Miss California. Sadly the Million Dollar Pier was torn down in 1983. A succession of new structures occupied the site, with the current incarnation known as Playground Pier.

Rio Frio e Milhão

Milhão, Portugal

I’d hoped to find some million-themed place names in languages other than English. That didn’t work so well because many of them used something very similar to million as their word for million. However I did learn that the Portuguese word for million was slightly different, milhão. That formed part of the name of a parish in the far northeast corner of Portugal known as Rio Frio e Milhão (Cold River and Million, roughly translated). There weren’t any associations between the river and the number other than the parish had been formed in 2013 by cobbling together two settlements into a single unit within the larger municipality of Bragança. The Milhão portion had 161 residents as of the latest census, falling well short of a million. I didn’t learn how Milhão got its name although I’m sure there must have been a million something within its vicinity.


On March 6, 2016 · 4 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle highlighted Mundane First Name Places in the previous article. However, I left out the most prolific mundane name I’d discovered to date so I could feature it in its own spotlight. It didn’t make sense to combine it with all of the others. Simply, his name was Mike.


Mike Hungary
Mike, Hungary via Google Street View, December 2011

I didn’t know Mike existed in Hungary although clearly it was there in the form of a village in the southwestern corner of the nation (map). It hid in relative obscurity although I found a website that offered quite a comprehensive history of Mike — such as it was — since Mike didn’t have much in the way of historical significance in the larger scheme of things. Still, I appreciated the author’s efforts. Someone cared enough to chronicle Mike’s twists-and-turns throughout the centuries at a level of detail befitting a much larger town.

The settlement is situated in the south of Somogy County, in the north-west of Zselic region, between Kadarkut and Lábod. It is 18 km from the nearest town, Nagyatád. There is no railway, our railway station is Kutas… The first written notes are from 1213, the settlement is mentioned as Mica.

Neither Mike nor Mica translated into anything meaningful from Hungarian into English so the mystery remained. I wished the name had been flipped and then we’d have Hungary Mike. 12MC would have had a lot of fun with that one, perhaps a close cousin to Hungry Jack.

Tin Can Mike

Speaking of Mike in an unexpected location, I found Tin Can Mike Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota (map). Hundreds of lakes dotted this remote corner of the border between the United States and Canada. I guessed early explorers must have started running out of normal-sounding names. They must have resorted to, well, things like Tin Can Mike Lake although apparently it had also been named the more mundane Murphy Lake previously. Tin Can Mike seemed to have been a real person. I found a forum dedicated to those who appreciated the canoe area wilderness and liked to share their tips and experiences. One thread explained, "Tin Can Mike was named after Mike Murphy (thus the former name of Murphy Lake). Apparently Mike Murphy always carried and used a cup made from a tin can and got the nickname Tin Can Mike’" In the Land of 10,000 Lakes it took only a tin can to justify the naming of a body of water.

The Wilderness Area also included a Hungry Jack Lake by strange coincidence ("putatively named for Anderson Jackson Scott, a surveyor’s assistant who at this lake was temporarily without food supplies"), although it lacked a Hungry Mike.

Ivy Mike

"Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test - November 1952
"Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test – November 1952 by the Official CTBTO Photostream on Flickr (cc)

Ivy Mike wasn’t a place although it connected to a particular patch of geography, specifically Enewetak Atoll in the Ralik Chain of the Marshall Islands (map). The U.S. government conducted more than forty atmospheric nuclear tests at the atoll between 1948 and 1958. Some were more remarkable than others, including Ivy Mike. This marked the first detonation of a hydrogen bomb, a frightening escalation in nuclear weapons technology during the height of the Cold War.

The group that posted the Ivy Mike photo was an interesting lot. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) didn’t technically exist. Rather, the current version was actually the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO based in Vienna, Austria as will the actual CTBTO if it ever truly comes to pass. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty laid out precepts for a CTBTO, to verify a test ban once 44 nations ratified the treaty. The treaty was signed in 1996 and still remained inactive twenty years later, awaiting final ratification by a handful of holdout nations including the United States. Meanwhile the Preparatory Committee continued on its merry way, implementing an infrastructure to complete its future duties, assuming it ever has the authority to move forward.


