More Full Names

On April 3, 2014 · 6 Comments

I enjoyed compiling a list of Full Name counties in the United States earlier this week. In a comment "The Basement Geographer" improved the article significantly with a list of similarly-constructed counties in Canada. It was great work on his part. Readers should refer back to his comment and check it out.

That led me to wonder whether I might be able to find examples in other nations. I focused on places where English was an official language either by itself or alongside others, due to my lack of ability to work with other languages. The upside of this approach was that it left lots of nations for the international 12MC audience to investigate if it so chooses.

I found one example in Australia and then I hit the jackpot in South Africa.

Deas Thom(p)son

County of Deas Thompson, Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia contained the County of Deas Thompson, named for Sir Edward Deas Thomson (1800-1879), a "public servant and parliamentarian" in New South Wales, and chancellor of the University of Sydney. As with a couple of examples in the United States (Jo Daviess instead of Daveiss and Anne Arundel instead of Arundell), authorities screwed-up Thomson’s name and in this case inserted an extra letter. Seriously, why would someone fail to proofread a name before affixing it permanently to the landscape?

The county, from the very little data that I could gather, was situated between Rockhampton and Gladstone on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. I’m certainly no expert in Australian governance although the lack of any tangible information or web presence led me to believe that the so-called County of Deas Thompson couldn’t possibly retain much authority.

I’d never heard of Deas Thomson, the man, although that was hardly surprising given my lack of depth in Australian history. Fortunately the Australian Dictionary of Biography provided a remarkable amount of information, and frankly much more than I cared to review although I included the link in case it sounded interesting to anyone else.

Deas Thomson Street, Vincentia, New South Wales, Australia

Thomson was a competent administrator albeit a lesser functionary in Australian history which is probably why his name adorned a minor county in rural Queensland, a short residential street near the Jervis Bay Territory — and possibly Thompson Point in the general vicinity of the aforementioned county (map) although I couldn’t confirm that last one.

Deas Thompson Point, Northwest Territories, Canada

More inexplicable was Deas Thompson Point (again with the extra letter), a cape in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It wasn’t labeled on the online maps I examined although the coordinates were included in the Natural Resource Canada geographical names data base. Thomson did spend some time in Canada according to his biography although it didn’t seem to merit geographic representation. Clearly he had friends in high places looking out for his good name.

South Africa

Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, South Africa

I’m not sure any nation will have more full name geographic units than South Africa. It had 52 districts in total, which were roughly analogous to counties in function, and a dozen of those incorporated full names.

  • Alfred Nzo District Municipality: African National Congress political leader (source)
  • Chris Hani District Municipality: General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party (source)
  • Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality: First President of Zambia (source)
  • Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality: ANC official; part of delegation that negotiated peaceful transition of government (source)
  • Fezile Dabi District Municipality: ANC leader; author, poet, philosopher (source)
  • Frances Baard District Municipality: "Organiser of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League and Trade Unionist" (source)
  • Gert Sibande District Municipality: "Organised farm workers, member of the ANC, accused in the Treason Trial of 1956, helped expose working conditions in Bethal, provincial president of the Transvaal ANC" (source)
  • Joe Gqabi District Municipality: "Photographer, Reporter, Member of the ANC and MK" (source)
  • John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality: "Trade unionist, member of the ANC and General Secretary of SACTU, Robben Island prisoner, banned person" (source)
  • Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality: Nelson Mandela obviously requires no further explanation.
  • Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality: "historian, political activist, author and medical practitioner" (source)
  • Pixley ka Seme District Municipality: "Lawyer, journalist, author member of the South African Native National Congress, launched the SANNC newspaper, Abantu Batho, President-General of the ANC" (source)

Admittedly, South Africa was a unique situation. All of these geographic names arose after the peaceful dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990′s. They served as a tangible means to recognize the leaders of the struggle for equality, replacing names that had been imposed by colonial powers.

Full Name Counties

On April 1, 2014 · 1 Comments

Almost exactly a year ago, 12MC published Jeff Davis, a treatise on the use of the Confederate leader’s full name as a geographic identifier at the county level of government. Davis County wasn’t a good enough name for some of those deeply-Southern states, it had to be Jeff Davis or the more formal Jefferson Davis, to make sure everyone clearly understood the defiant reference. I intended to list other full-name (first name + surname) county combinations later and then it slipped my mind as the months passed.

Let’s begin with basic ground rules and caveats. I searched for first and last names only. I’m sure Pocahontas (Iowa, West Virginia) the great Powhatan Indian chiefs’ daughter had only one single name and technically might qualify as a "full name county" However in my own defense I also discounted royalty (sorry Prince William) and religion (ditto St. Louis) so hopefully I won’t be criticized too harshly as unduly Eurocentric.

