The Jeffersons and Beyond

On January 4, 2011 · 8 Comments

I stumbled across a geo-oddity as I worked on one of my other hobbies (genealogy): one family line had a connection with Watertown, in Jefferson County, Wisconsin; and a member of that same family had a connection to Watertown, in Jefferson County, New York. I’d never come across a situation where two states had towns with the same name in counties with the same name.

Watertown, Jefferson County, New York


Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin

My apologies for embedding Mapquest maps because they don’t show up in several common news readers but those of you coming directly to the website will see the images above. Mapquest works best for these examples.

Jefferson County is a common name. Thomas Jefferson was a particularly iconic figure during the period when many counties formed and 27 states chose to honor him in that manner. Likewise, there are a number of places called Watertown. I wondered if there were other Watertowns in other Jefferson Counties in other states. I searched for awhile but I couldn’t find any.

This didn’t prevent me from looking for similar instances using different names. I figured that even if it’s a rather unusual phenomenon it could hardly be unique. There are plenty of other county names repeated amongst the states. There had to be other matching towns hidden within them and I found several without too much difficulty.

There is a town called Franklin in Franklin County, New York and another town called Franklin in Franklin County, Vermont. Both Franklins have about 1,200 inhabitants. The town of Franklin in New York also has a community called Franklin Falls.

Therefore it’s possible to live in Franklin Falls in the town of Franklin in the County of Franklin, in New York, then drive across the border to the town of Franklin in the County of Franklin in Vermont. Got all that?

View Larger Map

It shouldn’t take more than about two and a half hours.

I chose another common county name and gave it a quick examination. This one gets even better. There are Jackson Counties in many places, but the ones that caught my attention were located in Ohio and Indiana. Both of these Jackson Counties have townships named Jackson, Hamilton and Washington. I’m not too surprised by matching Jackson Townships, but what are the odds of having three township matches?

There is a bonus oddity here. Jackson County, Ohio’s county seat is the city of Jackson. However the city of Jackson is located in a different part of Jackson County than Jackson Township and they do not share a border. It gets confusing.

  • Jackson Township, Jackson County, Indiana (map)
  • Jackson Township, Jackson County, Ohio (map)
  • City of Jackson, Jackson County, Ohio (map)

There must be other instances. I’d be interested if anyone can find more, especially examples outside of the United States. Canada seems to be a likely candidate.

Totally Unrelated

I have to pat myself on the back a little today because this is post number 500 on the Twelve Mile Circle. That’s about 490 more than I expected I’d ever accomplish when I first started in November 2007, and I feel like I still have a lot more in me. Thanks for all the encouragement, ideas and support!

On January 4, 2011 · 8 Comments

8 Responses to “The Jeffersons and Beyond”

  1. Joe says:

    Congrats on 500 posts!

    Best I’ve got for you is Pike County in Missouri and Illinois. Both have a “town” of New Hartford. While New Hartford appears to be a very small establishment in both counties, what makes it unique is that these the counties are also adjacent to each other, separated only by the mighty Mississippi River.

  2. 500 posts in three years is quite the rate of production. Here’s to 500 more!

  3. Randy Clark says:

    No proof of birth yet but every indication that my father was born in Marion County, Iowa. As a baby I was (told that I was) taken to Indianapolis in Marion County, Indiana.
    Later I moved to Flippin in Marion County, Arkansas. Once I began researching my family history I learned that I likely descend from the Pricketts of Pricketts Fort located in Marion County, West Virginia.

  4. James D says:

    Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, and Nebraska also have places called Franklin in Franklin County, although admittedly they would be a bit more effort to take in on a drive, and the Florida and Mississippi instances make Juno, Texas, look like a bustling metropolis. And there’s an independent city of Franklin in Virginia, although I somehow feel it would be cheating to count it both as a place and a county.

    As if there weren’t enough duplicate Franklins, there’s one in Macon County, North Carolina, and another in Macon County, Georgia. These are a slightly more realistic 3½ hours apart.

    There are predictably some good duplicates with other common placenames. Clinton is a city of 26,000 people in Clinton county, Iowa, whilst Clinton county, Ohio, has its own, much smaller Clinton.

    Rather inevitably, there is a host of Washingtons in Washington counties. In rough order of population, these are in: Pennsylvania (15k), Utah, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.

    Similarly there are a string of Madisons in Madison counties in: Alabama (37k), Mississippi (17k), Illinois, Florida, Nebraska, Virginia, and New York, the last of which has an impressive trifecta of Madison village, Madison town, Madison county.

