I mentioned Colfax, Louisiana in "Just the -fax, Ma’am." Something rang in my mind with a sense familiarity. Where had I heard of the town’s namesake, Schuyler Colfax before? I combed through the 12MC archive and discovered he’d made an appearance in a different context, mentioned originally by reader John Deeth and then featured in First Name, Surname Symmetry. Mr. Deeth noted that there was a town of Schuyler that served as a seat of local government for Colfax County, Nebraska. This was intentional; both the town and the county were in fact named for Schuyler Colfax.
Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain
If I could be bold or perhaps exceedingly lazy, I think I’ll quote from myself as presented in that earlier article.
Schuyler Colfax isn’t exactly a household name, however he was quite accomplished during his lifetime. He rose to Speaker of the House of Representatives and then became Vice President when he was only 45 years old. There’s no telling how successful he may have become had he not been implicated in one of the many scandals of the Reconstruction era. His downfall came during the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal which involved gifts of stock to influential government officials from a construction company helping to build the transcontinental railroad.
I then went on to reference the irony of Schuyler, the town in Nebraska, having been situated along the Transcontinental Railroad so that the man and the scandal would be link forevermore. Actually the town was founded two years before the Crédit Mobilier scandal broke in 1872 so the irony didn’t come until later. However it served thereafter as a visible reminder of Colfax’s political demise, certainly visible to Colfax personally and to those who happened to possess knowledge of an obscure Nineteenth Century bribery scheme like the members of the 12MC audience.
That would become prescient. Railroads, as I noticed once I began to reacquaint myself with the life and times of Schuyler Colfax, would continue to trail him to his death and beyond.
Cold and Alone
Where Colfax Died, Mankato, Wisconsin, USA
I featured Mankato, Minnesota recently in the Blue Earth series. Little did I realize that I’d return to Mankato for its prominent role in the death of Schuyler Colfax. An historical marker sat in a public park although it wasn’t always a park. It was once an railroad depot. Waymarking.com recorded the Washington Park Historical Marker, including the key paragraph.
… On January 13, 1885, Schuyler Colfax, former U.S. Vice President and Speaker of the House, was traveling in Mankato, Minnesota. In order to get from the depot located along the Minnesota River to the depot on Fourth Street, he had to walk three quarters of a mile in 30 degrees below zero weather. After he arrived at the depot on Fourth Street, he collapsed and died…
His biography on the United States Senate website attributed his death to a heart attack and duly noted, "Unrecognized by those around him, the former Speaker and vice president was identified only by papers in his pocket."
Rest in Peace?
City Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana, USA
Schuyler Colfax, recently departed, was delivered to the place where he’d spent much of his adult life, and he was interred in the City Cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Always a popular figure in Indiana, Colfax was further honored by town officials when they renamed a street Colfax Avenue adjacent to the cemetery.
Notice, however, the proximity of several nearby rail lines and railyards. They practically extend all the way to the cemetery gates, no doubt their warning whistles and clacking tracks taunting his gravesite.
Colfax Gets a Statue
Schuyler Colfax Statue by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Undoubtedly, Colfax would have been pleased by the statue of his likeness placed prominently in a town named for him in California. However, the location added to the irony. Take a look at a map in Street View. Colfax town officials placed the Colfax statue on Railroad Street at the Amtrak train station. This line also formed part of the original western route of the Transcontinental Railroad.
The day I dreaded finally arrived. I was defaulted to the new version of Google Maps yesterday. I wasn’t favorably impressed when I first reviewed it last May and I always understood that the version I’ve used since the creation of Twelve Mile Circle would go away eventually. Sooner-or-later I was going to have to confront this issue.
Allow me to clear a backlog of some short topics with another installment of Odds and Ends while I try to figure out how to use the new version. Hopefully some of my earlier concerns have been addressed.
Mary Carson Breckinridge
Mary Breckinridge Park, Confluence, Kentucky
I noticed a little park in Kentucky as I searched for various places named Confluence while leading up to the Confluence of Confluences article. Mary Breckinridge Memorial Park, also known as the Confluence Recreation Area, caught my eye. Who was Mary Breckinridge and how did she earn a memorial park, I wondered?
