Reader Mailbag 2

On May 6, 2015 · 7 Comments

Every once in awhile I receive an overwhelming number of excellent finds from the Twelve Mile Circle community. Last time I called the collection "Reader Mailbag." I simply tacked the number 2 onto that older title in a nod to my lack of creativity for the current installment. To be considered for the Reader Mailbag an item had to be unknown to me previously and it had to be able to stand on its own. Actually the bar wasn’t that high — as you will see soon enough with some of them, well, one in particular — so keep your suggestions heading towards me because I love getting them. Maybe you’ll become a 12MC star!

I might add a little text to add context although all credit should go to the site’s loyal contributors with my sincere appreciation.


Consecutive Highway Numbering



I-70 to I-170 to I-270 to Rt. 370

First I heard from "Glenn" who recounted an unusual numerical arrangement along a sequence of roads he took recently in and around St. Louis, Missouri. He drove in progression numerically: Interstate 70 –> Interstate 170 –> Interstate 270 –> Missouri Route 370. Glenn didn’t stop there, however. He then tried to determine the longest numerically progressing route anywhere.


Van Buren, Maine
Van Buren, Maine by Doug Kerr, on Flickr (cc)

I’ll shamelessly steal Glenn’s findings verbatim because I couldn’t find any better way to portray it.

US 1: Van Buren, Maine at the Canadian border, to Houlton, ME (77 miles)
US 2: Houlton, ME to Lancaster, NH (300 miles)
US 3: Lancaster, NH to Boscawen, NH (113 miles)
US 4: Boscawen, NH to White River Junction, NH (56 miles)
US 5: WRJ to Hartford, CT (155 miles)
US 6: Hartford to near Danbury, CT (60 miles)
US 7: Danbury to Norwalk, CT (23 miles)

The comprised an astounding seven consecutively-numbered roads stretching almost 800 miles! I invite anyone to improve upon that result. Well sure, someone could start with Route 1 in Key West, take that up to Van Buren, Maine and follow the rest of the sequence. Let’s try to be a little more original though. I’d be more impressed with the greatest number of consecutive roads (something more than seven) rather than the total distance covered.


Another United States Practical Exclave

Goodness knows I’ve explored all manner of oddities along the border between the Canada and the United States (e.g., Canada-USA Border Segment Extremes) as well as any number of practical exlaves (e.g., Practical Exclaves of Andorra). I thought I’d plumbed the depths of both topics a long time ago, and yet apparently there’s always something more to be found. Someone could probably write a blog with nothing but oddities along the border between Canada and the United States.



Check what "Gerard" found on Lake Metigoshe on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. Indeed, it appeared that the backyards of several Canadian citizens included boat docks on the U.S. side of the border. I checked this anomaly on several mapping sites and it appeared to be accurate, not just another Google Maps error. I’m not even sure how this would work in practicality. The border seemed downright porous at that point. Here was a sizable community without any border controls whatsoever? Did the residents have to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection every time they wanted to walk to the back of their yard and use their boats? Did they have to pay taxes to North Dakota each year for the sliver of property they owned there? So many questions came to mind.


Geographic Tongue


Landkartenzunge 005
Source: Wikimedia Commons (cc)

I’m fine with weird somewhat tangentially-related topics. Reader "Jonathan" brought a medical condition to my attention called Geographic Tongue. Don’t worry, it won’t kill anyone. The Mayo Clinic described it thus:

Geographic tongue is a harmless condition affecting the surface of your tongue. The tongue is normally covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), which are actually short, fine, hair-like projections. With geographic tongue, patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae and appear as smooth, red "islands," often with slightly raised borders. These patches (lesions) give the tongue a map-like, or geographic, appearance.

A more scientific name was Benign Migratory Glossitis. Feel free to drop that into your next cocktail party conversation and get some tongues wagging. Several versions of the Rolling Stones logo appeared to suffer from Geographic Tongue. Maybe that explained something.


