Jasper and Newton

On September 21, 2014 · 2 Comments

I got an inquiry recently from reader "Aaron O." I took immediate interest because he sparked my Wolf Island visit during the Riverboat Adventure the last time we corresponded. He was a county counter like many of us on 12MC including myself, and he’d encountered a curious coincidence during his collections.

Jasper County bordered Newton County in Texas. Fine, nothing special there. This year he concentrated on Mississippi though, and once again he noticed a Jasper County bordered on a Newton County. Consulting a map, he observed that Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana and Missouri each had a Jasper County and a Newton County that shared a common border. Building on Aaron’s efforts, I began my research and saw that two states, Illinois and Iowa, also had a Jasper County (with no corresponding Newton County) that located their local seat of government in a town named Newton. What was going on?

I’d never noticed the pattern before and I didn’t understand the connection although it happened too frequently to be left to chance. However, the nexus would have been obvious to someone living in the United States two centuries ago. Jasper and Newton referred to Sergeants William Jasper and John Newton, as I found through additional Internet sleuthing, historical figures from the American Revolutionary War.(¹) Jasper was genuinely valiant. Newton was a nobody, elevated in stature through creative fiction that included the alleged connection between the two men.

William Jasper



Fort Moultrie. A poor quality video I took a few years ago

It was still early during the American Revolution when Colonel William Moultrie hastily constructed and never quite completed an earthen fort reinforced with palmetto logs on Sullivan’s Island to protect the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina (map). British warships attacked his positions in June 1776. Palmetto, as it occurred, served as an excellent defensive material. The spongy wood and sandy soil absorbed the impact of incoming cannonballs and deflected them harmlessly with minimal effect on the fortification walls. Meanwhile American artillery returned fire, pounding and damaging the British fleet. British forces retreated after a full day of futile bombardment and wouldn’t return to Charleston for another four years.

On the official flag of South Carolina, "The palmetto tree symbolized Colonel Moultrie’s heroic defense of the palmetto-log fort on Sullivan’s Island against the attack of the British fleet…"


The Palmetto State
The Palmetto State by Wendy, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

William Jasper served under Col. Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island as part of the defensive forces preventing a British invasion. The Americans raised their flag, the "Moultrie Flag" — essentially the current South Carolina flag minus the palmetto tree — above a parapet and the battle commenced. A British shell shattered the flagstaff during the fight, knocking the Moultrie Flag to the ground. Jasper grabbed the flag, attached it to a makeshift flagstaff, climbed atop a parapet and held it in place. His actions became a rallying point for American defenders during the siege and his bravery became well-known afterwards.


Jasper Monument
Jasper Monument by Dizzy Girl, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Jasper tried a similar feat at the siege of Savannah, Georgia in 1779. Once more he found himself in a position to race to the top of a parapet and affix a flag. This time, however, he was shot and killed although not before he finish his task. This cemented his legacy, he became a revered hero with numerous posthumous honors, a statue was erected in Savannah, and all eight Jasper Counties in the United States were named for him.


John Newton and the William Jasper Connection

John Newton benefited from a largely-fictionalized revisionist history courtesy of Parson Mason Locke Weems. Parson Weems wrote highly romanticized accounts of early American history at the beginning of 19th Century. Modern standards would probably characterize this genre as "historical fiction" although back then it was simply history and presented as such. He’d listened to or concocted fanciful tales and presented them as fact. Most famously, it included the allegorical account of George Washington and the cherry tree which he claimed he’d heard from an elderly woman who said she was a distant Washington cousin.(²)

Weems wrote immensely popular and influential "biographies" of Washington and other leading historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, William Penn, and more importantly to this account, Francis Marion. General Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" served originally under Moultrie at Sullivan’s Island, then at the Siege of Savannah and later as the leader of an unconventional force that bedeviled British troops throughout South Carolina. He is often credited with being instrumental to the development of modern guerrilla warfare.

What Weems did for Washington, he also did for Marion. Chapter VI of "The life of General Francis Marion, a celebrated partisan officer" presented an account of Jasper and Newton.


Jasper and Newton Rescue
Sergeants Jasper and Newton Rescuing American Prisoners from the British
by John Blake White (1781 – 1859)
United States Senate Collection

In this story, William Jasper had a loyalist brother who served in the British army at the Ebenezer garrison (map), near Savannah. Jasper would secretly visit his brother undetected for days at a time then report his findings back to the Americans. He brought John Newton along on his final trip behind enemy lines. While at the British garrison, they spotted the arrival a group of American prisoners captured in Savannah who were destined for execution, included a young woman and her child. British troops later marched the group away from the garrison presumably to be hanged. Jasper and Newton waited at a nearby spring where they supposed the group would relax before completing their march. They caught the resting guards by surprise, overpowered them, and released the prisoners, which they then led back across the Savannah River to freedom.

The heroic story struck a chord with American audiences.



Go ahead and read the original story. It won’t take more than a few minutes and it will provide an good indication of Weems’ fanciful, over-the-top style. I dare you to read it without rolling your eyes.