    And if the Virginia cheat does somehow count, its independent city of Salem pairs with Salem, Salem county, New Jersey.

    If you allow a bit of flexibility in spelling, Springfield, the county seat of Clark county, Ohio (population hopefully still above 60,000), has a duplicate in Clarke county, Alabama (one of those places that is little more than a name on a topo map).

    A particularly disappointing not-quite is Greenville town, Greene county, New York, and Greeneville, Greene county, Tennessee, the latter being the former capital of the State of Franklin, which in some strange sort of way brings this comment full circle.

    So how common does a phenomenon have to be, one wonders, before it stops being a geo-oddity? This particular geo-oddity seems a lot more frequent than I had initially guessed before I had a relatively cursory look around.

    • You win the prize for coming up with lots of examples, James D.! I’m really familiar with the Madison, VA instance, having driven through it probably a couple of hundred times (it’s in the Hallowed Ground). We need to develop a geo-oddity scale for the phenomenon. I think you may have done as I did when putting the post together — I looked at the list of most common county names and started with those repeated with the greatest frequency. Often those were the "Founding Fathers" (e.g., Washington, Jefferson, Franklin…) or various other prominent dignitaries during the early to mid 19th Century when many counties formed. The scale I propose would tag to the number of times the county name is repeated amongst states. Thus, if it were 2 (only two states had that county name) it would be decidedly more odd than if it were 31 (Washington) or 27 (Jefferson). Using that scale, my original Jefferson-27 may not be all that impressive.

      I think we would also have to give points when a repeated town name is different than the county name.

      • James D says:

        Agreed, there is an aspect to it that a foreigner who has barely set foot outside Europe (Ephesus was the aim of that expedition), armed with nothing but some basic geographical knowledge and a gazetteer could, if bored/curious/procrastinating/alone-at-home-with-a-bottle-of-wine, quite easily submit queries against common placenames and county names until he felt that he had perhaps too many fun, if thoroughly trivial examples.

        I think if we’re playing points, then there should definitely be points awarded for one of the places actually being significant (and not just large: there are some very populous suburbs of Los Angeles, but virtually no-one from outside southern California can find them on a map — as a test, I’d suggest using the Ranally city rating). It is somehow a lot more satisfying to get a near match for a city that would get mentioned if you asked people to name ten cities in a state than it is to get some miscellaneous village that people in the next county have scarcely heard of. That’s why I enjoyed Springfield, OH, having a near-match quite so much: yes, it’s a fatuously common placename, but I could at least say “it’s somewhere between Columbus and Dayton”, even if I couldn’t say anything more interesting about it.

        Anyway, rather belatedly/absent-mindedly, congratulations on that 500. I hope in 2014-ish to be congratulating you on your 1000.

  5. Congratulations on 500 posts; I think that I have read most of them.

    Both Disneyland and DisneyWorld are in Orange Counties, California and Florida, respectively.

  6. Hamish Marshall says:

    Canada is much more limited in terms of opportunities for this sort of thing because of the fact that counties are much less common. There are only counties in a real sense in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Ontario. Quebec used to have counties (many with British names, some of which may have been duplicated elsewhere), but they were all redrawn and many renamed in the early 1980’s into MRCs, which are sort of groups of municipalities. Alberta has some rural municipalities with the word “county” in them, but they are not really a second-tier level of government.

    So that leaves us with four provinces, the good news is that they were all organised at more or less the same time by people from the same class background in England, so there is a fair amount of duplication.

    There are Kings counties in each of Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.
    There are Queens counties in each of Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.
    There are Victoria counties in each of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. There was a Victoria county in Ontario until about ten years ago, but it is now named in the uninspiring Kawartha Lakes.
    There is a York county in New Brunswick and the former York county in Ontario is now York Region (sort of a super county).
    There is a Kent county in New Brunswick and the former Kent county in Ontario is now part of the municipality of Chatham-Kent.
    There is a Carleton county in New Brunswick and there used to be a Carelton county in Ontario, but it is now part of the City of Ottawa.

    I haven’t been able to find any communities with the same names so far.

    And just for fun there used to be an Ontario County in Ontario. So you could live on the shores of Lake Ontario, in Ontario County in the province of Ontario. Despite the county being abolished in the 1970’s the federal riding (electoral district) was called Ontario until 1997.

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