No, It’s Not There

On November 3, 2016 · 3 Comments

A number of years ago, Twelve Mile Circle featured ten county seats in North Carolina with the same name as a different county. The concept continued to fascinate me ever since even as I doubted I’d find anything quite so remarkable. Places kept making it onto my mental list over the years so I decided to feature a few of them.

Macon, Georgia isn’t in Macon County

Macon, Georgia, Neon Sign
Macon, Georgia, Neon Sign by tom spinker on Flickr (cc)

I’ve followed the still unresolved Bibb – Monroe border dispute for years. Most people who lived in Bibb County resided in the city of Macon, a name established at its founding in 1822. Nathaniel Macon served numerous terms in the United States Senate and House of Representatives from North Carolina. Consequently, places in several states bore his name even during his lifetime. That often happened to major politician during an era when the population expanded and created lots of new places. New settlements needed names. Macon died in 1837 and Georgia apparently felt it needed to honor him again. That’s when Georgia established Macon County (map), with its seat of government in Oglethorpe. Come to think of it, I found an Oglethorpe County in Georgia too, yet another example of the phenomenon.

Except the city of Macon just changed its name and somehow I missed it. Voters approved a referendum in 2012 to consolidate the city with the county. The merger happened in 2014, creating the conterminous Macon-Bibb County (map). They disincorporated the only other city in the county, Payne City. They deannexed portions of Macon that crossed the border into an adjacent county. Now an elected mayor and county commission govern the consolidated Macon-Bibb.

That left Georgia with both a Macon and a Macon-Bibb County. I’m sure that won’t cause any confusion. Of course not.

Hettinger, North Dakota isn’t in Hettinger County

Hettinger, North Dakota
Hettinger, North Dakota by Andrew Filer on Flickr (cc)

Confusion surrounded the whole Hettinger situation too. Counties in North Dakota formed rather late in U.S. history, crossing into the 20th Century. Hettinger County (map) dated its formation to 1883 although it remained unorganized for another couple of decades without a fully-functioning government. The name honored Mathias Hettinger, an Illinois banker who probably never set foot in North Dakota. His daughter Jennie married Erastus Appleman Williams who served in the North Dakota territorial legislature. That’s all it took to get a county named for someone back then.

North Dakota finally took action to make Hettinger a functional county in 1907. However, it split Hettinger into two portions. The upper half remained Hettinger County. The lower half became Adams County. Around that same time, a town in what would become Adams County blossomed along the path of the Milwaukee Road railroad’s new Pacific Expansion line. Residents decided to name it Hettinger(map), supposedly "by popular demand for the county from which this area was about to separate as a new county." That seemed like an odd development although I’ve seen stranger explanations for town names so let’s go with it.

Lake Itasca, Minnesota isn’t in Itasca County

Mississippi Crossing
My own photo from Walk Across the Mississippi River

Henry Schoolcraft created one of his made-up names to recognize the consensus source of the Mississippi River in 1832. He coined Itasca, by combining two Latin words, veritas meaning "truth," and caput meaning "head." He often liked to craft fake Native American words so he took the last four letters of veritas and the first two letters from caput, making Itasca. That Schoolcraft guy deserved credit creativity. Lake Itasca (map) gained quite a bit of recognition for its geographic significance.

Anyone looking at a map would quickly figure out that Itasca County, Minnesota did not overlap with Lake Itasca. In fact it sat nearly a hundred miles (160 km) to the east. How could that possibly be? Again, county structures formed quickly on the frontier during that period. Itasca County originally covered a lot more land when established in 1849. It stretched over a large portion of northeastern Minnesota. Government officials carved away at it repeatedly as it formed new counties and the chunk that retained the Itasca name (map) separated from the lake by quite a distance.

Jackson, Mississippi isn’t in Jackson County

Hinds County (MS) District 2 Courthouse
Hinds County (MS) District 2 Courthouse by NatalieMaynor on Flickr (cc)

The capital city of Mississippi took its name from General (later President) Andrew Jackson, to honor his victory at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Jackson County did the same thing and for the same reason around the same time. Both fared well over the years. The city of Jackson flourished as the state capital. The county of Jackson grew to a population of nearly 150 thousand, a center of ship building and oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.

I shifted gears as I researched Hinds County, where most residents of the city of Jackson lived. Sure, Jackson fascinated me because of its extinct volcano. The Hinds co-county seat interested me more, at least today. Several counties in Mississippi had more than one county seat, a strange situation common to the state although quite rare elsewhere. Jackson claimed the state capital but it still shared the distinction of county seat with tiny Raymond (map) with barely 2,000 inhabitants.

Jackson and Raymond started out around the same time. Officials selected Raymond as one of the seats of government due to its prime location near the center of Hinds County. Jackson grew due to its status as a state capital. Raymond, well, Raymond didn’t do much. It still had a courthouse that continued to serve legal functions although it quickly became subordinate to Jackson.

