Definitely Halfway

On May 12, 2011 · 3 Comments

I guess it was back in January when I focused on the little town of Halfway, Oregon. I was pretty impressed when I thought they’d named it that way because of the nearby 45th parallel of latitude north — i.e., halfway between the equator and the North Pole. That turned out to be a false assumption. Nonetheless I still managed to find something interesting with Halfway. I tucked away thoughts of other "halfway" places for future exploration.

It didn’t take long to generate several lists of halfway place names. Many nations provide online databases that allow keyword searching. I’m not going to reprint entire lists but I’ve included links to those resources should you wish to explore the subject further. Repeatedly, I asked myself as I reviewed the tallies, "halfway to what?" It’s not often self-evident. Most of these landmarks are rather small. Additionally, many of the endpoints that determined halfway were obscure when referenced originally and have continued to fade in relevance over time.

Canada



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The Canada Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB) from Natural Resources Canada, a government agency I’ve referenced a number of times, lists 153 Halfway place names including several inhabited but unincorporated areas. There is even a Halfway Mountain in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Halfway shown above can be found in the township of Madawaska Valley, Renfrew County, in Ontario. I couldn’t find an exact population but there were barely 4,000 people in the entire Madawaska Valley. It’s tiny.


United Kingdom



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The halfway phenomenon seems considerably less pronounced in the United Kingdom. I found only 12 halfways including six inhabited places as I consulted the Gazeteer of British Place Names. I guess this makes sense. I can imagine nineteenth century Canadian mapmakers struggling to come up with enough names, and resorting to halfways and all sorts of other contrived conveniences just to fill the voids and complete the job. The UK is considerably smaller and they’ve had a lot more time to create meaningful names.

I’ve chosen a Halfway in Cynghordy, Carmarthenshire, in Wales. It seemed to be the most significant of the UK halfways based on a quick eyeball examination. I don’t have any empirical evidence to back that claim so please correct me if I’m wrong.


Australia



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The hunt for halfways then switched to Geoscience Australia where I got 96 matches. The most significant of these seems to be Halfway Creek in New South Wales. It’s not much more than a crossroads on the Pacific Highway where one can stop for fuel and maybe a rest. It does look like an attractive place in Street View, though.


United States



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The final stop on our halfway tour takes us to the United States where the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) uncovered 372 instances. One, of course, is Halfway, Oregon which I featured previously. Another is Halfway, Maryland, named for being halfway between the dueling metropolises of Hagerstown (which I’ve heard of) and Williamsport (not the one in Pennsylvania but a much more obscure one in Maryland that I’ve never heard of)

The other decently-sized Halfway, bearing in mind that I’m using this in a relative sense, is Halfway, Missouri. This is distinguishable for being the hometown of David Smith, they guy who shot himself across the Mexico-USA border with a cannon. Did any of you guess where this thread would eventually lead?

On May 12, 2011 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Definitely Halfway”

  1. David says:

    The Halfway near Sheffield, UK, is notable for being right at the end of a tram line:

    “Is this tram going to Meadowhall?”
    “Halfway… “

  2. Bill Harris says:

    You’ve covered halfway, how about Midway? Of course the most famous of the Midway’s are the Midway Islands. There’s also an unincorporated area in Northern Delaware called Midway as it marks the midway point between Newark and Wilmington.

  3. Nelson says:

    It’s got nothing to do with geography, but C. S. Lewis created an equivocating character named Media Halfways.

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