Pathway to Bedford

One of the more obscure examples provided in New Difference involved New Bedford Inlet in Antarctica. The chilly inlet derived its name from New Bedford in Massachusetts, which in turn had been named for Bedford, the County Town of Bedfordshire, England. I encountered several other places named Bedford or New Bedford as I examined that original curious occurrence. Sequential hops between three interrelated names seemed pretty good. However, I did discover a more impressive example that featured sequential hops between five names.

(1) New Bedford, Ohio

New Bedford, Ohio, USA

The sequence began with New Bedford, a small unincorporated community in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country. According to the History of Coshocton County, Ohio (1881)

New Bedford… was laid out in March, 1825, by John Gonser, while the country around it was scarcely all settled… Mr. Gonser was ably seconded by three sons Henry, David and Adam, each whom erected a house for himself in the town plat. The Gonsers were from Bedford county Pennsylvania hence the name of the village.

I followed the thread back to Pennsylvania.

(2) Bedford County, Pennsylvania

The Coffee Pot, Bedford, PA
The Coffee Pot, Bedford, PA by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

Bedford County had its local seat of government in the town of Bedford. It took an effort to avoid confusing those particular Bedfords with another town found elsewhere in Pennsylvania called New Bedford (and named for Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, an early landowner). Clearly Pennsylvania had an affinity for Bedford.

The correct Bedford, the original homestead of the Gonser family, dated to 1771. According to the county itself, it was carved from "parts of Cumberland County, and is named for the fort that tamed the area for settlers to follow."

The most interesting sight in Bedford had to be the Coffee Pot-Shaped Building. It was built along the old Lincoln Highway during the 1920’s to attract passing motorists. The building fell into disrepair until moved and restored by preservationists in 2003. (Street View). That had nothing to do with this story. I’m just a sucker for offbeat roadside attractions.

(3) Fort Bedford

Fort Bedford Museum by Darren and Brad, on Flickr (cc)

The so-called "fort that tamed the area" was Fort Bedford located in what later became the town of Bedford in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t difficult to find. The Fort Bedford Museum marked the proper spot (map).

Fort Bedford had its heyday during the French and Indian War, a part of the larger Seven Years’ War between Britain and France et. al. As described in Legends of America,

Completed in the summer of 1758, the fort featured five bastions with walls that enclosed an area of approximately 1.45 acres and was surrounded by the river and a dry moat that was nine foot deep, ten feet wide at the bottom and fifteen feet wide at the top. The main gate was located on the south side of the structure and was protected by an earthen rampart. The north side, which faced the river, featured the unique gallery to the riverbank. Described as the "Grand Central Station of the Forbes campaign", the fort became an important communications and supply link for Forbes’s army as it moved deeper into the wilderness.

An older source, the History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania (1884), revealed the source of the name.

It appears that when Forbes troops first occupied this point it was termed in letters and orders the "Camp at Raystown" or "Raystown Fort" but before the close of a twelve month it was called Fort Bedford in honor of "his Grace the Duke of Bedford" one of the "Lords Justices," also one of “his Majestie’s Principal Secretaries of State” during the reign of George II

The hunt was on for the namesake Duke.

(4) Duke of Bedford

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford by Thomas Gainsborough
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
via Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

The Duke of Bedford at the time of Fort Bedford’s establishment was John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford. He held a number of high positions in the British government and had various places named in his honor in North America. Fort Bedford was one example. Others included Bedford, New Hampshire and Bedford County, Virginia.

The Bedford peerage was named after Bedford, England.

(5) Bedford, Bedfordshire, England

Bedford Bridge On The River Great Ouse.
Bedford Bridge On The River Great Ouse. by Jim Linwood, on Flickr (cc)

Bedford (map) in Bedfordshire ultimately inspired the naming of tiny New Bedford, Ohio through that rather laborious, circuitous route outlined above.

The story should end there although I wondered if I could take it one step farther. Where did Bedford get its name? The Bedford Bureau Council’s Brief History of Bedford said, "Bedford probably takes its name from an otherwise unknown Saxon chief called Beda who settled with his followers where the River Great Ouse was fordable some thirteen centuries ago."


(5½ – Bonus!) The Bedford Name

I quickly checked the Bedford surname for additional clues. explained,

English: habitational name from the county seat of Bedfordshire, or a smaller place of the same name in Lancashire. Both are named with the Old English personal name Beda + Old English ford ‘ford’. The name is now very common in Yorkshire as well as Bedfordshire.

The Bedford Surname Origins Study offered additional hypotheses. The "ford" portion was obvious; a place where one could cross a river. "Bed" might have derived from the personal name Beda or from Anglo-Saxon terms for prayer or battle, or maybe even from other more obscure sources.

I arrived at the final stopping point: New Bedford, Ohio → Bedford County, Pennsylvania → Fort Bedford → Duke of Bedford → Bedford, England → possibly some dude named Beda who controlled a crossing point on the River Great Ouse.