And Last…

There comes a time every once-in-awhile when Twelve Mile Circle feels it’s necessary to provide abundant advanced warning to readers who happen to have good taste and refined manners. This would be one of those times. The red lights are flashing. That’s why I saved this entry for last. Now might be an excellent opportunity to stop reading and move on to a different article because we’re about to have a Beavis and Butthead moment.



Weiner Cuttoff Road; Weiner, Arkansas, USA

Courtesy of reader "John," 12MC presents the stupendous Weiner Cuttof Road in Weiner, Arkansas. Thirteen year old boys nationwide rejoiced.

Delphia

On July 17, 2014 · 1 Comments

The start for this research came from a recent tragic incident, a drowning at Triadelphia Reservoir in Maryland. My mental sympathies extended to the young victim’s family and friends of course. Afterwards I began to wonder how the reservoir got its unusual name, with a triad (a group of three) applied to "Delphia."


Philadelphia Sunset
Philadelphia Sunset by Peter Miller, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The most common application of the suffix Delphia had to be the City of Philadelphia (map) in Pennsylvania, colloquially known as the City of Brotherly Love.(¹) Regardless of whether this unofficial motto should apply, and it’s open to debate, the phrase derived from a colonial-era translation of ancient Greek. Philadelphia was "taken by William Penn to mean ‘brotherly love,’ from philos ‘loving’ + adelphos ‘brother’."

Peeling that back farther, the ancient Greek word δελφύς (delphús) — and apologies in advance if the original word rendered incorrectly on the page — meant womb. The same term also applied to Dolphin, essentially a "fish" with a womb. The Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece originated from the same root, and according to legend "Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin" which created a nice symmetry with the various word meanings.

Let’s set all those aside. My command of ancient Greek was even worse than my understanding of living foreign languages. I probably butchered the explanation. Let’s focus on a modern translation of the suffix to mean "brother" and return to Triadelphia.


Tri(a)delphia


Triadelphia Reservoir
Triadelphia Reservoir by Doug Miller, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Triadelphia, the reservoir in Maryland that straddled the Montgomery County / Howard County line derived its name from an earlier placename, a town called Triadelphia. Spellings often dropped the initial "a", and in fact the USGS listed both Triadelphia and Tridelphia as acceptable variations. Residents abandoned the town in the later part of the Nineteenth Century after a series of floods along the Patuxent River. Its former site was later submerged beneath the waters of the reservoir. The Sandy Spring museum explained the name,

Triadelphia ("three brothers") was founded in 1809 by brothers-in-law Thomas Moore, Isaac Briggs, and Caleb Bentley, who married Brooke sisters. Its water wheels powered a cotton spinning mill… Around the mills sprang up a structured little city… The town throbbed with 400 people.

That answered the question of three brothers. Similarly another Triadelphia, this time in West Virginia, seemed to have three men associated with its founding as well (map). Numerous sources speculated that perhaps these men were three sons of an early resident, the town’s first mayor, Colonel Joshiah Thompson. Research conducted in 1941 as part of the Depression-era Work Projects Administration offered a different explanation however. It attributed the name to three close friends who settled in the area circa 1800 and donated the townsite, the previously-mentioned Thompson along with Amasa Brown and John D. Foster.

I discovered a final Triadelphia in Morgan County, Ohio, via the Geographic Names Information System. The "History of Morgan County, Ohio" mentioned Triadelphia however it did not provide an explanation beyond "It was laid out in 1838 by A. Roberts." That book was published in 1886 so the source of the triad was apparently unknown or unworthy of mention even back then so it remained a mystery to me. I also found a Flickr set on the abandoned Deerfield Township school located in Triadelphia (also Google Street View) although that went down a bit of a tangent.


