Beaufort or Badminton

On February 15, 2015 · 0 Comments

Two towns sharing the exact same name sat not too far from each other in the Carolinas. Colonial settlers arrived on various points along that swath of coastline at around the same time, increasing the odds of a relationship between identical names. That was the case albeit with a twist.



Beaufort to Beaufort

The Beauforts

Beaufort, North Carolina came first, founded in 1709. The town of the same name in South Carolina arrived a couple of years later, 1711. Both Carolinas also have counties named Beaufort. The South Carolina town is the seat of government for Beaufort County. North Carolina was a bit more complicated. The town of Beaufort was the seat of government for Carteret County. Beaufort County was a completely separate place and representative of a peculiar naming trend in North Carolina.

They all commemorated the same man, Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort (1684-1714), a minor nobleman. He wasn’t responsible for any noteworthy feats so his only significant New World namesakes happened to be a couple of coastal towns and a couple of counties.


Beaufort2
Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort
via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

He was Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners (1712–1714), Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (1710–1714), and Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire (1712–1714). Via his mother’s second marriage to John Grenville, 1st Baron Granville of Potheridge, Henry Somerset inherited this share of Carolina upon Grenville’s death in 1701. Upon the death of William Craven, 2nd Baron Craven on October 9, 1711, Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort was named the eighth Palatine of Caroline. Dying at the age of thirty, on 24 May 1714… His share of Carolina was left in a trust to his two living minor sons…

Here was the twist: In spite of being named for the exact same person, the location in North Carolina was pronounced BOW-fert and the one in South Carolina was pronounced BYOU-fert. I think the Duke himself would have pronounced it something closer to the North Carolina interpretation although I’ll leave that to 12MC’s UK audience to confirm.


Beaufort Origin

Charles II created the Duke of Beaufort as a Peerage of England in 1682. The name derived originally from a castle in Montmorency-Beaufort (map), France (apparently a beautiful fortress if one translates it from French to English literally), "the only current dukedom to take its name from a place outside the British Isles… Beaufort Castle was a possession of John of Gaunt, and the surname Beaufort was given to Gaunt’s four legitimized children by his mistress and third wife, Katherine Swynford."

The castle was reduced to rubble long ago. That didn’t stop the various Beaufort locations from reaching out to each other though, with the one in North Carolina taking a particularly active role:

The International Association of Beauforts was established in 1995 when Beaufort-en-Vallee, France hosted the first reunion of Beauforts. The Beaufort, North Carolina organization seeks to promote international cooperation, understanding and development through a variety of dynamic exchanges with cities and towns with whom Beaufort maintains active sister city partnerships.


The Badminton Connection


Badminton House
Badminton House by Graeme Churchard, on Flickr (cc)

The Dukes of Beaufort resided at the palatial Badminton House and Estate (map) in Gloucestershire. It may be known best today as the site of the Badminton Horse Trials held annually most years since 1949. The event has become immensely popular.

… the biggest day in the British sporting year. It is an event that brings in a crowd of 200,000 annually — a quarter of a million and more on a nice day. This makes it the third-biggest annual event in the world, after the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis 500 practice day. It is the third day of the Badminton Horse Trials, when the cross-country is held.

With a peculiar name like Badminton, the estate seemed to beg for a connection to the sport of the same name featuring small racquets, net and shuttlecock.


IMG_5916
Badminton by gregouille, on Flickr (cc)

It did connect. At the very least, the sport took its name from the estate. Badminton House claimed the sport originated there in 1863. Other sources claimed the sport originated elsewhere before arriving at Badminton House:

Versions of the game had been played for centuries by children in the Far East, and were adapted by British Army officers stationed in Pune (or Poona), India in the 1860s. They added a net and the game became a competitive sport called "poona", with documented rules in 1867. In 1873 the sport made its way back to England and gained its current title after guests at a Badminton House lawn party held by the Duke of Beaufort introduced it to their friends as "the Badminton game".

The final mystery entailed the origin of the word Badminton. The Online Etymology Dictionary traced it to "Old English Badimyncgtun (972), ‘estate of (a man called) Baduhelm.’."

Beaufort, North and South Carolina, made the right call. It was much easier to deal with Beaufort than Badimyncgtun. Imagine the mispronunciations with the latter alternative.