New Difference

On April 5, 2015 · 8 Comments

The recent 12MC article Small Change, Big Difference created an unusual amount of interest. One comment from reader Ross arrived embedded with a challenge:

This reminds me of a question I’ve often wondered: Which place changes the most when you add "New" in front of the name? In other words: Which "New" place is the most unlike the place it was named after? My guess: New Britain (the island in Papua New Guinea). It’s hard to imagine a place more unlike "Old" Britain.

Ross obviously put a lot of thought into his well-educated choice. This example might be the best one around, at least as good as any top tier of contenders. I thought I would see if I could add some other places to the list for consideration and open the discussion to a broader audience.

New Ireland, Papua New Guinea

Kavieng waterfront
Kavieng waterfront by Behan, on Flickr (cc)
Does Not Look Like Ireland

Britain had Ireland nearby so I suppose PNG’s New Britain needed a New Ireland nearby too (map). The two were located in close proximity just like their namesakes. Face it, just about anything geographic or climatic in Papua New Guinea would differ considerably from anything in the British Isles. One could select just about any place with a "New" prefix in the tropics and it would score well in this contest.

The New Ireland name in PNG was affixed to an island, a string of islands and a province. The largest town on the island of that name, Kavieng, became the capital of the larger province of New Ireland. This was the site of fierce fighting in World War II and wartime relics can still be found within the area. Today most visitors come for the military history or to dive on pristine coral reefs located just offshore.

New Ireland used to be New Mecklenburg (Neu-Mecklenburg) which would be equally odd. Maybe it should get extra credit for being distinctly different from two separate European locations. Plus New Guinea differed from Guinea (see 12MC’s Upstart Eclipses Namesake for that story) to add to the distinction even further.

New Amsterdam, Guyana

Does Not Look Like Amsterdam

Those wandering European settlers and merchants sure seemed to enjoy naming tropical locales after their homelands. The same thing happened in Guyana with the town of New Amsterdam (map). The Dutch became the first colonial power in Guyana. New Amsterdam was integral to their commercial interests.

New Amsterdam is Guyana’s oldest town, with a rich history. About 1733, the name New Amsterdam was given to a little village that sprang up around Fort Nassau, several miles up the Berbice River. In 1785 it was decided to abandon Fort Nassau and move to the neighbourhood of Fort St. Andries lower down the river at the confluence of the Berbice River and its tributary the Canje River which is now the site of present day New Amsterdam… New Amsterdam, covers about 13.7 square kilometers in area with an estimated population of approximately 35,000.

New Amsterdam might also deserve bonus points. Not only did it differ considerably from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, it looked nothing like the other New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan Island that formed the nucleus of New York City.

New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Looked Vaguely European, Actually

I thought this location might be very promising. A handful of German settlements sprouted within South Africa and one of them became New Germany (map).

The Bergtheil or Bramsche Colonists: In the early 1840’s, just after the colony of Natal had been annexed by the British, the Natal Cotton Company was established. One of its directors, Jonas Bergtheil, went to Germany to attract settlers to Natal to grow cotton for the Company. After much searching, he found a group of people in the area of Bramsche, Osnabrücker Land, Kingdom of Hanover (now in Lower Saxony) who were willing to try their luck in this new colony. The Bergtheil colonists settled in New Germany, Westville, just outside Port Natal (later renamed Durban)…

Then I watched the video driving tour and it looked like any suburb anywhere. The location may have been distinctly removed from Germany, however, it still had an air of familiarity.

New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica

New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica
Does Not Look Like New Bedford or the Original Bedford Either

It was hard to reconcile the disconnect between Antarctica and temperate climates. I found a "New" location hidden within its folds and I’ll bet there were plenty of others equally out of place. New Bedford Inlet wasn’t discovered until 1940 when it was "photographed from the air… by members of the United States Antarctic Service (USAS), and named after New Bedford, Massachusetts, the centre of the New England whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century." It was a horribly inhospitable spot packed with glaciers and freezing temperatures in Palmer Land. That hardly resembled Massachusetts even during a bad winter.

New Bedford in Massachusetts was in turn named for Bedford in England. New Bedford Inlet didn’t look anything like England, either. Once again I thought this type of nesting deserved extra credit.

A Couple More to Ponder

I found many others. I wanted to mention two more although I won’t elaborate on them much.

  • New Caledonia (map), a collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia probably wouldn’t be confused with Caledonia (i.e., Scotland)
  • New Washington (map) in the Philippians resembled neither Washington, DC nor the state of Washington in the United States. However it was named for George Washington directly and not for either of those other locations so it probably didn’t count.

Can anyone come up with even more extreme occurrences to add to Ross’ list?

