Rolla

On July 2, 2017 · 1 Comments

Editor’s NoteWell folks, after 1,373 articles, it finally happened. I repeated a topic. I’d forgotten that I posted a similar article back in 2014. This should make for an interesting compare and contrast, though. I did include a couple of extra Rolla locations this time. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, actually.


Once again my compulsive need to review the Twelve Mile Circle access logs inspired an article. I spotted a little dot in North Dakota, way up by the Canadian border. It stood all alone so I wondered why someone from such an obscure spot might come to 12MC. The user probably arrived for a reason similar to anyone else although now it piqued my curiosity. I checked and saw the viewer read about the smallest tribe of Native Americans in the United States. Well, welcome Rolla user. That gave me a nice excuse to explore your town along with others of a similar name.


Rolla, North Dakota


Rolla, North Dakota
Rolla, North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Filer on Flickr (cc)

I most appreciated that Rolla (map) could be found in Rolette County. References indicated that the Rolla name probably derived from the county name. Probably? How could there be any doubt? Unfortunately I couldn’t find a primary source so that forced me to apply the same qualifier. Rolette though derived from Joseph Rolette, a colorful 19th Century fur trader and politician from an area of Minnesota that later became part of North Dakota. He once hid for several days to prevent the governor from signing a bill to move Minnesota’s capital away from St. Paul. Apparently he sought refuge in a nearby brothel where he drank, played cards and, well, I digress. That escapade didn’t disqualify him from having a county and city named in his honor after his death. Maybe it helped.

However, Rolla did not become the county seat of government for Rolette. That honor went to Belcourt, a town of two thousand residents, about double the size of Rolla. I couldn’t find much of historical importance in Rolla although I wouldn’t recommend breaking in to someone’s home there either.

It seemed that residents pronounced it Roll-a. Perhaps my 12MC visitor will return some day and confirm that.


Rolla, Kansas


Dust Storm. Rolla, Kansas 1935
Dust Storm. Rolla, Kansas 1935. Library of Congress Collection on Flickr (cc)

Now why did Rolla sound so familiar? I’d seen a different Rolla before. In Kansas. This happened during my 2013 Dust Bowl adventure. I concentrated on a tight area around the Oklahoma Panhandle. It included the southwestern corner of Kansas. In that faraway nook, in Morton County specifically, stood a little town of Rolla (map). Barely four hundred people lived there along the open plains within the Cimarron National Grassland.

What scant evidence existed seemed to say that Rolla’s founders named if for Sir Walter Raleigh, and pronounced it Raw-la. That seemed fair-fetched, however, many people living in North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh pronounced it that way in their southern drawl. Transplants could have carried the name and its pronunciation with them as they settled the plains. I couldn’t find direct evidence to back that up for this particular Rolla although it seemed to be within the realm of possibility.


Rolla, Missouri


On Historic Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri
On Historic Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri. Photo by Kent Kanouse on Flickr (cc)

The big Rolla didn’t appear in North Dakota or Kansas, it appeared in Missouri. This Rolla (map) served a population of twenty thousand! It also included a significant university, the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Residents pronounced it Raw-la like in Kansas, and supposedly for a similar reason. It also had a more definitive connection back to North Carolina too.

Rolla was officially surveyed, laid out and named in 1858. Bishop wanted to call it Phelps Center, since his house was the center of the county. John Webber preferred the name "Hardscrabble" for the obvious reasons. George Coppedge, another original settler, and formerly of North Carolina, favored "Raleigh" after his hometown. The others agreed with Coppedge on the condition that it shouldn’t have "that silly spelling, but should be spelled ‘Rolla.’"

Significant military activity took place here during the Civil War because of Rolla’s southern sympathies. The Union army occupied it just to make sure a strategic railroad terminal didn’t fall into the hands of Confederate sympathizers.


Rolla, British Columbia



I didn’t expect a Rolla to show-up in Canada, and yet one appeared (map) in British Columbia near the Alberta border. It seemed like an odd coincidence until I found an entry for Rolla on the Discover The Peace Country website.

The Lea Miller family was the first settlers to arrive in the area in 1912 that were originally from Rolla, Missouri in the USA. This new area then started being referred to as Rolla. The Millers opened a post office and Rolla was officially named in 1914.

