Overwhelming Union

On August 27, 2013 · 3 Comments

I thought Disunion Averted would be straightforward. Union City, Indiana was on one side of a state boundary and Union City, Ohio was on the other. Fortunately I could search on the Indiana location because the town in Ohio kept generating false positives. Search engines wanted to point me towards the City of Union instead.

Union City or City of Union, and just 36 miles (58 kilometres) between them. Don’t forget about Union County either, about 90 miles (145 km) to the east. I started getting a headache. My older son, when he was younger and not quite in command of the English language, would have said "I’m so infused!" Yes, I agree, this is a very infusing confusing situation.



The Unions of Ohio

Ohio seemed to be a unifying place. I wondered whether her borders nurtured other unions. A quick trip to the USGS Geographic Names Information System confirmed my theory. Union City wasn’t to be confused with the City of Union or Union County or Uniontown or Unionville or West Union for that matter. They were all distinctly different places.

I eyeballed an optimal route and figured a determined individual could probably hit all six major Unions in under ten hours. This could also form the basis of a great Traveling Salesman Problem exercise like The Full Grassley. Maybe someday I’ll revisit the issue and examine it from that perspective, and calculate an optimal round trip. Maybe not.

I still wanted to make sure I could separate each of the Ohio Unions in my mind, though. I examined them in a little more detail.

Union City (1849). I talked about that one already. "Union" means a joining together, and in this case a village arose where five railroads converged.

The Dayton and Union railroad, coming from the east, reached its destination Christmas day 1852, and was the very first railroad to reach this location in the wilderness. A few days later, the Bee Line from Indianapolis reached the state line from the west… The east part of the Bee Line coming from Bellefontaine, reached here in perhaps July, 1853… The Panhandle (now Pennsylvania Railroad) from Columbus to the state line was finished in 1856. The part from here to Logansport… was pushed to completion in 1867 under the title of Union and Logansport.

That’s a lot of union.

City of Union (1816). The City of Union was shortened simply to Union for general purposes, as if it were the only Union that mattered. I discovered” the names of the individuals who named Union upon its establishment — Daniel Razor and David Hoover — although I never learned why they did it nor what they hoped to unify.


Union County Courthouse (Ohio)
Union County Courthouse (Ohio) by fusionpanda, on Flickr
via Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Union County (1820). Union County, on the other hand, provided an easier explanation. The Ohio Legislature cobbled the county together from parts of several other counties. From the History of Union County, page 95:

Be it enacted, etc., that so much of the counties of Delaware, Franklin, Madison and Logan, and also so much of the territory within the limits of this state laying north of the old Indian boundary line as comes within the following boundaries, be and the same is hereby erected into a separate and distinct county, which shall be known by the name of the county of Union.

Uniontown. Well, I couldn’t find anything about Uniontown other than it’s part of the Canton–Massillon Metropolitan Statistical Area. I’m sure someone in the 12MC audience could find a better answer.


Unionville, Ohio
Unionville, Ohio by Dougtone, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Unionville (1798). This one may have been the most significant, historically. Connecticut relinquished much of its western holdings to the Federal government, and in return the Federal government assumed the state’s American Revolutionary War debt. However Connecticut held onto a chunk that now forms a portion of northeastern Ohio. In 1796 they sold title to their Western Reserve lands to the Connecticut Land Company, and ceded control to the Federal government in 1800.

Unionville was being settled at that time, circa 1798, and the Connecticut Land Company opened their land office there. Unionville became a gateway to the Connecticut Western Reserve.

The Old Tavern in Unionville (pictured above) dated to that same time period. An historical organization is currently attempting to preserve it. The tavern was named one of "Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites for 2013 by Preservation Ohio which noted,

Established in 1798, the tavern served as a focal point for travelers to the Western Reserve. It remains the oldest tavern in Northeast Ohio and possibly the oldest in the state. In the 1820s the tavern served as a "station" on the Underground Railroad, with ties to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

No, I couldn’t figure out why it was named Unionville, either.


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

West Union (1804). Go ahead and check out their website. It’s like a time capsule back to 1995. Remember frames? More to the point, West Union is the seat of government for Adams County. Ohio History Central said:

West Union grew very slowly. Several miles away from the Ohio River, the main transportation source during the early 1800s, people bypassed the village. West Union remained isolated even after the advent of the railroad in the 1840s. The community was the only county seat in Ohio to never be connected to a railroad.

That was a neat piece of trivia! — the only county seat in Ohio to never be connected to a railroad. Feel free to use that one the next time you’re at a cocktail party and need to make small talk.

I never did figure why it was West Union. It’s located southeast of Union (the city) and south of Union (the county). It wasn’t west of any of the other Ohio Unions. I guess it’s kind of west of the Unions in West Virginia and Pennsylvania although I couldn’t establish a direct connection to any of those locations. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Western Union either.

This might be a great roadtrip opportunity for the 12MC audience in Ohio.

On August 27, 2013 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Overwhelming Union”

  1. Peter says:

    I’d like to point out that there is a unique and fun fan website (worldstallestwatersphere.com) which seems to accurately claim that the water tower in Union, New Jersey, is the world’s tallest “water sphere”. I personally find the fandom surrounding the structure enough reason to receive my respect for the tower.

  2. Nathan Hillery says:

    The web is a wonderful gift that never ceases to amaze! Your site led me to many fun offshoots including Snoqualmie Winery (via WTWS mentioned in the previous comment), which is located near/in Horse Heaven Hills, which is a quality name that I thought you might enjoy.

  3. Rhodent says:

    So being the CDO* person I am, as soon as I saw the comment about the Traveling Salesman problem with the six locations. As best as I can determine, the optimal route is essentially a north-to-south one, going from Unionville to Uniontown to Union County to Union City to Union to West Union. This gets the drive down to 8h44m

    Interestingly (but not really surprisingly), taking the same route in reverse takes two minutes longer.

    * For those who have never heard that, CDO is like OCD except that the letters are properly arranged in alphabetical order

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