Boone Scraps

On October 9, 2016 · 2 Comments

Daniel Boone became a legend even during his own lifetime. He blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap, opening lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains to settlement. Then he served as a military officer on the frontier during the Revolutionary War. He even became a state legislator. Boone kept pushing farther west throughout his life, always exploring. Eventually he passed away in Missouri in 1820 at the almost unheard of age of 84. No wonder his name adorned places all over the United States, far-and-wide. With all due respect to Boone and his accomplishments however, I wanted to find Boones not named for him. Otherwise it would be too easy.

Boone Counties, Iowa and Arkansas

Boone, Iowa, Story Street, 1940s
Boone, Iowa, Story Street, 1940s. Photo by photolibrarian on Flickr (cc)

Seven different states included a Boone County: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and West Virginia. Certainly he deserved all of them although two followed a different path. Maybe.

Nobody really knew how Boone County, Arkansas got its name. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas noted that "Although no documentation supports it, the most widely quoted belief is that the county was named for frontiersman Daniel Boone." Another common theory offered that the name started as Boon. Its founders thought the new county would be a boon to its residents. Why didn’t anyone have the foresight to write down a better explanation? It wasn’t like people didn’t have access to pen and paper when the county appeared in 1869.

Boone County, Iowa (map) got its name from Nathan Boone. He helped settle Missouri and "served as a captain with the Missouri Rangers" during the War of 1812. He also happened to be Daniel Boone’s youngest son. I guessed, in a sense, the county’s name did come from Daniel Boone although indirectly. Nathan Boone should still get the preponderance of the credit. He accomplished things beyond his father’s name.

Boonville, Indiana

Beautiful Downtown Boonville, Indiana
Beautiful Downtown Boonville, Indiana. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

Boonville (no "e") in Indiana recognized Ratliff Boon, a prominent politician and Indiana’s second Governor. While his term as governor lasted only a few months — he completed an unexpired term when the previous Governor got elected to the U.S. Congress — he also held a bunch of other office both at the state and federal level during a long career. Certainly he deserved a town named in his honor (map).

Daniel Boone reared his ugly head again. As the City of Boonville explained,

Ratliff Boon was a cousin of Kentucky’s famed Daniel Boone. Daniel’s father, Squire Boone, was brother to Ratliff’s grandfather, Joseph Boon. They were sons of George Boone III, a Quaker, born in England in 1666, immigrating to Pennsylvania in 1717.

Who would name their child Ratliff? Think of the awful childhood nicknames and taunts.


boone’s lick state historic site. Photo by David Cohen on Flickr (cc)

Booneslick Country described an area of central Missouri along the banks of the Missouri River. More properly, early 19th Century adventurers and pioneers called the primary path through that area Boone’s Lick Trail / Road. Daniel Boone did not blaze the trail. Rather his sons Nathan (referenced previously) and Daniel got credit this time. They’d found saltwater springs near the western terminus of their trail that animals used as a salt lick. The brothers set-up a salt works to evaporate the water and sold the remaining salt throughout the frontier. The name of the trail reflected the brother’s enterprise, and a blending that converted it to Booneslick. The city of Columbia, Missouri now sits at the center of this cultural area.

Daniel Boone had an entire national forest named for him, over two million acres in eastern Kentucky. His sons Nathan and Daniel got Boone’s Lick State Historic Site in Missouri. Just fifty-one acres (map).

Boondocks and Boondoggle

Boondocks. Photo by Richard on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t find a lot of Boones completely removed from Daniel Boone’s influences so I dug a little deeper. How about Boondocks? This American English slang word often represented remote or unsophisticated places. It could have come from Boone who spent a lifetime on the frontier. However, it didn’t! Boondocks hid a much more interesting etymology. It came from the Philippines, from the Tagalog word bundok, meaning mountain. American soldiers adopted it during the period of American rule, 1898-1946 and brought it back home.

Boondoggle didn’t refer to Boone either. It appeared rather spontaneously, attributed to an old pioneer word for gadget. It came up in testimony during an investigation of the Relief Committee in New York City. The New York Times headline on April 4, 1935 read, "$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play … Boon Doggles Made." The paper reported:

"Who gave it that outlandish name?" asked Chairman Deutsch.

"That is an old-time name," the witness replied. "They catch it out West," he added hopefully.

"Named for Daniel Boone?" inquired Vice Chairman Joseph E. Kinsley.

"No, it is not named for Daniel Boone. It is boon doggles. It is spelled differently."

The word caught-on from there. Now it’s used widely in American English to represent a pointless or wasteful activity, especially one disguised as useful. At least it had nothing to do with Daniel Boone. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

Michigan, Part 6 (Parting Shots)

On August 3, 2016 · 5 Comments

I wrote several articles about my Michigan trip and I still had a pile of ideas I hadn’t touched yet. They didn’t fall into common themes so I lumped all those leftover scraps together to finish the series. I hope everyone enjoyed — or at least tolerated — my ramblings from the latest journey. We’ll return to regular programming in a couple of days.

