A random Twelve Mile Circle reader became an unwitting inspiration for this article simply because of where he or she lived. The little dot within Idaho on my Google Analytics dashboard mentioned State Line. That seemed too good to be true. I’ve done plenty of articles about border towns although I’d never noticed that one before. It sounded like a good excuse to peel things back a layer and take a closer look.
State Line didn’t cover much area and only 38 people lived there (map). It seemed an odd situation until I uncovered a bit of history in an old newspaper article. This creation sprang to life in 1947 and existed for a very specific reason. Quite simply, "the town was incorporated so it could sell liquor and have slot machines." End of story.
Those who incorporated the town leveraged the adjacent state border, just enough over the line to fall outside of the laws of Washington State. Residents of the region’s dominant city — Spokane, Washington — needed only a short drive to take advantage of the more liberal alcohol and gambling rules of Idaho. Apparently incorporated towns in Idaho had some legal leeway to provide these services so State Line filled that niche. The town didn’t have to worry about do-gooders interfering with its business either; it carefully corralled a sympathetic population. I’ve explored similar themes before, e.g., in Right Up to the Line.
A lot of separate sins packed into that tiny package, too. I drove down Seltice Way, the main road through State Line, vicariously using Google Street View. From the border heading into Idaho I noticed a smokeshop, a liquor store, several taverns including a biker bar, and a building with no windows advertising "Show Girls." I wonder what could possibly be going on inside there? This is a family-friendly website so I’ll leave it at that. I also found the residential area consisting of a small trailer park. Maybe the show girls lived there? If so then one of them visited 12MC and landed on the Thelma and Louise Route Map. Maybe someone was planning a weekend getaway?
Idaho didn’t contain the only town with that familiar name. Stateline existed in Nevada, too. I talked about that one briefly in the Loneliest Road in the USA and it appeared in reader comments from time-to-time as well. South Lake Tahoe, on the California side, seemed like the average ski resort town. A gondola led up to the slopes, part of the Heavenly Mountain Resort. Just down the street, however, marked Nevada. Five humongous casinos rose starkly from the pavement barely inches onto the Nevada side of the border. This grouping represented the same basic premise as its Idaho counterpart, bringing convenient "sinful" businesses closer to the masses.
A morbid geo-oddity of sorts existed in Stateline. The ski resort included trails on both sides of the border. Skiers crossed the state border on several of the runs. That was a worthwhile oddity by itself of course, although that wasn’t the morbid part. Something awful happened there in 1998. That’s when Sonny Bono, the lesser-known half of Sonny and Cher, slammed into a tree on the Orion slope (map). Bono died in Stateline on a border-crossing trail.
Stateline existed as one of thirteen townships in Sherman County, Kansas. The name went back historically to the 19th Century and simply represented its geographic placement next to Colorado. Stateline didn’t exist to entice people across the border and only 344 people lived there in the most recent Census. The township contained only one settlement of any size, Kanorado (map), the home of about half of Stateline’s residents. That still made it large enough to serve as Sherman County’s second largest town. My attention automatically focused on that spot because, as longtime readers know, I love a good portmanteau. The name combined and shortened Kansas and Colorado into Kanorado. It’s website noted that someone originally named it Lamborn. I preferred Kanorado. Excellent choice.
This one also existed in a bit of a geo-oddity. Only four counties recognized Kansas Mountain Time, including Sherman County. Of course that also included Stateline Township and the village of Kanorado. From my experience driving directly through there on Interstate 70 several years ago, I couldn’t determine why the area felt more aligned to Mountain Time. It seemed really remote, regardless. Either one should be fine. Nonetheless residents apparently felt otherwise and aligned chronologically with Colorado. Actually, as I thought about it more, Stateline should probably exist on the Colorado side instead. Colorado seemed to feature more sins than Kansas, particularly cannabis and perhaps alcohol too. The current Stateline alignment represented lost economic opportunities.
