Great Scott

On November 24, 2016 · 1 Comments

It occurred to me that a great general like Winfield Scott probably influenced place names beyond the recently-featured Scott’s Addition in Richmond, Virginia. Citizens considered him a national hero during his lifetime even if we don’t hear much about him today. This period also coincided with a rapid expansion of population and migration. They needed names for all of those settlements they built on the frontier during the first half of the 19th century.


General Winfield Scott
General Winfield Scott. Photo by David on Flickr (cc).

I wanted to use a better image of Winfield Scott than the unattractive photo of the elderly, bloated man near the end of his life from the previous article. The equestrian statue at Scott Circle in Washington, DC (map) seemed appropriate. Certainly I could uncover more significant geographic designations than a roundabout. How about five Scott counties named for him? They sprouted in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia


Scott County, Iowa


Blackhawk Hotel, Davenport, IA
Blackhawk Hotel, Davenport, IA. Photo by Alan Light on Flickr (cc)

The Iowa county named for Scott probably measured as the most significant. It’s primary city, Davenport (map), held nearly 170 thousand residents.

Winfield Scott’s legendary career covered half a century. He served as a general in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Mexican–American War, and the Civil War. His wide ranging exploits inspired place names throughout his lifetime. Scott County, Iowa traced its named to the Black Hawk War that broke out in 1832. He commanded troops during the brief campaign (losing many more men to cholera than warfare) and helped negotiate the treaty that ended it. Much of the fighting unfolded in the vicinity of future Scott County, in neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin. Scott seemed an appropriate figure to honor when Iowa formed the county in 1837, just five years after the war ended.


The Independent State of Scott


Historical Marker: Independent State of Scott
Independent State of Scott. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

An entire Independent State named itself for Scott. It wasn’t really independent though. Nothing official. Scott County, Tennessee traced its beginning to 1814, named for Winfield Scott because of his War of 1812 activities. Geographically, much of it fell within the Appalachian Mountains. People living there farmed small plots on rocky hillsides on the far side of the frontier. They held little in common with people across the mountains and their culture of plantations and slavery. Scott County refused to join the rest of Tennessee when it seceded from the Union during the Civil War. It’s been called the The Switzerland of America both for its mountains and its neutrality.

Scott became a Union enclave, proclaiming itself an Independent State no longer beholden to Tennessee. The county had little strategic importance to either side so the Confederacy never tried to force it back into the fold. Scott did not officially rescind its "independence" from Tennessee until 1986.

The county also founded a town of Winfield (map), so a handful of residents now live in Winfield, Scott. It straddled U.S. Route 27 — Scott Highway.


Named for That Other Winfield Scott


Scottsdale Waterfront
Scottsdale Waterfront. Photo by D. Patrick Lewis on Flickr (cc)

There couldn’t be too many 19th century U.S. Army officers named Winfield Scott, or so I figured. Yet, inexplicably, there was one more. Winfield Scott — the other Winfield Scott — came into this world in 1837. I assumed his parents named him for the more famous Winfield, and the time period seemed to fit. However I didn’t find any evidence to prove it. He became a minister, later accepting a commission as an Army captain and serving as a chaplain during the Civil War. His legacy did not come from his military service.

In mid February of 1888, Winfield Scott was invited to the Salt River Valley in Arizona. Some residents of Phoenix had heard of Scott’s reputation as a promoter and wanted him to help promote Phoenix and the surrounding area. Scott was impressed with the valley and on July 2, 1888 made a down payment of 50 cents an acre for a section of land… His brother, George Washington Scott, came at Winfield Scott’s request to clear the land. He planted 80 acres of barley, 20 acres of vineyards and a 7-acre orchard.

The land he settled became Scottsdale, Arizona (map). Recently Scottsdale erected a statue in his honor (photo).

A quarter-million people live in Scottsdale now and it continues to grow rapidly. Ironically, the most famous place named for Winfield Scott recognized the man who was practically insignificant to American history. They named Winfield, Kansas after him too.

Snowflake

On November 6, 2016 · 4 Comments

The first chill of autumn finally reached my home here in the northern hemisphere, signaling winter wouldn’t be too far away. It seemed odd to think about drifting snow when I didn’t even need a jacket until recently. I’d been banking a topic for just such an occasion, a place that invoked wintertime bliss. Snowflake seemed like such a lovely name. It appeared on a map of north central Arizona (map).

Climate


Arizona Snow
Arizona Snow. Photo by Julius Whittington on Flickr (cc)

I first spotted Snowflake while researching an earlier Twelve Mile Circle article, Playing Games. My mind wandered over to Snowflake when I noticed its proximity to Show Low, a town named for a card game. I placed a mental reminder that I should examine Snowflake later to see if climatic conditions matched its promising name. Quickly it became apparent that it did not. My eyeballing of a Köppen climate types map of Arizona seemed to place it in type BSk, designated for "cold semi-arid" climates. These areas tended to get quite hot in the summer despite its name, with considerably cooler although dryer conditions in the winter. That didn’t seem to bode well for potential snowflakes. In fact, the town of Snowflake admitted that it only received "modest amounts of quickly-melting winter snowfall."

It did note that visitors could try their hand at cross-country and downhill skiing at the nearby Sunrise Park Resort. However, that involved a 60 mile (100 km) drive into the White Mountains. Those snowflakes probably wouldn’t be related to any of the snowflakes in Snowflake.

The town name didn’t come from its climate.


