Most Frequent U.S. Communities

On August 28, 2014 · 5 Comments

The Geographic Names Information System had a little "frequently asked questions" page I somehow overlooked until a couple of days ago. Most of the FAQ dealt with mundane issues although a few gems hid within its midst. For example,

The most frequently occurring community name continues to vary. In the past year, it was Midway at 212 occurrences and Fairview at 202. More recently, Fairview counted 288 and Midway 256. The name Springfield often is thought to be the only community name appearing in each of the 50 States, but at last count it was in only 34. The most recent count shows Riverside with 186 instances in 46 States, only Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Oklahoma not having a community so named.

This compilation was great from a couple of perspectives. First, I found it interesting in its own right. Second, it meant that someone else did all of the dirty work today and I could simply steal borrow the idea and elaborate upon it. 12MC didn’t mind getting a brief respite from research for once.


Jefferson Davis Monument
Jefferson Davis Monument by J. Stephen Conn, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The United States had more places with nice views than ones located equidistant from two points in recent years so I started there. I selected Fairview in Kentucky because the border separating Christian County from Todd County cut right through the settlement (map). I’d always favor a geo-oddity above the others.

It seemed familiar and then it clicked in my mind when I spotted Jefferson Davis Historic Site, a memorial to the Confederate President who was "born on this site on June 3, 1808." Reader Bill Cary brought this site to my attention in a comment after I posted the Jeff Davis article in April 2013.

The Jefferson Davis monument looked a lot like another object named for a different first president, the Washington Monument. I’m sure that an obelisk wasn’t a coincidence although it was considerably shorter in stature (351 feet/107 metres versus 555 ft/169 m). Jefferson Davis’ monument probably didn’t have a precious tip either.


Midway, Utah, USA

The wonderful thing about Midway was that every instance had a built-in story by definition. Someone once thought they should all be defined by their geographic placement between two or more other locations.

I focused on Midway, Utah because it was a Midway with a decent population (about 4,000) and an interesting explanation. As noted by the city:

A wagon road completed through Provo Canyon in 1858 brought the first settlers to the area. In the spring of 1859, many more families began moving farther to the west along Snake Creek. Two small communities were established, called the Upper and Lower Settlements… In 1866, Indian hostilities grew and territorial governor Brigham Young encouraged settlers to construct forts for protection. The two small settlements reached an agreement to build a fort halfway or midway between the two existing communities… thus the beginning of our modern day town named Midway.


The Simpsons house, remodeled, in Henderson, NV
The Simpsons house, remodeled, in Henderson, NV by rscottjones, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Springfield came next although there’s really only one Springfield that matters and it’s fictional. Maybe I’ll give a nod to Springfield, Oregon (map) because the town recently commissioned a Simpsons mural. Also it’s just down the road from Portland which may have inspired the cartoon Springfield so it had that geographic proximity going for it.


There were so many Riversides and I chose Riverside, California because of the Parent Washington Navel Orange. I’d visit it. The city even had a little park to protect the historic tree (map). I’ll let the University of California Riverside Citrus Variety Collection explain this particular specimen:

Washington navel orange is also known as the Bahia for the Brazilian city from which it was imported into the United States in 1870. Although its origins are uncertain, it is believed to come from a bud sport found in a Selecta orange tree in the early 1800s. Upon its arrival at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. it was propagated and trees were sent to California and Florida. Although the Florida trees did not flourish, those sent to Eliza Tibbets in Riverside, California found an ideal climate for their culture

Why focus on one specific navel orange tree in a tiny park in Riverside, California from amongst the millions of others in groves throughout the state? Because this exact tree was one of the first two original trees brought to Riverside in 1873, and the other one died in 1921. All California navel oranges descended from those two trees. They were the parents of the California citrus industry.

On August 28, 2014 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Most Frequent U.S. Communities”

  1. John Deeth says:

    Riverside California has more people but Riverside Iowa is teh future birthplace of Captain Kirk!,_Iowa#mediaviewer/File:USS_Riverside_Enterprise_Replica.jpg

  2. Joe says:

    I’ve long been amazed at how much work was done over the years to try to pin the fictional Springfield down to a single location. While we now know where a lot of the influence came from (as you mentioned in the article), if you have time to kill, feel free to read this analysis of Simpsons references attempting to identify Springfield…

  3. Peter says:

    Matt Groening deliberately chose Springfield as the name of the Simpsons’ town because it is such a common name. He wanted people who lived in every one of the many Springfields to think it was named after their town.

  4. January First-of-May says:

    It’s not in most of the “where is the Simpsons setting” lists I’ve read, but an episode of Drawn Together briefly mentions the Simpsons living in Springfield, Connecticut.
    Connecticut, of course, is one of the few states that don’t actually have a Springfield in reality.

    Ironically, another long-running show – Guiding Light, an obscurity mainly known for being ludicrously long-running – was also set in some uncertain town named Springfield. I think it was eventually mentioned as being in Illinois, but the town in the setting was nothing like the real Springfield IL (the capital of the state), so the uncertainty partly continues to this day.

  5. Fritz Keppler says:

    In the TV series from the 50’s “Father Knows Best”, the town where the Anderson family lived was named Springfield. As a kid I always assumed it was Illinois, until we visited the daughter of family friends who was studying at a convent in Springfield, LA, when I started to find out how many Springfields there were across the country. In the TV series, the state was purposely left unspecified, even to the point where the eldest daughter was selecting which college to attend, the father pushed for his alma mater (I forget what it was), but she opted for the local school, named “State” there and for the rest of the series run.

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