Disunion Averted

On August 25, 2013 · 5 Comments

Eventually I get around to things.

Many months ago, December 2012 to be precise, loyal reader "Joe" — not to be confused with that other Loyal Reader Joe (a.k.a. Spammy Joe) — commented on an article in 12MC. I called that original article Short Distance Namesakes for towns in close proximity sharing a name albeit independently. He mentioned the interesting situation of Union City, conjoined towns on the either side of the Indiana-Ohio border. They didn’t meet the exact criteria of the earlier article, he duly noted, although their predicament warranted further attention. I stacked it on my pile of possible topics and finally got around to it.

Union City, Indiana and Ohio

Joe was kind enough to include a link to an old clipping from the July 17, 1980 edition of the Palm Beach Post, which had been reprinted from an Associated Press wire article. It presented an interesting story that’s probably worth a few minutes of your time, however I’ll try to summarize it in a few words if you don’t want to bother clicking to it.

Union City was… "a tale of two towns with two school systems, two fire departments, two police forces, two area codes — two of almost everything one town needs." The article went on to explain several petty inconveniences and grievances, such as Ohio mail requiring an Indiana address, of Indiana factories following Ohio time at the annual switch to Daylight Saving Time, and of various financial and governmental redundancies of a population split between two states.

The most interesting feature, and what really caught the eye of 12MC, was its reference to "the geographic oddity… traced to a survey error by the federal government in 1798 that gave Indiana a piece of Ohio." This mistake was "discovered" apparently when police on both sides of the line tried to figure out who should punish brawlers from a bar fight. "The Authorities couldn’t decide whether the case belonged in Randolf County, Ind., or Darke County, Ohio, so they sent James Surber, Darke County engineer, to resurvey the boundary." The Ohio boundary should have been a half-mile farther west, the article concluded, and most of Indian’s portion of Union City should become part of Ohio. Hilarity ensued.

Let’s fast-forward another thirtysomething years.

Welcome to Union City, Indiana
SOURCE: Welcome to Union City, Indiana by jimmywayne, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

The two Union Cities, while continuing to operate separately, have actually grown closer in several respects since 1980. They have a joint sign that proclaims themselves collectively as a "hub of two states." Their single Chamber of Commerce presents a united web presence. An annual Union City State Line Heritage Days underscores their cooperative approach. Relations seem congenial.

Two primary annoyances dissipated on their own. Ohio mail no longer bears an Indiana address: Union City, Ohio now uses zip code 45390 while Union City, Indiana requires 47390. Also, since 2006, all counties in Indiana began observing Daylight Saving Time. Ohio and Indiana are both within the Eastern Time Zone observing DST today so they always follow the same time all year long.

Finally, regarding the 1798 "survey error," — that was a bit of hyperbole dropped into the story to make it more interesting. The error had been known for nearly a century and the two states had long agreed to make the de facto border official. More than likely, Supreme Court precedence would have upheld that same position even if Ohio ever wanted to dispute it because so much time had passed. And besides, Union City in Indiana wasn’t even platted until 1849.(¹) It didn’t exist until well after the border had been established, error and all, as an Indiana town.

Thank you, Joe. This one took some interesting twists I hadn’t anticipated and I thoroughly enjoyed pulling at the threads.

(¹) Union City was founded at the intersection of several railroad lines. Anyone bothering to check the history link would have noticed a reference to an incarnation of the Bee Line. See how all of these 12MC articles tie together?(²)
(²) Hey "January First-of-May," did I get that font tag right this time?

On August 25, 2013 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Disunion Averted”

  1. Greg says:

    I may have brought this up before in a comment, but this reminds me of College Corner, OH/West College Corner, IN, with the exception that the College Corners jointly operate a school district. The half-court line of the gym allegedly is on the border.

    • Dan says:

      Ye, the school straddles the state line. Also, College Corner, OH is in both Preble and Butler counties and therefore in two metropolitan areas (Dayton and Cincinnati). Best yet, US 27 crosses the state line right at the Preble/Butler/Union country tripoint.

  2. January First-of-May says:

    Yeah, the font is fine this time 🙂
    (and by the way, this is my last visit from Kaliningrad Oblast this year – we’re in the train at the border customs)

  3. Joe says:

    Thanks for the article and kind words. Glad I was able to contribute in some way.

  4. Andy says:

    Drop a little further south, and you get a similar situation on the outskirts of Cincinnati: Harrison, OH and West Harrison, IN.


    West Harrison (legally a town) is clearly just a tiny spillover, and not much of a locale in its own right. From what I found online, the two entities share some services, but not all (schools, for example, are separate).

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