Too bad it wasn’t true. No similar account ever made it into written records on either side of the conflict at the time. Jasper was already revered for his bravery so it seemed unlikely that his peers wouldn’t have noticed him slipping behind enemy lines and returning with freed prisoners. Weems either heard an after-the-fact friend-of-a-friend tale like the Washington cherry tree story or he made it up on his own.

Nonetheless, the story linked Jasper to Newton inextricably in the American psyche during the first half of the 19th Century. Weems’ publications were so influential that fiction became fact. This coincided with a rapid expansion of the U.S. population and ongoing formation of county structures. Although Weems is largely forgotten today, his sway was great enough that it influenced several states to create both a Jasper County and a Newton County adjacent to each other.


(¹) Newton County, Mississippi claimed that it was named for Sir Isaac Newton. While I don’t have evidence, I suspect it was named originally for John Newton like all of the others and it was changed at a later date. This would be similar to King County, Washington named originally for William Rufus King and later changed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
(²) This tale is widely known to anyone raised in the United States. I doubt the same folklore applies elsewhere so I’ll briefly summarize. George Washington as a small child, according to Weems, received a hatchet as a gift and started chopping on various objects like any small child would want to do. This included his father’s prized cherry tree. When confronted he was alleged to respond, "I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet." Weems used this as an object lesson to convey Washington’s moral fiber, that even when wrong he would confess his mistakes and deal with the consequences rather than deceive or hide the truth. My father, the king of bad puns used to tell a joke that I’ll presume was popular in the 1940’s, with the punchline "I cannot tell a lie. Popeye did it."

Schwebefähre

On September 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle received a wonderful suggestion from loyal reader “Joshua D” probably six months ago. He mentioned the schwebefähre ("suspension ferry") in Rendsburg, Germany. These structures went by various names in different languages including "transporter bridge" in English. They were so odd, so whimsical, so amazingly impractical that I found them difficult to comprehend, much less explain. Maybe this would help:


MovableBridge transport
By Y_tambe on
Wikimedia Commons

A transporter bridge had features reminiscent of a bridge and a ferry simultaneously, except the ferry was more of a gondola suspended above the river by steel cables. It was cheaper to build than an actual bridge and it could continue to operate while a ferry could not, such as during high water or icy conditions. The concept never gained significant mainstream adoption however because of all of the practical reasons one could imagine. Maybe two dozen transporter bridges ever went into operation during their heyday a few years on either side of 1900. Few survived and fewer still continue to fulfill their original purpose today.

The weird design and scarcity only increased my desire to ride one someday.


Puente de Vizcaya


Barquilla - Puente Vizcaya
Barquilla – Puente Vizcaya by Francisco Martins, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The first transporter bridge, Puente de Vizcaya, opened in 1893 in Portugalete, Spain (map). It gained a nickname over time, Puente Colgante — "hanging bridge" — and "The objective behind the construction of the Vizcaya Bridge was to link the two banks of the mouth of the river Nervión without hindering the shipping," by joining Portugalete to Getxo.

UNESCO added Vizcaya Bridge to its list of World Heritage Sites "as one of the outstanding architectural iron constructions of the Industrial Revolution, " operating continuously since its construction except for a brief period during the Spanish Civil War.


Schwebefähre Rendsburg


Schwebefähre Rendsburg
Schwebefähre Rendsburg by Henning Leweke, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Schwebefähre Rendsburg (aka Rendsburger Hochbrücke), the transporter bridge brought to my attention by Joshua D, commemorated its 100th anniversary recently (map). The gondola can accommodate up to four cars or a hundred pedestrians suspended about six metres above the Kiel Canal, taking a minute and a half to whisk passengers between Rendsburg to Osterrönfeld. The fare is also wonderful: free!


Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort


Pont transbordeur
Pont transbordeur by Henri-Jean Siperius, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort (map) celebrated its 114th birthday recently with several thousand visitors and spectacular fireworks, if my very limited understanding of French was correct. It provided passage over the Charente River between Rochefort and Échillais during some unusual hours, closing for lunch each day and then on Monday morning and on Thursday afternoon, all of which seemed quirky in an endearing French way.

The transporter bridge also accommodated only pedestrians and bicycles which led me to believe it was operated more as an historical attraction for tourists rather than as a serious transportation alternative. The major four-lane vehicle bridge a half kilometre to the west (Street View) would be a more practical solution. Thankfully officials preserved the old structure as a work of magnificence even though long since technologically obsolete.


Tees Transporter Bridge


Transporter Bridge
Transporter Bridge by John, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The United Kingdom once had several transporter bridges, of which at least two survived. One was the Tees Transporter Bridge (map) in Middlesbrough. According to the Middlesbrough Council, "The Tees Transporter is a total of 851 feet (259.3 metres) in length which makes it the longest of those remaining Transporter Bridges in the world" and "is fully operational and provides a regular quarter-hourly service between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence for 12 hours a day."