Arkadelphia


Profile of Speer Pavilion, Ouachita Baptist University
Profile of Speer Pavilion, Ouachita Baptist University by Trevor Huxham, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

The more well-known Arkadelphia had to be the one in Arkansas (map). It had ten thousand residents at the last Census so it certainly qualified as a meaningfully populated place. It was also the home of two universities, Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University, which explained the photo I selected, above.

The source of the name was uncertain.

At the end of the 1830s, the first lots were plotted, and Blakeleytown became Arkadelphia. The name’s originator and precise date of origin are lost; later accounts agree that early settler James Trigg reported, without attribution, that when Arkadelphia became the county seat and thus needed a more dignified name, locals combined two Greek words for “arc of brotherhood” and changed the third letter. However, many settlers came from Alabama and perhaps borrowed the name of Arkadelphia from a town north of Birmingham.

I’ll note another option, a hunch really, since I lack definitive evidence. Perhaps the Ark portion came from a shortening of Arkansas. People did that for Texarkana just 75 miles (120 kilometres) down the road so it seemed to be more than a passing possibility.

What about the Arkadelphia in Alabama (map)? It continued to exist albeit as nothing more than a bump in the road. Nobody really knew its derivation; it could have been borrowed from another town or it could have incorporated the name of an early settler (seems to have some merit). All I discovered was that it served as the home of the Arkadelphia Speedway.


(A)delphia



Adelphia, New Jersey

Adelphia translated more generically as "brotherhood" so I figured the back-stories for such locations wouldn’t have the same level of fascination or complexity. Adelphia in New Jersey seemed to be the largest of such populated places. According to the "History of Howell Township," New Jersey:

Early colonial settlement in and surrounding present-day Howell Township revolved around agriculture as the principle industry and activity. Settlement patterns roughly corresponded to the location of high-quality soils… A permanent structure for the Bethesda Methodist Church was built in 1779 on what is now Lakewood Road (Donahay, 1967). The area was later called Turkey, from which Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold Township is named, before becoming known as Adelphia.

I agreed with those early town founders. Adelphia sounded better than Turkey.

GNIS also listed several small populated places named simply Delphia, located in Kentucky, Montana and South Carolina.


Somewhat Related

I found a couple of other references to the Delphia suffix.

  • Texadelphia was a small restaurant chain specializing in "Texas Cheesesteak," an obvious reference to the original restaurant location and an homage to Philadelphia, the acknowledged birthplace of the cheesesteak.
  • The two major superorders of marsupials are Ameridelphia (opossum and such) and Australidelphia (kangaroo, wombat, koala and such). Here the suffix referred to the animals’ pouch, described by early classifiers as something like an external "womb."

(¹) Sports fans from other cities might disagree. I was certainly aware of the Chief Zee incident as I grew up in the area with a football team that must not be named.

Presidential Birthplaces

On July 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

I’m not sure why I began to think about the birthplaces of every President of the United States. Maybe this might interest people, I considered. I wasn’t fooling myself though — I did it for me. Theoretically I could pass through one of these areas someday in the future and I might want to stop if it were close enough to my intended track. So I created a map.



View Presidential Birthplaces in a larger map

I gathered all of the locations in a shared spreadsheet. Twelve Mile Circle readers should feel free to consult the spreadsheet for exact latitude/longitude coordinates and links to additional information about each site. This could be a handy little reference for anyone wishing to visit these birthplaces — and there are people who do that! I don’t know why I’m surprised. After all, it’s not that much different from my county counting.

Trends began to reveal themselves as I plotted each location. For instance, notice the concentration of sites in the eastern half of the United States, particularly the northeast. That would be expected to a degree because of population and settlement patterns. However I didn’t expect it to be quite that stark. Nixon and Obama(¹) stood far apart as obvious outliers, considerably removed from everyone else.


The Adams Family


John Adams' Birthplace
John Adams' Birthplace by James Walsh, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The original father-son presidential duo, John Adams and John Quincy Adams should win an award for proximity. They were born in adjacent houses (map) in the north precinct of Braintree, now Quincy, Massachusetts. Both are open the public as part of the Adams National Historical Park. That would be an easy visit.

