India Loves 12MC

On November 23, 2014 · 0 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle noticed increasing visitor traffic from India over the last couple of years and particularly within last several months. Maybe that’s a recognition of growing Internet access within the subcontinent and perhaps a general improvement in its technological infrastructure. I’d prefer to think of it in simpler terms. India loves 12MC. This wasn’t the first time I’ve focused on people who love 12MC. I’m always on the lookout for new constituencies who appreciate this humble little geo-oddity site. There aren’t many of us. We need to stick together.


India Loves 12MC
Twelve Mile Circle Readership from India in 2014

On the other hand, India is a nation of more than 1.2 billion people, and 12MC can only attract a few hundred visitors in an entire year? Does that sound like love? Well, everything is relative of course, and the readership has much improved within that geographic area. That’s a fact. Also traffic wasn’t coming from a single person returning to the site day-after-day. Hits were coming from all over. The larger blobs on the map represented numerous readers from metropolitan areas such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.


Kolkata
Kolkata by Flip Nomad, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’m not sure my culturally insensitive mind will ever get used to the name Kolkata. My brain reflexively seemed to drive towards the westernized colonial imperialist version, Calcutta, instead. Kolkata sounded too much like Cold Cuts. It would compare favorably with other foodie-sounding places such as Turkey and Chile (and why not Hamburg and Frankfurt while I’m at it). I’ve really got on a tangent this morning. I’ll see if I can pull it back together.

Then I noticed that Kolkata fell within the West Bengal State, an area of peculiar geographic shape.


WestBengalDistricts numbered
West Bengal Districts via Wikimedia Commons,
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

West Bengal included two narrow necks of less than 20 kilometres across as it ambled north from the Bay of Bengal, past Kolkata, and onward towards India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan. Bangladesh pinched West Bengal from the east and other Indian states pushed from the west. I took a closer look at the lower neck, a place anchored by Farakka on the Ganges River. One corner was called Farakka Barrage Township (map), which I considered an unusual name that might benefit from further investigation.



A barrage in a military context would turn into an unpleasant experience rather quickly. It would likely include heavy artillery bombardment. Fortunately that wasn’t the case in Farakka. It didn’t reference a barrage from an historical context based on warfare.

Barrage derived from a French word meaning "barrier." Militarily, artillery could be used either as an offensive or defensive barrier. In a peaceful situation as in Farakka, a barrier could be used against natural forces such as water. A barrage was a very specific type of dam used to control the flow of water instead of creating a reservoir. At Farakka, "The purpose of the barrage is to divert 1,100 cubic metres per second (40,000 cu ft/s) of water from the Ganges to the Hooghly River for flushing out the sediment deposition from the Kolkata harbour without the need of regular mechanical dredging."



Enclaves and Exclaves of the India / Bangladesh Border

West Bengal also included the famed Cooch Behar district, a distinct section of border between India and Bangladesh noteworthy for its particularly complicated intertwining of the nations. As I noted in that previous article, "Within this odd borderland are 106 exclaves of India within Bangladesh and 92 exclaves of Bangladesh within India, including numerous exclaves within the exclaves." It also included a number of quadripoints and boundary crosses.

Anyway, Twelve Mile Circle extends a hearty welcome today to readers who hail from India (and everyone else of course).

Republic of Indian Stream

On November 19, 2014 · 0 Comments

The short-lived Republic of Indian Stream owed its existence to frustrations rooted in divergent interpretations of the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War between the United States and Great Britain. The treaty included a number of provisions including those designed to establish firm boundaries between Canada and the United States. Ironically, a document intended to create a bright demarcation actually created additional confusion.

The treaty devoted an entire section, Article 2, to preventing "all disputes which might arise in future" along the border. That purpose seemed both noble and fair. The problem centered on its reliance on geographic landmarks to create a line, specifically its use of watersheds. The confusing portion of the clause read:

…that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands; along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude…

It sounded fine in theory. However the United States and the Great Britain couldn’t agree on the placement of the "northwesternmost head of Connecticut River."



Was the northwesternmost head at Halls Stream, Indian Stream, Perry Stream or the Connecticut River itself? The United States favored Halls Stream while Great Britain favored the Connecticut River. One would have thought those little details might have been discussed and resolved before ink dried on paper. They were not. Negotiators failed to clarify their intent and created a small disputed area between Halls Stream on the west and the Connecticut River on the east.

The former belligerents negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and the United States ratified it the following year. Yet dueling interpretation remained fully intact for nearly a half-century afterwards. Finally local residents reached their breaking point. They tired of double taxation, military recruitment and rule of law. People in this disputed territory declared themselves to live in an independent state, the Republic of Indian Stream, in 1832. The couple of hundred residents formed their own legislature, minted their own coinage, established their own law enforcement, and set about creating the infrastructure of a tiny nation. The United States and Great Britain were not impressed. They continued to squabble and bicker while ignoring the notion of a sovereign Indian Stream.


Pittsburg, NH
Pittsburg, NH by Axel Drainville, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Republic, if it truly ever existed, ended in 1836. A force from Indian Stream "invaded" Canada to free one of its local citizens who had been arrested for an outstanding debt and imprisoned there. This created an international incident. The Republic quickly authorize its annexation to the United States and the New Hampshire Militia occupied the territory to protect it. Great Britain decided the dispute wasn’t worth the trouble and acquiesced to an American interpretation using Halls Stream as the border.