Founding


The Snowflake Monument in Arizona
The Snowflake Monument in Arizona. Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

Actually I learned right away that the origin came from a much more interesting source. The theme fit perfectly with the strange twists and turns that so interest the 12MC audience. Snowflake traced its founding to two Mormon pioneers, Erastus Snow and William Flake. They simply combined their names to create Snowflake. I could think of a lot of surnames that would produce much worse combinations. Maybe that will be a future topic. Anyone with entertaining fictional names should feel free to place them in the comments. Maybe we can start our own town.


About Those Founders


Erastus Snow
Erastus Snow. Photo by brewbooks on Flickr (cc)

So Snow + Flake = Snowflake. Now we know the secret and we can end this article, right? Not so fast. The two people involved, Snow and Flake, were pretty interesting too.

Erastus Snow probably made the greater contributions to the LDS Church. Snowflake represented only one of his many achievements. He became a missionary during the earliest days of the Church, including his outreach in search of converts in Scandinavia in 1849. Snow also held a number of Mormon leadership positions and served on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He led efforts to establish Mormon colonies all over the southwest including Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as founding the city of St. George in Utah. He also served as inspiration for the naming of Snow Canyon State Park and Snow College in his honor, and his bust stands outside of the St. George Tabernacle in St. George (map).

William Jordan Flake, while not quite as accomplished, still achieved a lot in his lifetime. His parents joined the LDS while he was a young child and he traveled across the continent as an overland pioneer when he was nine years old. Brigham Young called on him to establish a settlement in northern Arizona in 1877, so he set off on that mission, meeting up with Erastus Snow and founding Snowflake the following year. His renown came later, briefly serving time in the Arizona Territorial prison in Yuma for polygamy. Flake lived a long time, surviving into the 1930’s when he passed away in Snowflake, the town he inspired. He left numerous descendants including United States Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, his great-great grandson.

Playing Games

On October 6, 2016 · 0 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle felt like playing games. More to the point, I’d collected a few town names tied to games that I wanted to share. I did something similar awhile ago with the sport of Lawn Bowls, a particularly popular choice for names. Atlantic City also made the cut with Monopoly although the town inspired the game rather than the other way around.

Show Low, Arizona


Cooley and Clark card game statue
Cooley and Clark card game statue. Photo by TJ from AZ on Flickr (cc)

Show Low got me thinking. I’d spotted the town in eastern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I figured it hid an interesting story given its strange name and indeed it did. Two ranchers, Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark, owned a large property jointly in 1876. They discovered, however, that it wouldn’t support both of their families. Neither wanted to leave so they let fate pick the winner with a poker game. As the Town’s website explained,

Show Low was named after a marathon poker game played between two early settlers. They decided there wasn’t enough room for both of them in the community and agreed to let a game of cards decide who was to get the 100,000 acre ranch and who was to move on. According to the story, one of them said, "If you can show low, you win." The other one turned up the deuce of clubs and replied, "show low it is."

Nothing could go lower than the deuce of clubs so the game ended. Cooley won. He renamed the ranch Show Low to commemorate his victory and the town later adopted it. That seemed fitting in the Old West where stories like those abounded. The town embraced its history too. They called their primary road, a segment of U.S. Route 60, Deuce of Clubs (map). Lots of local businesses used the name and the town logo featured an appropriate playing card.


Truth or Consequences, New Mexico


gazebo
Ralph Edwards park gazebo. Photo by Tim Kuzdrowski on Flickr (cc)

The map said Truth or Consequences although locals called it T or C (map). Either way, it definitely seemed like an odd name for a town. I thought I’d mentioned this one before, however it seemed that it never actually made it into a 12MC article. Loyal reader Peter did mention T or C in a comment about a year ago referring to its old name, Hot Springs. Well, Hot Springs certainly sounded normal, so what happened?

I supposed with a relatively common name like Hot Springs, the town wanted to try something a little bit more unusual. A radio program popular at the time, Truth or Consequences, offered a contest. Its host, Ralph Edwards, would broadcast the show’s 10th anniversary episode live from any town that would change its name to match the show. Hot Springs jumped at the chance and the broadcast took place on April 1, 1950. The town impressed Edwards so much that he returned every May for the next half-century for an Annual Fiesta. T or C returned the love, naming an auditorium and a park for Edwards.


Poker Flat and The Shores of Poker Flat, California


Bret Harte (by Sarony, 1872)
Bret Harte (by Sarony, 1872). Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Bret Harte wrote colorful stories of the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th Century. He published one his most famous short stories "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" in Overland Monthly magazine in 1869. Go ahead and read it. This shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes. I’ll wait for you until you get back.

A community called The Shores of Poker Flat claimed to be the inspiration for the story. It even included a Bret Harte Drive (map). However, evidence seemed to point to another Poker Flat found elsewhere in California (map). That one became a ghost town many decades ago.

You didn’t read the story, did you? Let me synopsize. A gold rush town wished to rid itself of negative influences. They hanged a couple of miscreants and exiled four others. The exiles left town, warned to stay away forever. They trudged into the mountains and met a couple traveling in the opposite direction. Tired, the expanded group set camp in an abandoned cabin as it began to snow. They remained trapped for several days as provisions waned and stakes became increasingly desperate. One of the prime characters, the professional gambler John Oakhurst, was found dead at the end of the story. He’d committed suicide "with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart." There he sat beneath a pine tree, with "the deuce of clubs pinned to the bark with a bowie-knife."

There was that deuce of clubs again. He showed low, his luck ran out.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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