Almost exactly a year ago, 12MC published Jeff Davis, a treatise on the use of the Confederate leader’s full name as a geographic identifier at the county level of government. Davis County wasn’t a good enough name for some of those deeply-Southern states, it had to be Jeff Davis or the more formal Jefferson Davis, to make sure everyone clearly understood the defiant reference. I intended to list other full-name (first name + surname) county combinations later and then it slipped my mind as the months passed.
Let’s begin with basic ground rules and caveats. I searched for first and last names only. I’m sure Pocahontas (Iowa, West Virginia) the great Powhatan Indian chiefs’ daughter had only one single name and technically might qualify as a "full name county" However in my own defense I also discounted royalty (sorry Prince William) and religion (ditto St. Louis) so hopefully I won’t be criticized too harshly as unduly Eurocentric.
I’ll highlight some of my favorites and list the rest.
Governor Wade Hampton by Wofford Archives on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) License.
Wade Hampton III served as a cavalry officer in the Confederate Army, and later as the governor of South Carolina and then a United States Senator. That would seem like an unlikely choice to inspire the name of a remote, frozen corner of western Alaska on the Bering Sea (map). Fewer than 10,000 people live in Wade Hampton. Its principal town, Hooper Bay (or Naparyarmiut in Yup’ik), barely registered as more than a small cluster of homes.
What did a South Carolina soldier and politician have to do with Alaska? Absolutely nothing, well, except for one tiny tenuous thread. His daughter Mary Singleton Hampton married John Randolph Tucker, a well-connected politician, and a real Virginia gentleman who descended from one of the Commonwealths most established families. President Woodrow Wilson, another Virginia native, appointed Tucker to the bench of Alaska Territory’s United States Court Division 2 in 1913.
After arriving in Nome some of his first few official acts dealt with the large St. Michael mining district south of Nome. He divided the district in half. The new recording precinct was named for his wife’s father, Wade Hampton… Judge Tucker served exactly four years on the bench at Nome but his father-in-law’s name has lasted to present day…
More properly the place is known as the Wade Hampton Census Area of Alaska’s Unorganized Borough so some might scoff at including it on the list. I liked the story so it remained.
Ima Hogg by Kent Wang on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license
The Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas included a lengthy article on Jim Hogg County "in the Rio Grande Plain region of South Texas." (map) as well as an extensive biography of the man himself. James Stephen Hogg became the first governor of Texas who was actually born in Texas.
Jim Hogg is probably better know for what he did to his daughter. He named her Ima, as in Ima Hogg ("I’m a Hog" for those in the 12MC audience for whom English is a foreign language). Essentially he bestowed upon his daughter a name that declared that she was a pig. Sources differed as to whether he fully realized the implications at the time or not. The handbook said,
According to family history, Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha. Her name became a part of Texas folklore, along with the myth of a fictitious sister supposedly named Ura. Ima Hogg was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life. She was eight years old when her father was elected governor…
Her unusual name certainly never hampered her success. Ima Hogg became a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, a master gardener and a force for historic preservation in Texas and beyond. Many referred to her as "The First Lady of Texas."
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Ben Hill County (map) in Georgia was named for Benny Hill? Sadly, it wasn’t. This Ben Hill was Benjamin Harvey Hill, a 19th Century politician who "actively opposed disunion until the secession ordinance" and then served in the Confederate Congress. After the war he served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. I’m beginning to detect a pattern with all of these old Confederates and their full name counties.
I don’t have anything more to add except that — thanks to the Benny Hill reference — I have Yakety Sax stuck in my head.
There. Now you can suffer too.
And the Rest
- Anne Arundel County, Maryland (map): Anne Arundell (with two l’s unlike the county named for her) was wife of Lord Baltimore, founder of the Maryland colony. She was also the only woman I found on the Full Name Counties list. (source)
- Charles Mix County, South Dakota (map): Probably named for a Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (source)
- Deaf Smith County, Texas (map): Erastus "Deaf" Smith was a hero of the Texas Revolution. (source)
- Jim Wells County, Texas (map): James Babbage Wells, Jr., was a judge in south Texas and a Democratic party boss (source)
- Jo Daviess County, Illinois (map): All of the counties named for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss spell his name incorrectly; only one included both his first and last name though. He commanded the Indiana Dragoons at the Battle of Tippecanoe, where he died. People who died in battle often got more counties named for them than those who survived (unless they subsequently went on to become President or something, like Jackson and Grant). (source)
- Kit Carson County, Colorado (map): Christopher "Kit" Carson was a mountain man who gained renown as a guide for the Fremont expeditions and later as a frontier soldier; his highly fictionalized exploits were mainstays of numerous 19th Century dime novels. (source)
- Roger Mills County, Oklahoma (map): Roger Quarles Mills was another one of the former Confederate officers that later served in the US House of Representatives and Senate. (source)
- Tom Green County, Texas (map): 12MC already featured this place in an earlier article.