On April 5, 2015 · 8 Comments

Hawaii on the Mainland

On April 1, 2015 · 4 Comments

Reader Joel expressed mild surprise at a Hawaiian-inspired spot in Utah that I’d referenced, the town of Loa named by a former resident of Hawaii honoring the towering mountain Mauna Loa. He wondered about "names out of place" in general while I continued to fixate on Hawaii. I complemented his comment with Diamondhead, Mississippi, a locale that had a history of creeping into articles such as Just Keep Turning and Residential Airparks because I have family living there.

Diamondhead, Mississippi

A maze of waterways on the Mississippi Coast near Bay St. Louis
A maze of waterways on the Mississippi Coast… by Frank Kovalchek

Nobody would ever confuse the bayous and tidal estuaries of the Mississippi Gulf Coast with any part in Hawaii. Diamondhead (the Mississippi city) certainly looked nothing like Diamond Head (the iconic volcanic cone in Honolulu spelled with a space between Diamond and Head). First of all Mississippi was flat along the shoreline giving way to gentle rolling hills farther inland at Diamondhead. That’s why Hurricane Katrine gave it such a wallop during its epic storm surge (my family remembrances).

One needed to understand that Diamondhead was a recent construct envisioned by developers hoping to attract retirees to the Gulf Coast. The theme was a marketing gimmick by a company with the same name. They weren’t going to call it Mudbug or Mosquito even though the coast had both in abundance. No, they wanted it to sound like a tropical resort. As the Hancock County Historical Society explained,

The Federal Highway Act of 1956 created the interstate highway system, and construction began on I-10 through the Mississippi Gulf Coast making Hancock County accessible to people from a wide area… It was in this environment that the Diamondhead Corporation, a large corporation with resort developments in several states, began development operations in coastal Mississippi. It purchased six thousand acres of property adjacent to I-10… The first land sales [in Diamondhead] were recorded in 1970.

Diamondhead has been an incorporated city only since 2012.

Aloha, Oregon

Aloha, Oregon

Right around the same time of my initial Hawaiian fixation I spotted a 12MC viewer who dropped onto the site from Aloha, Oregon. That’s when I decided I needed to create an article. Aloha was an area of approximately fifty-thousand residents just west of Beaverton, which in turn was just west of Portland. Yet, in spite of its size and population I found precious little information to explain the name except for a brief mention on Wikipedia.

According to Oregon Geographic Names, the origin of the name Aloha is disputed. Some sources say it was named by Robert Caples, a railroad worker, but it is unknown why the name was chosen. In 1983 Joseph H. Buck claimed that his uncle, the first postmaster, Julius Buck, named the office "Aloah" after a small resort on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.

Indeed, I found an Aloah Beach on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. I felt disillusioned, as if maybe Oregon’s Aloha didn’t have anything to do with Hawaii after all.

Honolulu, North Carolina

Honolulu, North Carolina
Honolulu, North Carolina
via Google Street View, June 2013

Honolulu, North Carolina (map) made me feel better. At least it was named for something Hawaiian sort of, although based on a whim. The Honolulu Star Bulletin, the newspaper for the "real" Honolulu highlighted its North Carolina cousin in a feature article in 2002.

The hamlet got its name in 1900 when James Witherington, Selba’s husband’s granddad, got the permit to set up a post office. "They asked what did they want to call it, and on the spur of the moment, he said, ‘We’ll just call it Honolulu.’" Witherington said. The family has no idea why the name of a place 4,872 miles away popped into James Witherington’s head more than 100 years ago. No one in the family has ever been to Hawaii, Witherington said. "They hardly ever got out of the county."

Sometimes I think we wouldn’t have any weird town names without the Post Office.

Kanaka in the Northwestern US

Kanaka Falls, Middle Fork American River

Sometimes Hawaiian names on the mainland were inspired by actual Hawaiians. Although generally not well know, people from Hawaii worked and settled on the western coast of North America beginning in the early 19th Century. They were employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in present-day British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They also caught "Gold Fever" along with the rest of the world and flocked to California to make their fortunes. Hawaiians had a distinct advantage because stories of gold hit Hawaii faster than anywhere else, as early as June 1848. They could also sail to California a lot faster than easterners could cross prairie and mountain on foot. Many Hawaiians beat the crowds heading to California to stake their claims so they might more properly be Forty-Eighters instead of Forty-Niners.

Various geographic features in the central California goldfields earned Hawaiian names. One term, Kanaka, a Polynesian word for the native people of Hawaii was particularly popular. Prospectors attached it to mountains, streams, mines, valleys and populated places. The Geographic Names Information System referenced 25 different Kanaka occurrences in California. For example, Kanaka Falls on the Middle Fork of the American River is a well-regarded Class IV rapids for whitewater rafting (videos). Some of the Hawaiians remained in California. Many returned home after experiencing their first mainland winter, poorer although wiser.

I’m sure there were other Hawaiian place names on the mainland. I didn’t have any trouble finding the ones I featured.

On April 1, 2015 · 4 Comments
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