I found other State Lines and Statelines. For instance, check out State Line Pond in Connecticut. It also had its own website, believe it or not. From its description,
State Line Pond is an approximately 75 acre lake in Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the Massachusetts border at Monson, MA. The lake was formed when a stream running through a meadow was intentionally flooded approximately 150 years ago. For many years, the Stafford Ice House "harvested" ice by horse from the lake during the winter and delivered it to restaurants, homes and businesses as far away as Boston.
Even more obscure places existed in the form of State Line, Mississippi and State Line, Indiana. I couldn’t find much about either place other than their existence.
There may not have been a sawtooth in Rhode Island, however there were plenty of others sawtooths (sawteeth?) elsewhere throughout the English-speaking world. That provided me with a wonderful opportunity to continue on a theme while also giving me the option to choose advantageous locations. By that I meant I decided to fill empty spots on the Complete Index map that would benefit from a few more push-pins.
I didn’t have much coverage in central Idaho, specifically in an area that coincided with — wait for it — the Sawtooth National Forest. That seemed amazingly appropriate. The government protected a massive space within the forest, more than two million acres. It was one of the older reserves in the Federal portfolio, designated by President Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago and later expanded.
The name derived from the Sawtooth Range, a part of the Rocky Mountains with many peaks jutting over 10,000 feet (3,048 metres). The range got its name, well just look at it, from its resemblance to the jagged teeth of a saw blade.
Near the mountains and within the forest stood the remains of an old town named Sawtooth City (map). It began like so many other settlements in this corner of Idaho as a mining camp in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Sawtooth City hugged Beaver Creek near a spot where it joined the Salmon River in a rugged and beautiful wilderness. The town flourished for awhile in the 1880’s and then miners moved on to the next big strike. Nature reclaimed much of Sawtooth City although what was left was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970’s, "the only visible remains are the mill foundations, one old log cabin and the crumbling remains of many other buildings." What an ignoble ending to a settlement that once housed nearly six hundred residents.
I noticed another town nearby, not named sawtooth although something a little less obvious. Why did Idaho have an Atlanta (map)? It was neither near the Atlantic Ocean nor near the city of the same name in Georgia.
Gold was discovered near Atlanta in 1863 and… there were Confederate sympathizers among the early miners. They eventually named Atlanta after the battle of Atlanta, which was fought in July of 1864 and, initially unbeknownst to the southern sympathizers, did not go well for the south… by the time they received clarification that the south had lost, they had already named the town and the name stayed the same.
I couldn’t tell if any of that was true or not although it sounded like a good story so I stuck with it.
This was a remote area. Even today the only way to reach Atlanta overland involved one of two unimproved US Forest Service roads. It was 40 miles (64 km) from the nearest paved road. Nonetheless it remained a populated settlement, now bringing in tourist dollars thanks to its superb location for numerous outdoor activities in the Sawtooth Range, aptly described as a sportsman’s paradise.
Another rugged Sawtooth Range existed elsewhere, in the far northern reaches of Canada. The range crossed through the central part of the world’s tenth-largest island, Ellesmere Island. The mountains were a portion of the larger Arctic Cordillera range. Nunavut’s Sawtooth was so remote that few people ever got a chance to experience it firsthand. Fewer than a hundred and fifty people inhabited the island, living in its sole community Grise Fiord or at one of its two tiny High Arctic Weather Stations.
One of those two stations was located in proximity to the Sawtooth Range (map). It came to be known as Eureka when established in 1947 by Canada and the United States working together.
Although much of the land was rough, rising to 2,000 or 3,000 feet, the most satisfactory location appeared to be in Slidre Fiord on Ellesmere Island, centrally located at latitude 80 00′ 00" N., longitude 85 56’25"W. Within the fiord, the ice was quite smooth. Protected by hills from the prevailing north westerly winds, it is surrounded by low rolling country and is in the vicinity of two rivers, which promise fresh water in summer.
Only about ten people staffed the station throughout the long winter, in the coldest place in Canada. While many other Canadian locations have recorded lower absolute temperatures, Eureka took the prize for the lowest average yearlong temperature, a bone-chilling -19.7C (-3.5F).