I can’t guarantee I found every example although this list should be pretty close. I examined the full set of US counties manually, and that’s 3,142 at the moment I think, so I could have missed one or two.
I’ll display Elmo one final time, just like in Counterintuitive Saints, even though this article will have absolutely nothing to do with Sesame Street. Why? Because that’s what 12MC wants to do at the moment. How often does one get to feature Elmo?
Elmo, not St. Elmo
Own photo, taken at 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll
I should probably recap some other salient points from the earlier article while I’m at it. First, St. Elmo (St. Erasmus) was the patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain. However a different St. Elmo — a fictional title character for a wildly popular romance novel written by Augusta Jane Evans in 1866 — happened to inspire multiple places and geographic labels in the United States during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. I’m sure enthusiast of Victorian-era literature could draw uncountable comparisons and inferences between the book and its title character, the fictional St. Elmo Murray, and the historical saint of mariners and intestinal distress. I’ll ignore that entire perspective and stick with geography.
Seriously though, many different sources listed St. Elmo as one of the best selling U.S. novels of the Nineteenth Century, contending for popularity with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur. My education must have been horribly deficient because I’d never heard of the book until last weekend. I wondered if my situation was a spectacular case of ignorance and forgetfulness, or if St. Elmo simply fell so far out of favor over the last century as to become completely obscure. It’s disconcerting.
Anyway, let’s go examine some objects named for the book.
St. Elmo Estate
St. Elmo Estate, Columbus, Georgia, USA
Evans finished writing St. Elmo at the home of her aunt, Mary Howard Jones, in Columbus, Georgia. Mary was the widow of Seaborn Jones, a former U.S. Congressman, who had passed away a few years earlier. Seaborn Jones commissioned this estate in 1833 and named it El Dorado.
Researchers familiar with St. Elmo and its author believed that its fictional estate, La Bocage, was based largely upon the Seaborn Jones property. A subsequent owner even changed the name from El Dorado to St. Elmo as a tribute.
While it must have been a grand estate during its heyday and while the vintage home remains quite impressive, the surrounding acreage succumbed to typical suburb. The only notice of the estate’s exalted place in American literature is an historical marker in front of the property and nearby St. Elmo Drive (map).
That was just one example, and a fairly logical one. Augusta Evans Wilson, 1835-1909: A Biography, By William Perry Fidler (1951) noted a near-frenzy of more unusual designations.
There were steamboats and railway coaches named "St. Elmo." Many southern towns had "St. Elmo Hotels," and at least two villages were named for the book. There was a "St. Elmo" punch, a very strong "St. Elmo" cigar, and several blue-ribboned dogs named "St. Elmo." Many country estates or city mansions were called "La Bocage" after the Murray estate in the novel. A remarkable number of children have been christened Edna Earl, for the heroine, or St. Elmo.
Readers can explore the various St. Elmo towns on their own using GNIS. I’ll focus on some other possibilities.
St. Elmo Historic District
St. Elmo Historic District, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Chattanooga, Tennessee included a St. Elmo Historic District named for the book, "nestled in the valley of Lookout Mountain below the curling stretch of the Tennessee River known as Moccasin Bend." A page maintained by the District claimed that "Evans had spent several summers on Lookout Mountain and found the view similar to that of St. Elmo Castle in Naples, Italy." She apparently did visit Lookout Mountain at least once during the Civil War although I never could corroborate "several summers" or the Castle claim.
St. Elmo Cigar Company
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, USA
This location was much more difficult to finger. First I had to find the St. Elmo Cigar Company, which probably disappeared about a hundred years ago, and then follow it back to its exact location. Eventually I stumbled upon the Los Angeles Herald, 3 September 1905 courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection.
… manufacturers of high grade clear Havana cigars and dealers in leaf tobacco, the plant of the company being located in the massive four story brick building at 216 Central avenue… brands of clear Havana cigars made by the company are "St. Elmo," "Senator White," "Sample Case" and "La Corona."