Interesting Concurrency

Lansing Michigan Interstate
Concurrent 96/69 in Lansing, Michigan
via Google Street View, September 2015

Highway officials defined a "concurrency" as a single stretch of road with two or more route designations. This happens all of the time on Interstate highways in the United States. Roads heading between different places converge, often near a city, and both numbers remain so drivers passing through don’t get confused. I noticed an oddity in the pattern in Lansing, Michigan. Interstate 96 ran across southern Michigan. Interstate 69 ran through the middle of the United States in several segments, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. They joined briefly on the western side of a loop bypassing Lansing.

That portion created a concurrency for Interstates 96 and 69, each number the reverse of the other (map). I didn’t know if any other examples existed elsewhere, probably because I didn’t bother to look. Please let me know if anyone can find another one. It didn’t mean much although I still enjoyed doing a double-take when I spotted it.

Gerald Ford Museum

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

I went to another Presidential Library & Museum. It probably won’t become one of my regular lists although I’ll visit one if it falls along my route. I saw Woodrow Wilson‘s museum in March and Franklin Roosevelt‘s in May. Why not Gerald Ford?

I wondered what treasures might fill a museum dedicated to the presidential administration of Gerald Ford (map). He served as President for barely two years. Wilson guided the nation through the First World War, and Roosevelt brought the country out of a Great Depression and then the Second World War. They had plenty of material for a museum. Ford, well, he seemed like a nice guy from Grand Rapids who happened to be tapped as Vice President and became President unexpectedly when Richard Nixon resigned. His museum featured the expected Nixon connection and topics of the times such as the end of the Vietnam War. That still left a lot of space to fill. That’s probably why it included life-sized replicas of the White House’s Oval Office and Cabinet Room as they appeared while Ford served as President.

Muskegon Lighthouses

On the other hand, I continued to count lighthouse visits. I placed a couple more sightings on my lifetime list. I hadn’t really been thinking about lighthouses as I prepared for the trip so these were a nice surprise. We took a day trip to Muskegon to see the USS Silversides and the two lighthouses loomed over the harbor entrance. Certainly I could take a few moments to examine them a little closer.

Muskegon South Pier

The more impressive structure, and by that I mean the one that looked more like a traditional lighthouse, stood on the south pierhead. They called it the South Pierhead Light, not too creatively (map). See how that worked? Several versions stood there over the years and the current one began its service in 1903. It wasn’t open to the public most of the time, having fallen into a state of disrepair. Nonetheless it continued to remain an active light for navigation purposes. The Federal government transferred ownership to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in 2010, a nonprofit organization that hoped to restore the structure. We only saw this lighthouse from a distance and moved on.

Muskegon South Breakwater

We got a much better view of the nearby South Breakwater Light (map). This required a little hike of about a half-mile (0.8 km) from the parking lot at Pere Marquette Park to the tip of the breakwater. The kids complained the whole time although they needed a little exercise. They couldn’t spend the entire trip playing Minecraft and watching YouTube (simultaneously) so I dragged them down the concrete breakwater for a close-up view of a pretty ugly lighthouse. They’ll thank me someday. The Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy owned this one too, and also placed it on its restoration list. South Breakwater Light came much later, 1931, long after the glory days of lighthouse construction. It filled a basic utilitarian purpose although it lacked a certain grandeur and elegance.

Sand Dunes

Saugatuck Dune Rides

Glaciers covered much of North America during the most recent Ice Age, some 16,000 years ago. Relentless pressure from accumulated ice ground into the underlying bedrock as glaciers advanced and retreated, creating fine sand and a rocky till. Winds blowing predominantly from the west pushed waves across Lake Michigan after the glaciers retreated, carrying this sand to its eastern shore. These natural forces created the "largest collection of freshwater dunes in the world" along Michigan’s shoreline.

Michigan had more sandy beaches than just about anywhere I’d been before. Some of the dunes reached hundreds of feet high. We didn’t make it to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on this trip, although the Saugatuck Dunes (map) offered a nice proxy closer to our temporary home.


John Ball Zoo

Keeping the peace on a family trip meant taking time for activities I might otherwise overlook. I enjoyed zoos as much as anyone I supposed, although I didn’t feel any great need to go out of my way to see them either. We visited two, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (map) in Ohio and the John Ball Zoo (map) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s what my older son enjoyed so that’s how they found their way onto our itinerary. He wants to visit every zoo in the United States. He also wants to collect a map at each zoo he visits.

I can’t imagine where he inherited that relentless need to create lists and collect maps.

Articles in the Michigan Journey Series:

  1. County Adventures
  2. Breweries
  3. Rambling and Wandering
  4. Above and Below
  5. Do Overs
  6. Parting Shots

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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