Milwaukee Airport Security Sign

Not Mike, rather MKE, was the International Air Transport Association code for General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (map). I already knew that from the many times I’d flown in and out of Milwaukee on visits with the in-laws over the last couple of decades. I still smile every time I pass through security and into the recombobulation area on the way to the passenger gates (featured in More Strange Signs in 2009). MKE didn’t technically fit the Mike theme although it had a special connection so I included it anyway.

It also referred more generically as a shorthand for the city of Milwaukee. As an example it appeared prominently in the website URL and logo of the Milwaukee Brewing Company. Other local businesses have used the abbreviation too.

My Speech

On February 28, 2016 · 0 Comments

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of presenting a speech about the Washington, DC Boundary Stones to the Stone Bridge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Ashburn, Virginia. Since this was a group based in Northern Virginia, I placed a special emphasis on those markers on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

Map of the District of Columbia, 1835
Washington, DC in 1835
via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

An official with the Stone Bridge chapter found my Washington, DC Boundary Stones page and wondered if I might be interested in introducing the topic to the group at one of its monthly meetings. I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t fear public speaking, and in fact I quite enjoy it so of course I accepted the offer. That was the first time anyone had ever requested such a thing in the eight years I’ve written Twelve Mile Circle and the twenty years I’ve posted material related to my interests on the Intertubes so I knew I might never get another chance. I was also delighted to know that someone actually read and enjoyed one of the more obscure pages on my site that I’d tucked away in the attic, probably covered with cobwebs.

West Cornerstone – video by 12MC

I was slated for their February meeting which seemed like a lifetime away when we made arrangements last July. Time had a way of slipping away as it always does and February arrived before I knew it. Soon enough I found myself stepping up to the podium. I rambled on for about half an hour and I thought I did acceptably well, although one never truly knows. The speech allowed me to meander down a few geo-oddity tangents as well, like telling one of my favorite stories about the multi-jurisdictional Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I didn’t see much yawning in the audience and listeners asked a lot of pertinent questions that showed they were paying attention. I took those as good signs.

Washington DC Boundary - Stone SW4
Southwest Stone #4 – photo by 12MC

One question caught me a bit off-guard and I think it may have been the question I enjoyed the most. A member of the audience asked very simply if I had a favorite boundary stone. I’d never thought about that before. I liked all of them from a geo-geek perspective and they all look pretty much the same. However I wanted to frame a response that encouraged those in attendance to visit a marker that offered more than a simple stone enclosed within a wrought iron cage like the world’s smallest cemetery. I suggested the South Cornerstone for several reasons: it was the first stone placed and thus the most significant historically; it rested along a beautiful stretch of the Potomac River; the site included an old lighthouse; the surrounding park featured other amenities such as a bike trail and a basketball court; there was a large easily-accessible parking lot, and so on. However I thought of another marker on the drive home that evening that was much more meaningful to me personally.

Washington Boundary Stone Northeast 7
Northeast Stone #7 – photo by 12MC

It was lowly Northeast Stone #7 on the border between Washington, DC and the State of Maryland at Fort Lincoln Cemetery. It was an ugly stone, and looked like it had been through hard times as did the protective cage surrounding it. I wrote about my experience at the cemetery in 2011 after my 102-year-old grandmother passed away and was buried there next to my grandfather who I never met because he died several years before I was born. It’s hard to believe that my visit to Fort Lincoln happened nearly five years ago. I need to get back out there again soon.

Stone Bridge DAR
The Nice Gift Bag – thank you Stone Bridge DAR!

The Stone Bridge Chapter of DAR also gave me a nice gift bag, which was quite unexpected and much appreciated. And I got to stick around for the Chili Cook-Off competition. All-in-all it was a great evening and I thank the women of the Stone Bridge Chapter for the opportunity to share some of my obsession with local geography and history, hopefully without boring them too much.

