Counting West Virginia, Day 1 (Let’s Begin)

On October 16, 2016 · 0 Comments

I don’t feature the most obvious geo-oddities of the United States anymore unless I plan to actually visit them in person. Perhaps a few longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers noticed the foreshadowing when I discussed the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia a few days ago. Maybe others saw photos I began to post on the 12MC Twitter account. Clearly, I intended to focus some personal love and attention on that northernmost pinnacle of the Mountain State.

The Premise

Route Through West Virginia

The Columbus Day weekend offered an ideal opportunity to fill-in some nearby blanks on my county counting map. I finished Virginia a few months ago so maybe West Virginia would be the next logical target. I wouldn’t be able to complete it in a single long weekend although I could certainly take a chunk out of it. Originally I intended to head out onto the highways on my own. However, my older son also had a 3-day weekend and he decided to tag along. I warned him that the trip would long drives, random geo-oddities and obscure historical sites. He seemed fine with it so I started pulling together my plans and the route.

We would head first up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to get some miles behind us. From there we would head to the northern tip of West Virginia and turn south, zigzagging across the Ohio River valley, capturing counties on both sides. We would then proceed east across West Virginia filling a couple of doughnut holes, and head home. I could capture 10 new counties if all went according to plan. That happened for the most part.

The Trip Began

The only difficulty took place on the first leg of our road trip. We couldn’t leave until afternoon. Traffic near Washington, DC rarely goes well under the best of circumstances. Friday afternoon on a 3-day weekend, well, that was practically a guaranteed disaster. We suffered through stop-and-go traffic on the Beltway, then on Interstate 270, and all the way west out to Hagerstown, a distance of 70 miles (115 kilometers). The road opened up as we moved deeper into Maryland and north towards the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Clouds started moving it. We ran into the very outermost bands of Hurricane Matthew, many hundreds of miles from the worst parts of the storm. It rained the remainder of the drive to Pittsburgh and indeed throughout the night. Driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike through the western part of the state is never easy, with its twisting lanes and narrow shoulders over the mountains. Throw in heavy rain, road spray and lots of trucks and it became quite the nail-biting experience.

First Leg Done

A four hour drive took five and a half hours. I needed a beer after that.

Church Brew Works

We headed straight to Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. We didn’t even bother to stop at the hotel to check in first. Nope. I definitely needed that beer. I’d been wanting to go to Church Brew Works for awhile so it was nice to finally check it out in person. The place drew quite a crowd on a Friday evening and we arrived just in time to get what appeared to be the last table available. Our luck changed from that moment forward. We found only smooth sailing for the rest of our expedition.

West Virginia County Outline Map

My West Virginia county map showed only six counties remaining once I completed the trip. They aligned in a nice belt through the middle of the state. Maybe I could finish West Virginia with one final push? It certainly seems doable. If anyone comes back to this page in the distant future (I’m posting this in October 2016) and notices the blanks filled, it means I’ve succeeded.

Stay tuned for more adventures in this series.

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.

Residual Braniff

On October 2, 2016 · 0 Comments

I’m not sure if I ever flew on Braniff Airlines although I certainly recognized the name. That’s why I mentioned it when I spotted Braniff Street outside of Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas in the previous article.

A Very Brief History of Braniff

Braniff (Calder colors) DC8 N1805. Photo by Bruno Geiger Airplane Pictures and Collection on Flickr (cc)

Braniff International Airways began flying in 1928, the creation of brothers Thomas Elmer and Paul Revere Braniff. They flew first out of Oklahoma City. Braniff grew and expanded into Texas in the 1930’s, and then throughout the American Midwest. Over time it expanded the network even farther, within the United States and later into Latin America and Europe. Braniff also moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas, initially to Love Field and later to the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The airline came to be known for its customer service and its brightly colored jets, including a couple that sported designs by Alexander Calder.

The United States deregulated its airline industry in 1978 and that spelt trouble for Braniff. It had been one of the strongest, fastest growing airlines in a regulated environment. However it simply couldn’t compete with cheaper, more flexible airlines that soon flooded the marketplace. Braniff folded in 1982, surviving only five years into deregulation. The name lived on for awhile, used by other companies that purchased it after bankruptcy, reduced to a zombie-like state.

Many people remembering Braniff fondly and have tried to preserve its legacy.


Braniff retained a particular stronghold in Texas during its heyday. The Braniff Street in Houston wasn’t unusual. Other ghostly fingerprints remained throughout the state. I found Tom Braniff Drive running along the edge of the University of Dallas (map). It intersected with Airport Freeway, leading directly to Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. I found it odd that someone placed a road honoring one of Braniff’s founders so far away from the airport however, a good 10 miles (16 kilometres) distant. I didn’t feel the choice was completely coincidental although I wondered what connection it might have with the university.

A little light searching uncovered a Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts at the University of Dallas. That implied something larger than a casual correlation. However Tom Braniff died in 1954 and the university didn’t exist until 1956. That chronological mystery revealed itself easily too. Braniff teamed up with his friend, businessman (later Senator) William Blakely to form the Blakely-Braniff Foundation in the 1940’s. The foundation provided a substantial donation to the university in 1966, creating a graduate school in Braniff’s memory.

San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas became and remained a Braniff destination from the airline’s earliest days.

Braniff Drive, San Antonio, TX

I didn’t have any more to say about that other than noting how nicely Braniff Drive aligned with one of the runways at San Antonio International Airport.

Corpus Christi

Braniff International Airways
Braniff International Airways. Image provided by Boston Public Library on Flickr (cc)

A much more interesting situation presented itself in Corpus Christi, Texas. This city included a street named for Braniff too. Nearby stood other streets named for airlines, airplanes and aviation pioneers like Eastern, Stinson, Wright, Curtiss, Lockheed, Cub, Fairchild and Ryan. Airport Road ran perpendicular a few blocks away. Yet, Corpus Christi International Airport stood several miles away (map). I had unwittingly uncovered the remains of the old Cliff Maus Field.

Cliff Maus left as airport manager in 1934 to take a job with Braniff Airways. He was killed soon afterwards when his plane crashed in a thick fog on the outskirts of Fort Worth… the City Council voted to change the name of the airport to Cliff Maus Municipal Airport.

Ultimately Cliff Maus Field didn’t have runways long enough to accommodate emerging jet aircraft. Corpus Christi International opened in 1960 and Cliff Maus fell by the wayside. Redevelopment took place over next half-century and largely obliterated the field. Del Mar Community College took a portion of it for its west campus on Airport Road. The Cliff Maus Apartments occupied another corner. A public golf course claimed another section. Housing developments also moved in.

Few remembered Cliff Maus, and soon, few will likely remember Braniff.

Beyond Texas

A few airports outside of Texas also hid remnants.

However, I figured the weird conglomeration of Braniff Road, Place, Crescent, and Green in Calgary, Canada was probably a coincidence.

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