Interesting things pop-up unexpectedly as one searches for completely different topics. I wanted to find every town with a state name, a laborious manual process undertaken for Geographic Matryoshka with US States. Dutifully, I entered each name into the Geographical Names Information System (GNIS) one-by-one and tallied the results. My search for Idaho produced towns such as Idaho, NY; Idaho, ND; Idaho, OH; Idaho, PA and Idaho, TN. However there were other results on the screen because the values weren’t truncated. That’s when I noticed what I thought might be one of the better place names in the United States, the remarkable Idahome in Cassia County, Idaho.
Goodness knows I’ve always been captivated by a solid portmanteau. This was one of the best, a remarkable combination of Idaho and Home. There’s no place like home! I couldn’t think of any similar state combination. I supposed Utahome came close or maybe twist it a little more to create Ohiohome. Maybe the Arapaho tribe of Native Americans could create a place called Arapahome. Still, Idahome actually existed and it had been recorded as a placename by the U.S. government.
I should clarity that point. GNIS said Idahome existed. Boots on the ground might argue with that point. Sure it existed — in the past tense — although it existed in its current form only as a ghost town with a derelict grain elevator and the faint footprints of a few former residences.
What could have possibly happened to a place with such a noteworthy name? An historical marker placed on Highway 81 at the old townsite (map) provided a nice summary:
After wheat crops flourished in this dry farm area, Idahome sprang up here in 1916 as a railroad terminal. Irrigation projects boosted its economy. When wheat farms disappeared and highway traffic replaced rail service here, Idahome became a ghost town. Its grain elevators, lumberyards, stores, airport, oil company, school, newspaper and people are only past memories. An elevator and a few building foundations mark its site.
Wikipedia also had a minor Idahome entry although it contained an unsubstantiated claim. "The community was named by a railroad surveying party that found a bag labeled ‘Idahome Flour Co.’ at the site; the railroad made the place a stop with the flour company’s name." That sounded fine although in apocryphal terms. Evidence contemporary with the flourishing of Idahome in the early Twentieth Century contradicted the formative fable. Imagine that. An assertion made on Wikipedia without attribution proving to be wrong.
Idahome was an obscure locale even when it thrived although it left a small paper trail in its wake that was captured by Google Books. Idahome wasn’t the name of a flour company originally, it was a brand used for wheat flour by the The Twin Falls Milling & Elev., Co. of Twin Falls, Idaho, as noted in the January 1912 edition of Northwestern Miller. Another publication of the period, The American Miller and Processor, elaborated further.
WHERE IDAHOME FLOUR IS MADE. The new plant of the Twin Falls Mill and Company, located at Twin Falls, Idaho, was started but a short time ago. The company is in possession of a new 400-barrel mill electrically operated, located in a brick building 36 by 64 feet, four stories high. The mill is thoroughly equipped with the latest mill machinery, eight stands of rolls, cleaners packers and all the various machines. The mill is so arranged that the capacity can be increased to 600 barrels if trade demands, and has been made for the adding of a plant to manufacture breakfast food of all kinds. A months before starting, the company held a contest offering a prize for the most acceptable name a flour, and as a result have accepted and patented the two names "Idahome" and "Shoshone Mist."
More important, the railroad didn’t name Idahome for a discarded bag, it was developed specifically as a terminal to serve the Idahome brand of flour. By 1918 the N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory noted that Idahome had become a town of 300 people complete with the short-line railroad, telephone service, a bank, the mill and a sugar beet factory. It was also a local center for lead and silver mining as well as for agricultural pursuits including the grazing of sheep and cattle. At some point the name of the company did change to Idahome Grain & Produce Co. although that happened after the mill had been established and in any case the end was near. In 1919 the company moved to nearby Burly. Soon one of the best named locations in the nation began on its path towards oblivion.
It was too good for the name to simply die, though. Its memory lived on in Idahome Road, leading from the old town site to Interstate 84 (street view). There were also several likely unrelated mentions: