Directional Upstart Eclipses Namesake

Loyal reader Cary suggested an article idea that built upon a previous topic, Upstart Eclipses Namesake. In that previous posting I offered "new" places that grew more prominent than their original namesakes. Examples I proposed included New Zealand (vs. Zealand), New South Wales (vs. South Wales) and others. There were several comments and a lively discussion — for instance the relative prominence of New Jersey and Jersey seemed to depend upon the side of the Atlantic of one’s abode — and it was all good fun.

Cary’s proposal took these efforts in a different direction, literally. Instead of new places, what if we looked at directional places instead? For example, suppose there was a town of Podunk and later a new settlement grew just to its north, and people lacking originality or hoping to ride Podunk’s coattails decided to call it North Podunk. Then suppose, over time North Podunk continued to grow until it eventually became significantly larger than Podunk. Cary was even kind enough to provide examples. I’m going to simply plagiarize Cary’s ideas in a callous manner, wrap a little text around them and call it a day. I like articles where someone else provides the hard part and I get to take a small break. Keep those ideas and suggestions coming!

Palm Beach vs. West, North and South Palm Beach, Florida

Palm Beach - "Whitehall" (Flagler Mansion)
Palm Beach – "Whitehall" (Flagler Mansion) by Roger W on Flickr (cc)

Palm Beach, that ritzy settlement on a sandy stretch of barrier island on the Atlantic side of south Florida, traced its founding back to the efforts of Henry Flagler. He was one of those Gilded Age gazillionaires at the tail end of the Nineteenth Century with abundant money to burn. Anyone familiar with Florida history should recognize the Flagler name. It’s everywhere. He laid the Florida East Coast Railway along the length of the state and plopped a string of luxury hotels down the tracks to Key West. He, maybe more than anyone else should be credited with opening Florida to mass tourism and settlement. Palm Beach was a crown jewel, the place he chose to build his winter mansion Whitehall in 1902 (map).

The opulence and wealth of Palm Beach attracted his well-heeled peers, however supply-and-demand with geography created limitations. There was only so much land available on a thin strip of barrier island. Parcels became obscenely expensive as wealthy industrialists seized the best spots for competing displays of extravagance. Those of lesser means built nearby in other directions, principally west across a narrow channel on the mainland. They still wanted to grasp a bit of the "exclusivity" of the Palm Beach brand, however. Thus grew additional towns of West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach and South Palm Beach. West Palm Beach has ten times more residents (about a hundred thousand) than Palm Beach (a little less than ten thousand). North Palm Beach is slightly larger (about twelve thousand). Only South Palm Beach has fewer residents (about fifteen hundred).

Certainly West Palm Beach overshadowed Palm Beach by population. However Palm Beach could still take some consolation. It’s most recent median annual family income was $137,867 while West Palm Beach was only $42,074.

Orange vs. West, East and South Orange, New Jersey

East Orange Station
East Orange Station by Adam Moss on Flickr (cc)

The story of "The Oranges" — and that’s how the collection of New Jersey’s orange-named places are often grouped — was quite a bit different. Why Orange? Like many places named Orange it referred to William III of England, a.k.a. William of Orange. A group of breakaway Puritans left the New Haven Colony in Connecticut in 1666 and settled in lands that would later become Newark and the Oranges (map). According to the City of Orange Township, the area composing the Oranges served as an agricultural portion of Newark. The interests of the two began to diverge by the end of the Eighteenth Century, with Orange finally detaching in 1806. Internal rifts appeared within Orange over the next few decades and it too split not long after earning town status in 1860.

… Orange was permitted to establish fire, police, street and other town departments. On March 13, 1860, Dr. William Pierson was elected as the first Mayor of the Town of Orange. Almost immediately, the new town began fragmenting into smaller independent communities primarily because of local disputes about the costs of establishing the new departments. The other areas separated from the Town of Orange…

That resulted in four Oranges: Orange, West Orange, East Orange and South Orange. Today Orange has about thirty-thousand residents, West Orange has about forty-five thousand, East Orange has about sixty-five thousand and South Orange has about fifteen thousand. Thus, two of the three directional Oranges grew larger than Orange.

Demographically the Oranges are starkly divided.

Orange and East Orange are relatively urban and working-class, while South Orange and West Orange remain affluent suburban enclaves. In addition, the residents of Orange and East Orange are predominantly African American (75.1% and 89.5%, respectively), while those of South Orange and West Orange are predominantly white.

Battleford vs. North Battleford, Saskatchewan

Downtown North Battleford
Downtown North Battleford by waferboard on Flickr (cc)

Battleford in Saskatchewan provided another interesting tale. First I wondered about its name. Was there really a battle on a ford or was it simply some Englishman’s surname that transposed to the colonies and found its way to the Canadian prairie? Battleford (map) sat near the confluence of the North Saskatchewan and Battle Rivers, and a ford actually existed there. That solved part of the mystery. Also the "battle" wasn’t a single clash, rather it reflected an ongoing series of conflicts between Cree and Blackfoot tribes within the larger geographic footprint. Learning that, I felt comfortable and could move on with my investigation.

Poor Battleford. It should have risen to such greater prominence. Things began well at its founding in 1875 and soon it became the capital of the North-West Territories. Then came the railroad. Originally the Canadian Pacific Railway would have passed directly through Battleford, cementing its future.

But in 1881 the community’s destiny was altered with the federal government’s abrupt decision to alter the route of the trans-continental railway to cross the southern plains: as a consequence, the territorial capital was officially transferred to Regina in 1883…

Then, to add insult to injury, the Canadian Northern Railway came along in 1905 and built a line to Edmonton, placing its route on the other side of the river from Battleford. Naturally a new settlement migrated there and became North Battleford, soon eclipsing the original Battleford. Current Battleford has about five thousand residents compared to North Battleford with at about fifteen thousand. Battleford could have been Saskatchewan’s capital. Instead it became North Battleford’s smaller cousin.


Cary offered several other examples although I got tired of typing:

  • North Richland Hills vs. Richland Hills in Texas
  • North Tonawanda vs. Tonawanda in New York
  • West Covina vs. Covina in California
  • West Babylon vs. Babylon in New York

I’m sure the 12MC audience can find others. Thanks Cary!

15 Replies to “Directional Upstart Eclipses Namesake”

  1. My first thought was of Palmerston and Palmerston North in New Zealand. Palmerston has a population of 795 whereas Palmerston North has about 84000. However, it’s not quite the same situation. The two places are separated by about 870km (and Cook Strait). They were both originally called just Palmerston, after Lord Palmerston. The North suffix was added later to avoid confusion. However, Palmerston North is definitely the more important and well known of the two today.

  2. In the affluent northern suburbs of Detroit, West Bloomfield Township (~64k) has a greater population than Bloomfield Township (~41k). Geo-politics has something to do with it, though — Bloomfield Township has several chunks (incorporated cities) taken out of it.

  3. Connecticut’s Canaans don’t really fit the bill here, nor the Granby, Hartfords, Windsors, or Havens. (Though one could quite easily argue that West Hartford has eclipsed Hartford in every possible way other than population.) Probably the best in CT is East Lyme (pop. 19,000) vs. Lyme (pop. 2,400). And no, that differential isn’t due to the town’s namesake disease killing everyone off.

    But I’m posting to suggest your next post on this theme: Inaccurate Directional Upstart Eclipses Namesake.

    My favorite in CT is East Hampton (pop. 13,000) vs. Hampton (pop. 2,000).

    Sure, that looks good for this post idea on paper. But not on a map, as East Hampton is 30 miles SSW of Hampton.

    (The story of how this happened is fairly benign, however, as it basically comes down to the fact that the two Hamptons have nothing to do with each other, other than their names. I’ll let Tom write up the nitty gritty when he does the Inaccurate Directional Upstart Eclipses Namesake post!)

  4. South Woodham Ferrers, England (pop 16000) grew up round the station serving (but some way from) Woodham Ferrers, which has remained a small village.

  5. Wylong in western New South Wales was originally the important town but was replaced by West Wylong which is only a few kilometres to the west. Until I drove through the area some time ago was the first time that I actually realised that there was a place called Wylong so much had West Wyalong assumed the lead role. Incidentally the local government area is Bland Shire one assumes that the locals are pretty unremarkable.

  6. Sorry about the spelling in my earlier post – the town name is Wyalong. Had a senior’s moment I suspect.

  7. West Babylon vs. Babylon doesn’t really count even though West Babylon has a population of about 43,000 while Babylon (technically called Babylon Village) is only about 12,000. West Babylon is just a collection of suburbia with no town center. Babylon is quite different, with a small but quite attractive downtown. It also has a major transfer station on the Long Island Rail Road and one of the lines is called the Babylon Line. West Babylon doesn’t even have a station.

  8. A few examples in North Carolina:

    Topsail Beach (population 383) versus North Topsail Beach (population 743). Interestingly, the two towns do not touch; situated between them is the Town of Surf City (seriously), which with a population of 1853 is nearly twice as large as the two Topsail Beaches combined. Surf City is also the oldest municipality of the three, having been incorporated in 1949 compared to Topsail Beach’s 1963 and North Topsail Beach’s 1990. All three are primarily located on Topsail Island (only a tiny portion of Topsail Island, at the very southern tip, is not part of any of these towns), and only Surf City has any territory on the mainland.

    Wilkesboro (population 3413) versus North Wilkesboro (population 4245). One could argue if the latter has overshadowed the former: the latter is definitely better known since it is the home of North Wilkesboro Speedway (one of the earliest NASCAR tracks), but the former remains the county seat. These two touch, although there is a “doughnut hole” between the two which is not part of either town.

    Jefferson versus West Jefferson: This is a former example. Starting almost immediately upon its founding in 1909, West Jefferson was the larger of the two, with the disparity peaking in 1940 at West Jefferson 883, Jefferson 304. However, during the 1960s Jefferson surpassed West Jefferson in population; as of the 2010 census Jefferson’s population was 1611 to West Jefferson’s 1299.

    1. I also wanted to mention West Wendover, and actually typed up a reply, but forgot to post it (and then forgot that I didn’t actually post it successfully).

  9. East Bethel, MN, (pop. 11,626 in 2010) is much larger than Bethel, MN (pop. 466 in 2010).
    Basically, Bethel is the original small town, while East Bethel was a (mostly) surrounding rural township that later incorporated separately and became an outer suburb of the Twin Cities.

  10. David’s South Woodham Ferrers is in Essex. Essex’s largest town, Southend (pop. 178,700) started out at the south end of Prittlewell (pop. ~9,500) but has overwhelmed it.

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