I’ll highlight some of my favorites and list the rest.

Wade Hampton

Governor Wade Hampton by Wofford Archives on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) License.

Wade Hampton III served as a cavalry officer in the Confederate Army, and later as the governor of South Carolina and then a United States Senator. That would seem like an unlikely choice to inspire the name of a remote, frozen corner of western Alaska on the Bering Sea (map). Fewer than 10,000 people live in Wade Hampton. Its principal town, Hooper Bay (or Naparyarmiut in Yup’ik), barely registered as more than a small cluster of homes.

What did a South Carolina soldier and politician have to do with Alaska? Absolutely nothing, well, except for one tiny tenuous thread. His daughter Mary Singleton Hampton married John Randolph Tucker, a well-connected politician, and a real Virginia gentleman who descended from one of the Commonwealths most established families. President Woodrow Wilson, another Virginia native, appointed Tucker to the bench of Alaska Territory’s United States Court Division 2 in 1913.

After arriving in Nome some of his first few official acts dealt with the large St. Michael mining district south of Nome. He divided the district in half. The new recording precinct was named for his wife’s father, Wade Hampton… Judge Tucker served exactly four years on the bench at Nome but his father-in-law’s name has lasted to present day…

More properly the place is known as the Wade Hampton Census Area of Alaska’s Unorganized Borough so some might scoff at including it on the list. I liked the story so it remained.

Jim Hogg

Ima Hogg by Kent Wang on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

The Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas included a lengthy article on Jim Hogg County "in the Rio Grande Plain region of South Texas." (map) as well as an extensive biography of the man himself. James Stephen Hogg became the first governor of Texas who was actually born in Texas.

Jim Hogg is probably better know for what he did to his daughter. He named her Ima, as in Ima Hogg ("I’m a Hog" for those in the 12MC audience for whom English is a foreign language). Essentially he bestowed upon his daughter a name that declared that she was a pig. Sources differed as to whether he fully realized the implications at the time or not. The handbook said,

According to family history, Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha. Her name became a part of Texas folklore, along with the myth of a fictitious sister supposedly named Ura. Ima Hogg was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life. She was eight years old when her father was elected governor…

Her unusual name certainly never hampered her success. Ima Hogg became a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, a master gardener and a force for historic preservation in Texas and beyond. Many referred to her as "The First Lady of Texas."

Ben Hill

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Ben Hill County (map) in Georgia was named for Benny Hill? Sadly, it wasn’t. This Ben Hill was Benjamin Harvey Hill, a 19th Century politician who "actively opposed disunion until the secession ordinance" and then served in the Confederate Congress. After the war he served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. I’m beginning to detect a pattern with all of these old Confederates and their full name counties.

I don’t have anything more to add except that — thanks to the Benny Hill reference — I have Yakety Sax stuck in my head.

There. Now you can suffer too.

And the Rest

  • Anne Arundel County, Maryland (map): Anne Arundell (with two l’s unlike the county named for her) was wife of Lord Baltimore, founder of the Maryland colony. She was also the only woman I found on the Full Name Counties list. (source)
  • Charles Mix County, South Dakota (map): Probably named for a Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (source)
  • Deaf Smith County, Texas (map): Erastus "Deaf" Smith was a hero of the Texas Revolution. (source)
  • Jim Wells County, Texas (map): James Babbage Wells, Jr., was a judge in south Texas and a Democratic party boss (source)
  • Jo Daviess County, Illinois (map): All of the counties named for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss spell his name incorrectly; only one included both his first and last name though. He commanded the Indiana Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe, where he died. People who died in battle often got more counties named for them than those who survived (unless they subsequently went on to become President or something, like Jackson and Grant). (source)
  • Kit Carson County, Colorado (map): Christopher "Kit" Carson was a mountain man who gained renown as a guide for the Fremont expeditions and later as a frontier soldier; his highly fictionalized exploits were mainstays of numerous 19th Century dime novels. (source)
  • Roger Mills County, Oklahoma (map): Roger Quarles Mills was another one of the former Confederate officers that later served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. (source)
  • Tom Green County, Texas (map): 12MC already featured this place in an earlier article.

I can’t guarantee I found every example although this list should be pretty close. I examined the full set of US counties manually, and that’s 3,142 at the moment I think, so I could have missed one or two.

Town of County Line

On March 16, 2014 · 1 Comments

I’m always on the lookout for odd town names and that’s what drew my eye to a dot, the aptly named County Line, Alabama.