River Road Covered Bridge
River Road Covered Bridge by James Walsh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

After finally resolving the boundary dispute, the former Republic of Indian Stream became New Hampshire’s Town of Pittsburg. It’s attractions included the beautiful Connecticut Lakes, a string of lakes along the Connecticut River named without regard to imagination, First Connecticut Lake, Second Connecticut Lake, Third Connecticut Lake and Fourth Connecticut Lake. It also included the Happy Corner Covered Bridge over Perry Stream. Other than an historical marker, there isn’t much evidence of the old Republic any longer.

Events in northern New Hampshire have been considerably more sedate ever since.

I Before E Like in Milwaukie

On November 12, 2014 · 2 Comments

"I Before E Like in Milwaukie." If that phrase doesn’t grate on one’s nerves or otherwise sound completely wrong, it probably means the reader came from a location outside of the United States. Or came from Oregon. Because there is a Milwaukie in Oregon. I discovered that recently while examining the 12MC reader statistics. Someone visited the website from Milwaukie and it caught my eye because of its unusual spelling. The more standard variant, of course, would be Milwaukee with double-e as used in the large city of that name in Wisconsin.


Milwaukie Theater
Milwaukie Theater by Curtis Perry, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There were two takeaways. First, anyone arriving on Twelve Mile Circle from an unusual location will always be fair game for a future article. Second, I felt compelled to learn whether Milwaukie and Milwaukee were somehow related to each other. That’s my nature and that’s always going to happen.

I’ll spoil the surprise right at the beginning. Yes there was a connection. Alright, everyone can go home now.


Lot Whitcomb portrait
Lot Whitcomb
Wikimedia Commons in the public domain

Credit an early Western pioneer and entrepreneur, Lot Whitcomb, for the Oregon name. He founded the town in 1848 and without a doubt he named it for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Milwaukie Historical Society of Milwaukie, Oregon issued a History of Milwaukie Oregon in 1965, basing it on an unfinished manuscript prepared as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The manuscript noted the etymology of Milwaukee, a "gathering place by the water" in various Algonquian languages such as Potawatomi and Ojibwe (Chippewa).

Milwaukee in Wisconsin was settled where three rivers converged, the Milwaukie, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic, forming a natural harbor immediately prior to entering Lake Michigan. Whitcomb admired the success of the Wisconsin city that he attributed in part to its favorable geographic placement and searched for a similarly-situated location in Oregon. He found such a spot along the Willamette river where "Kellogg Creek, Johnson Creek and many smaller branches fed by the multiplicity of springs in the vicinity" came together in a comparable fashion. Thus Whitcomb platted a new town and named it Milwaukee. Later the spelling changed to Milwaukie. The exact reason for the change was subject to various apocryphal tales. The History of Milwaukie Oregon concluded that the most likely explanation involved the Postal Service wanting to reduce postal mistakes. Less mail would be routed erroneously if the spellings differed.


Bing
Bing by mbgrigby, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Milwaukie’s primary claim to fame has been the Bing Cherry. That famous fruit also had a fascinating history.

Henderson Luelling traveled to Oregon with a wagon full of fruit tree seedlings and, in effect, delivered the tree fruit industry to the West. Henderson’s younger brother, Seth followed in 1850, settling in Milwaukie, Oregon, where he established a commercial tree fruit nursery (and curiously, changed the spelling of his name.)… Ah Bing was Seth Lewelling’s Manchurian foreman who oversaw 30 Chinese farm workers and helped run the nursery. Accounts differ as to whether it was Seth or Bing who developed the large black sweet cherry variety, but the Bing cherry was developed at the Lewelling nursery and named in honor of the Chinese foreman.

I never realized Bing cherries were actually named for a person. Also, why the fixation with spelling changes in that part of Oregon?

Finally I guess I should mention that Milwaukie is the home of Dark Horse Comics so nobody should feel a need to mention that in the comments.


Back to Milwaukee



I examined the Geographic Names Information System to see if there were other places named Milwaukee, Milwaukie or whatever other variations might be possible. There were very few and I found almost nothing more related to any of them. The Milwaukee in Pennsylvania, however, was featured in a YouTube video by a guy who randomly hit a map with a Sharpie while blindfolded and selected a tiny village near Scranton (map). He drove three hours to Milwaukee the next day to see a few homes and a pie shop.

Actually, the guy had an interesting premise called Here a Year, "to embody the three verbs (Live, Discover, Connect)." He let his readers select a state for him to live in for a year and the audience chose Pennsylvania. The Milwaukee video was one of many articles and videos he posted from March 2012 to March 2013 during his Pennsylvania year. I always find out about these wonderful ideas when it’s too late. I would have enjoyed following along with his adventures as they unfolded.

He selected another state afterwards, Nevada, and a few months later the trail ran cold. I have no idea what he’s up to now — probably got swallowed up in Vegas for all we know — and disappeared. I suppose I could fill-out the contact form on his website and see what happened although, well… that would entail effort. I’m sure he’s well.

Someday I’d love to undertake a year-long county counting journey. I’ll get right on that after I collect my lottery winnings.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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