The current Street View imagery actually showed the bridge in action from inside the gondola. Check it out before Google decides to update it.


Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda



Recuperación del Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda

No functioning transporter bridge existed outside of Europe except for one in Argentina. Maybe.

The Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda (aka Puente Transbordador de La Boca) in Buenos Aires (map) had been mothballed for decades. Recently it became a focus of restoration. Repairs were scheduled to be completed in January 2014 although I couldn’t find any information to confirm whether that actually happened or not.

Revisiting Street View Extremes

On August 31, 2014 · 2 Comments

Time moves forward, an unstoppable force. We all must face that awful truth as we age. On a happier thought, that allowed me to revisit a Twelve Mile Circle article from nearly five years ago and see if it remained true. I concluded in Streetview Beats a Deadhorse from February 2010 that the northernmost Google Street View image correlated to a spot at 70.242777 degrees north latitude in the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The Dalton Highway went no farther, terminating at a restricted checkpoint of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

Forward to today, the final day of meteorological summer for the northern hemisphere 2014. Had the honorific shifted? I established simple rules and expanded the search to all four cardinal directions. The site must have been visited by the Street View car, not by someone aboard a ship or carrying a camera backpack. That eliminated Antarctica, Svalbard and various isolated South Pacific islands.


Nordkapp, Norway


North Cape
North Cape by Tor Even Mathisen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The northernmost crown had been stolen! It now shifted to 71.169475 degrees north, where the Street View car reached Nordkapp, Norway. All end-of-the–line Street View images were rather boring so I posted photos from Flickr instead. I still included a link for each entry for curious 12MC audience members though (for example, Street View).

Apparently many people were drawn to Nordkapp as a tourist attraction especially in recent decades because it was considered the northernmost point in Europe. I wouldn’t have the heart to tell them they were all wrong. I think it would be legitimate to say, in their defense, that it was as far north in Europe as anyone could conveniently drive a car. European route E69 provided a well-maintained road right up to the the Nordkapp doorstep where tourists could disembark at a newly refurbished visitors center and snap lots of photos memorializing their accomplishment.

Interestingly, "Nordkapp is a Norwegianized form of the English language name North Cape." A 16th century English explorer searching for a safe route through the Northeast Passage named it, and the designation stuck.


Cochrane, Chile


Casa mate
Casa mate by Claudio Jofré Larenas, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Cochrane, Chile, extended to -47.258816 degrees south and claimed the southernmost image title (Street View). I fully expect that position to change someday. It’s only a matter of time before Street View arrives in Ushuaia, Argentina or Cabo de Hornos, Chile along the Beagle Channel of Tierra del Fuego (map). For today at least, Cochrane held the title.

Cochrane also seemed an odd choice for a place named in a Spanish-speaking area, and like Nordkapp demonstrated that British ship captains sailed far and wide across the planet. Cochrane referred to Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, from Scotland. He sailed relentlessly during the first part of the 19th century, experiencing one adventure after another, and getting into and out of trouble repeatedly. He was an archetype of the swashbuckler. Numerous authors drew upon Cochrane as inspiration for their fictional characters thereafter. Cochrane, the town, honored its namesake’s role as Admiral of the Chilean Navy, a position he also filled later for Brazil and Greece in addition to his years of service in the British Navy. The guy got around.

We should be thankful that the Street View car made it down to Cochrane. The Chilean southern highway (Carretera Austral) didn’t connect Cochrane and other southern towns to the larger road network until 1988, and even today "the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather."

The biggest tourist attraction — other than the abundant natural scenery of various large parks in the area — seemed to be the oddly-shaped Casa Mate.


East Cape, New Zealand


east cape lighthouse
east cape lighthouse by Christopher
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Easternmost and westernmost didn’t have the same appeal during my review because of the arbitrary nature of a prime meridian. I won’t spend as much time discussing them. A prime meridian could exist anywhere. Once again British sea power influenced events and Greenwich became a worldwide standard. Nonetheless I examined the situation for the sake of completeness.

East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand’s primary islands, had Street View coverage up to the farthest point an automobile could travel (Street View). It would be difficult to ever improve upon 178.544347 degrees east. Images extended all the way to a car park where visitors could then hike to the actual point.

A 22km, mostly unsealed, no-exit road from Te Araroa takes you to the most Easterly point on mainland New Zealand. The historic East Cape lighthouse stands 154 metres above sea level and is accessed by a walking track of some 700 steps – worth it for the views at the top.


Mana Point, Kauai, Hawaii, USA


201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401
201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401 by Thad Westhusing, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Street View provided extensive coverage of the Hawaiian islands so it was only a matter of finding the westernmost image on the westernmost major island, Kauai. I noticed images from minor outlying islands along the archipelago, however, those didn’t involve automobiles or road networks so I discarded them. I settled on Mana Point on Kauai at 159.779397 degrees west (Street View).

The area was known for two things: surfing and missiles. It was the site of Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands:

…the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.

The updated Street View extremes delivered viewers to some interesting places. I wonder where they will lead another five years from now?

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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