The National Park Service estimated the distance between birthplaces at 75 feet (23 metres).


Clusters



James Monroe Birthplace, Monroe Hall, Westmoreland Co., Virginia

I noticed a couple of particularly tight birthplace clusters, one in Virginia and one in Ohio. These two states dominated presidential politics during different eras, creating opportunities for statistical anomalies. The Virginia cluster occurred on the Northern Neck with the births of some of the earliest presidents and "founding fathers," George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe.

Ohio dominated the presidency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a string of Republican victories. As explained by the Columbus Dispatch,

Ohio’s dominance of the presidency around the time the 19th century became the 20th was no accident: Ohio was the third-largest state, behind New York and Pennsylvania, and it was the economic engine of America. Ohioans were the inventors and operators of the industrial age. With economic might came political power, including dominant influence in the political parties, especially the GOP, from whence seven of Ohio’s eight presidents came.

A particularly remarkable clustering centered near Cincinnati, with the birthplaces of Ulysses Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William Taft.


Close to the Border


Chester Alan Arthur State Historic Site - Vermont
Chester Alan Arthur State Historic Site – Vermont by Doug Kerr, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

The Chester Arthur birthplace in Fairfield, Vermont fell remarkably close to Canada, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the border (map). His father immigrated from Ireland to Canada, settling in Dunham, Lower Canada, which is now part of Québec. His mother was an American born in Vermont. The couple wed in Canada and their first child was born in Canada. Arthur was born in the United States. The family moved regularly as Chester’s father taught at various schools and later served as a minister of the Free Will Baptist church.

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States said,

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President

Arthur’s political opponents conducted a smear campaign focused on the Constitution’s natural-born-citizen clause. His father’s immigration to Canada, his birth near the border, and his family’s frequent relocation were all used as "evidence" of non-citizenship in an attempt to disqualify Arthur from office.


Hospital Births



Bill Clinton Birthplace, Hope, Arkansas

Most presidential birthplaces earned landmark status. Many can be visited by the public. That might not be possible for future presidents. Increasingly, the more recent presidents traced their births to hospitals. Jimmy Carter came first, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush and most recently Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton provided a case in point in Hope Arkansas. The Julia Chester Hospital of his birth no longer existed. It was torn down. The Brazzel-Oakcrest Funeral Home occupies its former site. In commemoration the funeral home placed a flagpole and a marker to signify Clinton’s birthplace. Street View provided decent coverage although a view from inside of the funeral home actually offered a better image. In addition his childhood home became a museum. Likely, that’s what will happen in the future. The hospital might deserve a simple plaque while the president’s initial home will replace the typical "birthplace" museum of the past.


Odd Men Out

I won’t bother to discuss all of the presidential birth sites. Maybe I’ll provide more information if I ever visit them. I’ll wrap this up with two more examples.

Andrew Jackson’s birthplace remained an historical mystery. It was somewhere in the Waxhaws Region:

Andrew Jackson, Sr., died in late February, 1767. Betty traveled south to the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church to bury her husband. On the return trip, she gave birth to Andrew Jackson, the future president of the United States. Although stories abound as to the events surrounding the birth, as of yet no definitive evidence has arisen to authenticate the exact location of Andrew Jackson’s birth on March 15, 1767.

He may have been born in North Carolina. He may have been born in South Carolina. Both have claimed him.

Finally, pity poor Warren Harding. Many historians considered Harding the worst or amongst the worst of all U.S. presidents. Nobody built a Warren Harding Birthplace museum. He barely earned a marker.


Foreshadowing Alert

Watch @TheReal12MC Twitter account over the next few days and you might be able to figure out the topic of several upcoming articles


(¹) I’ve listed Obama’s birthplace as Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii. I don’t put much credence in Birther conspiracies. I don’t think Donald Trump reads 12MC so we’re probably fine.

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12 Mile Circle:
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