It was a fascinating story that I’d hoped to turn into a full article, although I couldn’t figure out how to approach it. Mary Carson Breckinridge, as I learned was part of THE Breckinridge family:
the family has included six members of the United States House of Representatives, two United States Senators, a cabinet member, two Ambassadors, a Vice President of United States and an unsuccessful Presidential candidate. Breckinridges have served as college presidents, prominent ministers, soldiers, theologians and in important positions at state and local levels.
Breckenridge, Colorado and its famous ski resort? Yes, named for the same family, even if spelled slightly differently. The family name and its influence spread far-and-wide across the United States.
Mary Carson Breckinridge took a different path, leveraging her family prestige and pedigree towards public service. She grew up privileged. She was also educated by private tutors and in exclusive schools both in the United States and in Europe. After personal tragedies during her early adulthood, she turned to nursing, helping to comfort victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic and then
The following year she joined the American Committee for Devastated France and organized a visiting nurse program in France. The program was so successful that two years later her nurses and midwives were caring for children and pregnant women throughout France. When Breckinridge returned to the United States in 1921, she found that there were no schools of midwifery and planned to start one.
This evolved into the Frontier Nursing Service and the Frontier Nursing University, providing health care and educating nurse-midwives in an under-served corner of Appalachia. Hyden, Kentucky, the base of her operations and home of the current Mary Breckinridge Hospital, was just just down the road from Confluence and the little park named in her remembrance.
Tour de Odd
I’m thinking about organizing a casual bicycle ride between several Washington, DC area geo-oddities sometime this spring or summer. Sites would include stops at the American Meridian, various practical exclaves, an original boundary stone and the little chunk of Washington, DC crossed by the famous Beltway which is displayed in the photograph above (and see map).
Members of the 12MC audience who might be interested in joining me — the potential out and back is displayed above — should feel free to contact me offline. The route is nearly flat, almost at sea-level, and provides amazing panoramic views of the monuments. I’ll let anyone interested know more as I work out the details and the weather warms up.
Ontario, California, not Canada
Twitter user @colourcountry mentioned the interesting situation of Ontario, California which comes remarkably close (in name) to Ontario, Canada. The postal code for California is CA and the top-level Internet domain for Canada is ca. There’s all sort of potential for trouble or confusion going in either direction. He also noted a similar issue with Trinidad, Colorado (CO) and Trinidad, Colombia, Colombia (co). Are there other instances?
That also reminded me of how far I’ve fallen behind on user mail. My apologies to all of you who have sent story suggestions. I’ll try to get to them as soon as I can.
Accident, Maryland, USA
Speaking of user suggestions, reader Kevin mentioned his fascination with the town of Accident in Maryland. He noted that visitors would be accidental tourists, and that the town had a "South North street and a North South Street." It’s true!
How did Accident get its name? The Town of Accident said:
Mr. George Deakins was to receive 600 acres of land in Western Maryland as a payment of a debt from King George II of England. Mr. Deakins sent out two corps of engineers, each without knowledge of the other, to survey the best land in this area. Both crews returned and to their surprise, they had both marked the same Oak tree as their starting and returning points. Mr. Deakins chose this plot of ground and had it patented “The Accident Tract”. Now called, the Town of Accident!
Right. It sounds apocryphal to me too.
The search engine query landed with an explosion on Twelve Mile Circle, hoping to uncover the ultimate in unlikely conspiracy theories, "Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll." The article you are reading right now was the first time that Mr. Coleman ever appeared in these pages as far as I could remember, and as confirmed by a quick search of every phrase that’s ever been published on this domain. I may never know why or how the mysterious forces of the Intertubes thought that 12MC might provide a solution. I can only thank whatever happy sparks of coincidence delivered this outlandish premise to my doorstep for my personal amusement.
I did know one thing: I wanted to cement the status of 12MC as the top of the list should anyone ever again drop Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll into a search engine.