I figured a few of you might be interested in what I discussed so I’ve presented my speaking outline below which I am offering under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license should anyone else ever wish to use it. This was just a basic guide. I went off-script and down rabbit holes at several points as it suited me.


United States Constitution, Article 1 Section 8 (Article 1 deals with the Legislature)

"The Congress shall have Power… To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States…"



  • Articles of Confederation – Philadelphia was the capital; central government had little power
  • Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783
    • Continental Army soldiers in Philadelphia demanded payment for Revolutionary War service
    • Several hundred soldiers surrounded Independence Hall
    • Congress of Confederation made a request to governor of Pennsylvania to protect the federal government
    • The governor declined to intervene
    • Congress relocated to Princeton, New Jersey; capital moved several times thereafter
  • The framers of the new Constitution needed an independent capital



  • Constitution specified a maximum size for District (“ten Miles square” = 100 square miles), not a location
  • Northern and Southern interests
  • Compromise
    • Southern states would assume a portion of northern states’ Revolutionary War debts
    • The capital would be located in a southern area
  • The Residency Act allowed the President to choose the spot
  • George Washington wanted Alexandria to be within the District; the area would also include Georgetown
    • Alexandria was an important port city
    • Washington and his family/friends owned property around Alexandria
  • Compromise
    • Alexandria would be included in the District
    • All public buildings would be located on land formerly part of Maryland



  • Alexandria would anchor the southern tip of a "ten Miles square" diamond
  • Washington commissioned a survey team led by Andrew Ellicott (African American surveyor/astronomer Benjamin Banneker part of the crew)
  • Boundary would be designated by sandstone markers quarried at Aquia Creek in Virginia (also used for buildings in DC; e.g., original Capitol columns now at National Arboretum)
  • The effort took two years, 1791-1792
    • First stone — the South Cornerstone — placed at Jones Point at the confluence of the Potomac River and Hunting Creek
    • The crew then headed clockwise
    • Path 20 feet wide cleared on each side of marker
    • Forty mile perimeter — forty stones placed
      • Thirty Six still survive
      • Oldest Federally-placed monuments in the U.S.
  • Officially became District of Columbia in 1801



  • The District had two counties, Washington and Alexandria
  • Alexandria diminished in importance; viability threatened
    • Federal presence on other side of the Potomac
    • Georgetown on the C&O Canal
    • Reliance upon the slave trade
    • Undercurrents of Congressional involvement; abolitionist movement
    • All District residents disenfranchised
  • Alexandria appealed to Richmond; lobbied for return
  • Virginia would accept Alexandria’s return if U.S. Congress consented
  • Congress consented in 1846, subject to a referendum of Alexandria residents
  • Residents approved referendum; Congress issued a proclamation of transfer
  • Virginia approved the transfer in 1847 and its original lands returned
  • The Compromise of 1850 did indeed outlaw the slave trade in the District

The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the retrocession



  • The southwestern side of the ten Miles square now traverses Virginia land
    • Includes 14 markers (South & West Cornerstones; all southwest intermediate stones; first three northwest intermediate stones)
    • SW2 is a replacement stone
    • See
  • Most of the original boundary stones are still there
    • They still form a boundary, principally for Arlington County, with Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church
    • Less so with the City of Alexandria
  • The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) placed iron fences around the markers in 1915
  • Otherwise they were neglected and largely forgotten
  • Finally getting renewed attention in the last couple of decades
  • Most of the markers on the Virginia side are very easy to visit



South Cornerstone

  • Jones Point Park
  • Large parking lot underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge
  • Trivia – Woodrow Wilson Bridge


Southwest Stone 9

  • Benjamin Banneker Park; 6620 N. 18th St., Arlington
  • Easy street parking in a quiet suburban location
  • The park has a lot more than just the boundary stone
  • Trivia – W&OD access


West Cornerstone

  • Andrew Ellicott Park at the West Cornerstone; 2824 N. Arizona St., Arlington
  • Easy street parking in a quiet suburban location
  • Trivia – Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church tripoint (only 4th alphabet street in Arlington)

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