A "massive four story brick building" no longer existed anywhere along the 200 block of Central Avenue in Los Angeles (street view). Times changed. That area later became Little Tokyo.
St. Elmo Hotel
St. Elmo Hotel, Ouray, Colorado, USA
I found numerous historical references to multiple hotels named for St. Elmo in the decades immediately following publication. The only example that still seemed to be standing with its original name was the St. Elmo Hotel in Ouray, Colorado. As its website mentioned,
Construction started on the St. Elmo.. in the spring of 1897 and was completed the following spring… The hotel was the miner’s hotel… The St. Elmo Hotel is one of the few hotels in the region that has enjoyed almost continuous operation, and today operates as a small finely maintained nine room bed and breakfast inn.
This hotel would have been built, named and operated during the correct era. However I couldn’t find that one final piece of evidence to tie the name to the novel. Even so it probably remained the leading candidate for that possibility.
I really wish I could have found a recipe for St. Elmo punch, too.
A couple of earlier topics conglomerated conceptually in my mind to create my recent fascination with the U.S. state of Georgia’s Enigma. I discovered Enigma — it’s an actual town in Georgia that has about 1,200 residents — as I researched Shaped Like it Sounds (Street Edition). Enigma contained an Ell Street, which indeed resembled the letter L in certain orientations.
Ell Street, Enigma, Georgia, USA
I noted in that earlier article that "Ell was the most common Letter-Shape road" although I failed to mention the Enigma example intentionally. I was preoccupied by the notion of Enigma so I set the topic aside for further exploration. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise by drawing attention to it prematurely. Enigma reminded me of Colorado’s Paradox, another place with a puzzling name. Paradox had an interesting history. I imagined Enigma hid an equally compelling origin.
Georgia.gov explained, "Enigma earned its somewhat odd moniker when settlement founder John A. Ball quipped that he found it ‘a puzzle to name [the town] anyway.’" That wasn’t much to go on. Several other sources amplified the explanation by claiming that an earlier incarnation had been called Gunn-and-Weston. Townspeople didn’t consider that a suitable name for a village with potential. Residents proposed Lax and Enigma, and Georgia state officials endorsed Enigma. Lax already belonged to another town.
Enigma, Georgia 31749 by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Thus, Enigma earned its name and it later incorporated as a formal town. It gained a wonderful circular boundary as was so delightfully common in Georgia at the time, through the Acts Passed by the General Assembly of Georgia – 1906
Sec 2. Be it further enacted by the aforesaid authority, That the corporate limits of said town of Enigma shall be as follows: One mile in a circle from the center of where the dirt road crosses the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Company in the town of Enigma in every direction therefrom.
Enigma looked to be one of those little towns that many people think of as stereotypically All American. Photographic evidence seemed to support that, such as the image linked above and from other sources such as Brian Brown’s Vanishing South Georgia. The mundane explanation behind the name left me wanting, though. Essentially, some guy in an off-hand remark a hundred-plus years ago noted that it was hard to name a town. That was about the extent of it. I guess residents were lucky he hadn’t suggested Stumped, Freeze Brain or Writer’s Block instead. So, Enigma it was and Enigma it remained.
With that mystery solved and with plenty of white space remaining to be filled in the article, I turned my attention to Enigma’s enigmas, of which there were plenty. Enigma had no shortage of perplexing situations. For instance, what about Miss Enigma Firecracker? I’d found an interesting twist on a beauty pageant where participants could dress only in "patriotic wear" with a 4th of July theme ("NO FLIPPERS, PAGEANT DRESSES, or HAIR PIECES"). This covered infants through adults, including any Miss who might actually be a Mrs., as long as she was not older than 25. Actually I guess it didn’t seem all that enigmatic other than the title, Miss Enigma Firecracker.
It’s a Street, Now It’s Not a Street
Stoner Circle, on the other hand, was genuinely strange. In conformance with its Urban Dictionary definition, the street seemed utterly dazed and confused. It appeared on several major online mapping applications but it disappeared on the ground when viewed through Google’s satellite mode. Go ahead and toggle back-and-forth from map to satellite. Somewhere a resident on Stoner Circle chuckles as he munches Cheetos, while everyone guided there by GPS wonders "hey dude, what happened to the street?"
Enigma Cemetery, Georgia, USA
via Google Street View, June 2013
Finally, why would a deaf child have to play in a cemetery?
And in case you were wondering…
The town of Lax didn’t exactly take off. I bet the name is available.