The Grassy Knoll, Dallas, Texas, USA
The primary concern with this supposition, as I saw it, was the very simple fact that Gary Coleman was born in 1968. The John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas, Texas — and the possibility of additional shooter(s) on the grassy knoll — happened in 1963. And yes, I realized that the query was more than likely posted by someone searching for the most ridiculous conspiracy theory imaginable, probably out of simple boredom just to see if anyone had ever made the claim before. That didn’t make it any less awesome. Maybe that made it more awesome. Would it even be possible to imagine something more outlandish?
It had been a long, tragic ride for Gary Coleman as he nosedived from his childhood starring role in Diff’rent Strokes all the way down to Midgets Vs. Mascots (also staring Ron Jeremy… I don’t even want to know) not long before his untimely death in 2010. I have visited the Grassy Knoll and unless Mr. Coleman somehow mastered interdimensional time travel, I’d say it would be fairly safe to assume that he didn’t play a role. Still, "Gary Coleman on the Grassy Knoll" remained my favorite 12MC query ever.
While we’re on the topic, my "Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza" photograph continues to hold the record for being the most frequently stolen image on Twelve Mile Circle. It got so bad after awhile that I finally had to add that little tag-line at the bottom of the graphic to keep potential copyright violators at bay. That seemed to work.
Grassy Knoll Dr., Romeoville, Illinois, USA
it surprised me to find quite an abundance of roads in the United States named Grassy Knoll given the emotionally-charged nature of the phrase. Perhaps some of them predated 1963 although I didn’t know what to make of the others. A few examples included:
- Grassy Knoll Way, Elk Grove, California (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, Tavares, Florida (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, South Bend, Indiana (map)
- Grassy Knoll Drive, Romeoville, Illinois (map)
- Grassy Knoll Circle, Shreveport, Louisiana (map)
- Grassy Knoll Terrace, Germantown, Maryland (map)
- Grassy Knoll Street, Las Vegas, Nevada (map)
- Grassy Knoll Lane, Raleigh, North Carolina (map)
- Grassy Knoll Road, Gaffney, South Carolina (map)
- Grassy Knoll Lane, La Marque, Texas (map)
- Grassy Knoll Court, Woodbridge, Virginia (map)
I provided only one example per state, otherwise I’d probably still be recording and posting them. Most of these instances appeared in neighborhoods with bucolic themes, allowing Grassy Knoll to slip-in unnoticed within prevailing street names and norms. Some occurrences, since we’re conspiracy minded at the moment, might have included subtly hidden references to the Kennedy assassination. Notably,
Some say… a Nixon Connection?
- In Raleigh, North Carolina, Grassy Knoll Lane fell close to Daingerfield Drive. One could certainly characterize the grassy knoll as a "danger field."
- In Tavares, Florida, a housing development included Grassy Knoll Drive and Waters Gate Drive. Some say (notice how I slipped-in "some say" the favored expression of baseless claims) that Richard Nixon was involved in the Kennedy assassination and subsequent coverup. Nixon, of course, was brought down by the Watergate scandal.
- In Woodbridge, Virginia, Grassy Knoll Court bordered on Slippery Elm Court. President Kennedy was riding down Elm Street in front of the Grassy Knoll when he was shot!
.. or they could have been completely coincidental. However, when has that ever stopped anyone from posting a reckless statement on the Internet? Never?
Rest in Peace, Mr. Coleman.
Loyal reader Glenn noted that Napoleon and Wellington met at Waterloo east of Kansas City, Missouri.
(A) Napoleon, (B) Waterloo, and (C) Wellington, in Missouri
Famously, Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington met in battle at Waterloo, south of Brussels, Belgium in 1815. Now they continue to do so into perpetuity in Missouri. Glenn couldn’t find definitive evidence to prove that Waterloo, Missouri was named intentionally to fit the theme, however it seemed too remarkable to be completely coincidental.
Is anyone aware of other contiguous towns named for a battle and its opposing combatants?