Cumberland

On February 1, 2015 · 2 Comments

People have expressed a couple of distinct thoughts as I’ve discussed my upcoming bike trip along the Great Allegheny Passage. The immediate reaction was that I must be crazy and then I’d explain that I’m not intending to ride it all in a single day. The second was confusion about its endpoint in Cumberland. There are multiple Cumberlands and the one in Maryland (map) may or may not be as familiar to some people as, for example, the Cumberland Gap which is several hundred miles farther away near the KYTNVA Tripoint. I agree, my ride would seem a bit more extreme if I were heading towards that more distant Cumberland.

The discussion brought up an interesting point in the process. Why where there two places named Cumberland? Actually, let’s make that more than two. I was also familiar with Cumberland County in Maine, the home of its largest city, Portland. That made at least three well-known locations plus numerous lesser-known spots all named Cumberland (GNIS listed 26). They were spread over hundreds of miles along the eastern edge of the United States. Was there a connection? Why yes of course, thank you for asking.


Prince William, Duke of Cumberland


Cumberland Falls
Cumberland Falls (my own photo)

I didn’t check every single Cumberland although all of the ones I did examine traced back to Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765) as their namesake. He was the third son of George II, King of Great Britain. Cumberland, Maryland began as Fort Cumberland on the extreme edge of British settlement in 1755. The Cumberland Gap, along that same wilderness line albeit considerably farther south, was named for the nearby Cumberland River which in turn was named for the Duke of Cumberland in 1750. One will find a nice string of Cumberlands all along the old colonial frontier — the part of British territory actively being settled and named in the middle of the 18th Century — all honoring the Duke of Cumberland.


Battle of Culloden


View of Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor, Scotland
View of Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor, Scotland
by Danie van der Merwe, on Flickr (cc)

There were plenty of members of the British royal family with places named for them during North America’s colonial era, although not every figure received equal treatment. Sure there might have been a town or county here-and-there named as a birthright for the nobility who never ascended the throne. However one should be impressed by the sheer volume of Cumberland’s fingerprints. The preponderance traced back to a single event, the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Britain had been in political and religious upheaval for several decades by that point. Without getting into too many details, the exiled House of Stewart was attempting to wrestle control of the throne from the House of Hanover in a series of Jacobite Risings. The final rising began in 1745 ("the Forty-five"). Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) sailed to Scotland, rallied Highlanders and marched south. British troops pushed them back towards Inverness, onto the moor of Culloden (map). The Duke of Cumberland commanded British forces during this decisive battle and defeated the Jacobite army. This crushed the Stewart’s attempts to overthrow the Hanoverian dynasty and regain the crown.

This also began a great flurry of naming things for the Duke of Cumberland in the colonies. He was hailed widely as a hero for his military victory that preserved the House of Hanover and it reflected in geography. History was less kind to him. He came to be known as the "Butcher" because of his brutal repression of the Jacobite movement subsequent to the battle and his assault on Scottish culture and traditions in general.

Very few places would have been named for the Duke of Cumberland without the battle. He would have counted Prince William County in Virginia as his legacy, established when he was ten years old, and maybe that would have been about it. His geographic impact on North America might have matched a lot of other British noblemen of the era, which would have been minor.


What of this Cumberland?


Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle by Andrew Bowden, on Flickr (cc)

The principal source of the Cumberland name in North America had been solved. However that still left me wondering about the underpinning of the Duke’s name. Land of Cumbra? For that piece of the puzzle I turned to sources such as the Online Etymology Dictionary and an old book published about a century ago, The Place-names of England and Wales. Cumberland, of course, was an historic county in northwest England in the vicinity of Carlisle. That area is now part of Cumbria (map). Cumberland and Cumbria shared a common root with Cymry, the people of Wales. Thus, Cumberland referred to the land of the Welsh. This area was once part of a Brythonic kingdom up until the 10th Century. The name remained afterwards as a reminder of the people who ruled the territory in ancient times.

Undignified Floods

On January 18, 2015 · 1 Comments

Floods are awful in any form and I don’t wish to diminish or make light of that one overriding consideration. However there are floods of a "normal" variety — if an event so awful can be referred to so cavalierly — and then there are truly bizarre floods. Either way, lives are lost, property is damaged, and communities are disrupted. Things seem to be a little different and particularly undignified in certain circumstances though, for example when the flood is a raging torrent of molasses.

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919


Fire House no. 31 damaged, Molasses Disaster. 1:00pm
Fire House no. 31 damaged, Molasses Disaster. 1:00pm by Boston Public Library, on Flickr (cc)

A large storage tank of molasses filled by the Purity Distilling Company burst in Boston’s North End in January 1919. An official inquiry failed to establish a definitive reason, ascribing it to an "Act of God." Several theories were offered over the years including a buildup of carbon dioxide that may have been caused by an unusually warm winter day. Very recently the Boston Globe reported another possibility:

Now, a study has shed new light on the cause of the collapse, finding that the tank was stressed well beyond capacity and made from a steel susceptible to fracture — the same type used on the Titanic… The steel was too thin to withstand the enormous stress of 2.3 million gallons of molasses, a weakness builders should have known at the time… What builders at the time could not have known was that the type of steel used for the tank was brittle because it contained a low amount of the chemical element manganese, making it more likely to crack.

The bursting tank sent a huge wave of molasses into the neighborhood. Different sources pegged the wave at between 25 and 40 feet (8-12 metres) high. It slammed into homes, twisted an elevated railroad track, knocked a firehouse off of its foundation, and killed 21 people in its sticky wake. Another 150 people were injured. Local residents swore they could still smell a hint of molasses on particularly hot summer days for years afterwards.

The Commercial Street location where the tank once stood eventually became the infield of a baseball diamond at Langone Park (map). A small plaque reminds Little Leaguers® of the molasses tragedy.


The London Beer Flood of 1814


Dominion Theatre, London West End
Dominion Theatre, London West End by Ian Nichol, on Flickr (cc)

How did I miss the 200th anniversary of London’s beer flood? The Independent knew about it and commemorated it though:

An unlimited, free supply of beer – it sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But when it is over one million litres in volume and in a tidal wave at least 15 feet high, as it was in the London Beer Flood on 17 October 1814, the prospect seems less appealing… a broken vat at the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road flooded the local area with porter, a dark beer native to the capital, killing eight people and demolishing a pair of homes.

The brewery had been set in an underprivileged neighborhood, a slum called St. Giles Rookery. The flimsy buildings couldn’t withstand the onslaught of beer. People were crammed into the tenements all the way down to the cellars, and that’s where much of the tragedy occurred. Those in cellars were trapped as beer poured in and filled to ground level.

This accident was also ascribed to an Act of God even though witnesses had reported signs of an impending rupture earlier in the day. The owner, Henry Meux, even managed to get a favorable ruling that allowed him to get a refund on the taxes he’d paid on the beer. Negligence had much different standards back in those days.

The Horse Shoe Brewery (image) had been founded in 1764. One might think that perhaps this tragedy would have closed the brewery. It didn’t. Horse Shoe hummed along for another century and more, all the way until 1921. Upon closing, the land was put to a completely different use. It became the site of the Dominion Theatre, built in 1928-29 (map).


The Swine Sewage Flood of 1999


The Swine Ballet
The Swine Ballet by Kiesha Jean, on Flickr (cc)

Conditions in tidal North Carolina were favorable for hog farming. However, this industry also had a dirty underside, the bodily wastes of millions of pigs:

North Carolina’s 10 million hogs produce 40 million gallons of manure each day — that’s more than the number of people in the state. In Duplin County alone, 2.2 million hogs produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the New York City metro area.

These wastes were stored in manure lagoons, essentially open pits "operated to encourage anaerobic digestion of organic material while it is being stored." They can be susceptible to spills if not constructed and maintained properly.

Hurricanes do hit North Carolina periodically and that’s what happened with Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. The same area had already been hit by the much weaker Hurricane Dennis less than two weeks earlier so the water table was up and the ground saturated. Floyd slammed into the coast right at North Carolina’s Cape Fear region before moving into the Mid-Atlantic and up into New England. It doused eastern North Carolina with tremendous rainfall as it passed, leading to widespread flooding throughout the area. According to the North Carolina Riverkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance:

Waterkeepers and other environmental leaders in this state had been warning the Governor and members of the NC legislature for years about the destruction that would accompany a storm like Floyd. Thousands of huge cesspools, called "lagoons," filled with feces, urine and other toxins, blanketed the flood prone area. Many were located in the worst possible area, the floodplain itself.

The noxious sewage deluge polluted many of the local rivers and estuaries, spreading fecal coliform bacteria, polluting wells and creating dead zones were much aquatic life could not survive. The New River (map) was hit especially hard all along its fifty mile course that took it directly past US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune before flushing into the Atlantic Ocean.

The one thing all of these undignified floods had in common was that they could have been prevented.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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