County Line, Alabama, USA

I wish I could make a better map, however Google seems to be stripping features away from "old" Maps — and the newer version is even worse — so I can’t do simple things like customize the size and placement of embedded images anymore. The actual county line ran diagonally through the town of County Line, from northwest to southeast, right along the hypotenuse of that strange little doughnut triangle surrounded by the town. Jefferson County fell to the left (including the triangle) and Blount to the right. Incidentally, Mob Rule’s Google Maps with County Lines was extremely helpful for this exercise and keeps getting better and better. Go ahead and type County Line, AL into the search box there and the situation will become obvious.

Naturally, that began a 12MC quest for additional places named County Line. The general Intertubes wouldn’t be much help this time. There must have been a billion barbeque joints named County Line BBQ or something similar. I couldn’t find a plausible reason either. Maybe the wording reflected a quaint faux-nostalgia comfort for residents of the lower latitudes of the United States, something akin to emotional combinations like Biscuits and Gravy or Cracker Barrel.

Oh look, there’s one now:

County Line BBQ, Austin TX 05 by Larry Miller on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

This led to my reliable standby, the Geographic Names Information System, which wasn’t much help either when it generated 510 County Line results. I learned that lots of churches and cemeteries considered County Line to be a fine name. One could dine on County Line Barbeque during the week, attend County Line Church on Sunday, and rest in peace at County Line Cemetery after continuous feeding on County Line BBQ caused clogged arteries and a stroke, I guess.

That’s deliberately facetious. GNIS of course included an option for listing only Populated Places. That dropped the list to 26 sites including historical locations. I discarded those and was left with a manageable handful.

After all that, I discovered… the Alabama instance I found at the very beginning was probably the best. There were others, and I’ll get to those in a moment, although County Line in Alabama was the only incorporated town and it had at least 250 residents. The rest were rural crossroads, if that.

County Line Town Hall by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I never said it was a large town, just an incorporated one. Notice the size of the town hall and it became self-evident. The Fire Marshall will only allow 40 people in there at a time, strictly enforced, as happened during the landfill protests of 2011. That was the biggest thing to ever happen in County Line, Alabama. Combine small town politics, family friction, and large cities running out of garbage dumps, and it had the makings of an ugly fight.

From March through June that year, news sources recorded unsavory details in articles such as "Residents along Jefferson County-Blount County line protest proposed landfill," then "County Line Council approves landfill," leading to "Angry residents seek way to block proposed County Line, Alabama landfill," and finally "County Line, Alabama, landfill hearing on for Monday" as the story petered out.

It was a family affair, quite literally. John David Calvert owned a 219-acre parcel that he hoped to convert into a landfill, aligning with a group of speculators called Thornhill Marion Properties. The parcel had been annexed by County Line only the previous year, which according to those opposed to the landfill, was a deliberate attempt to eliminate opposition. That made it a town issue instead of a county issue so neighbors living next to the proposed landfill in immediately-adjacent unincorporated areas couldn’t prevent it. Pretty slick.

Did I mention that John David Calvert’s cousin James Larry Calvert was mayor of County Line or that "all but one member of the town council [was] connected to the Calvert family, and three of the five council members [were] appointed by Mayor Larry Calvert, since three elected members resigned"? Before getting too outraged, understand that the primary landfill opponent was Sue Calvert, another cousin. Apparently there were numerous interrelated Calverts in and around County Line, turning this into a family spat as much as a local political ploy.

The issue became moot later that summer when Alabama, finally tired of being a dumping ground for other States’ trash, put a statewide landfill moratorium in place. However the No County Line Dump Blog remained live, awaiting a day when it might be pressed into service once again.

What about the other County Line Settlements?

County Line, Oklahoma, USA

Two other County Lines befitted minor footnotes, one in Oklahoma (map), actually named Countyline (one word) and one in Wisconsin (map). They both seemed inconsequential unincorporated areas with maybe a few buildings, and in the Oklahoma instance, mostly abandoned.

The others were even smaller.

  • ARKANSAS, Fulton Co. / Baxter Co. (map): It was a little east of the county line (quarter mile) and intersected by State Line Road, which paradoxically did not run to the state line that was a couple of miles farther north.
  • GEORGIA, Meriwether Co. (map): Probably a half-mile north of the Harris Co. line.
  • NEW YORK: Niagara Co. / Orleans Co. (map): Definitely on the county line which ran north-south; not much more than a few houses.
  • OHIO: Preble Co. / Montgomery Co. (map): Also on the county line which ran north-south; and similarly not much to it.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Montgomery Co. / Bucks Co. (map): A solid example in the suburbs with the county line running northwest-southeast; not as much a distinct place as an artificial border extending through sprawl.
  • TEXAS: Rains Co. (map): Maybe about a quarter mile from the northern border of Rains Co., although maybe only one building remains today.

May they all grow significant enough to spark their own landfill fights.

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