Thus, if I followed the logic correctly, Sir Walter Raleigh lent his name to Raleigh, North Carolina where it transferred to Rolla, Missouri, and finally to Rolla, British Columbia. I’d seen longer name chains before (e.g., Richmond) although this one still stood out. The couple of hundred-or-so people there pronounced it similarly to its Missouri namesake.


Rolla, Anantapur, India



The Rolla in India seemed to be completely coincidental (map). I couldn’t find a connection to any of the others. I didn’t know how to pronounce it either. Information seemed scarce. I did find some basic information on its Wikipedia page. However, the page offered little else and failed to cite reliable sources. Someone could have made it up for all I knew. Yet, this Rolla supposedly dwarfed even the similarly-named Missouri town. Nearly thirty-five thousand people lived there. It certainly demonstrated the drawback of Wikipedia, where a town of that size barely earned any mention because of its location.

I didn’t want to be culturally insensitive. Primarily, I wouldn’t ordinarily describe someone’s tradition as "strange." However, a local news report documented a "Strange Tradition in Rolla Village Anantapuram" (their words not mine) in a YouTube video. If the locals thought it qualified as strange then I didn’t feel so bad about calling it strange too. The video showed some kind of ceremony where a row of people laid down on the ground and others stuck their feet on them as musicians played. It showed the same scene of a toddler getting a foot on her neck like a dozen times. Maybe it served as some kind of blessing. I couldn’t grasp any context because the reporter spoke something other than English.

Nonetheless, it let me add another Indian pushpin to my Complete Index Map, and that made me happy.

Switching Sides

On January 19, 2017 · 3 Comments

First, a disclaimer. Twelve Mile Circle deals with geo-oddities, not politics. It doesn’t take sides. However, the timing of this post fell closest to the Presidential Inauguration and I thought it might be acceptable to poke a toe just up to the line in a nonpartisan fashion. Reader "Joe" sent me an idea, as he often does, and I decided to run with it. He referenced an article in his local newspaper about a town in a very conservative corner of Missouri that went by the name Liberal.

Liberal, Missouri



The story mentioned Liberal’s irony. As one resident proclaimed, "People are embarrassed… They are ashamed and don’t identify." I couldn’t determine how the town voted in the recent election, however the surrounding county (Barton) went for Donald Trump 84%. One might conclude somewhat reasonably that Liberal could actually be quite conservative, using modern euphemisms where liberal meant Democrat and conservative meant Republican. I decided to stick with that definition realizing that different interpretations could also be used.

Liberal began in 1880 as an atheist utopia founded by George Walser. He belonged to an organization called the Liberal League based in Lamar, Missouri about twenty miles to the east. This group fell within a larger philosophy of Freethinkers, who form "opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief." Walser purchased two thousand acres and founded a town based upon his personal preferences. Christians then made it a mission to convert the town and eventually purchased land adjoining it. Apparently their strategy worked. Walser eventually converted and died a Christian.

Of course, I realized that there wasn’t necessarily a parallel between a particular word usage from the 1880’s and today. There are plenty of Christians who are Democrats and Republicans who are atheists, so word definitions evolve just as towns evolve.

Few signs of the failed experiment survived other than Darwin Street (map) — honoring Charles Darwin — and the name of the town itself.


Liberal, Kansas


Dorothy House Land of Oz
12MC Visited Liberal, Kansas

I mentioned my visit to Liberal, Kansas when I replied to Joe’s suggestion. I went there a few years ago during my Dust Bowl Adventure. It included several sites like the Mid-America Air Museum, a giant book sculpture outside of the local library, and Kansas’ proxy for Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz (map). I got to experience all three of them.

Was Liberal once liberal only to flip conservative like its Missouri namesake? It seemed to fit the definition of conservative today with 64% of Seward County going for Trump. I checked one popular search engine and came across an interesting discussion on that very topic. My favorite response was, "It’s like when you call a fat man ‘Slim’ or a bald man ‘Curly’. Yeah, ‘Liberal’ is like that!" I got that same perception when I visited there in person.

However this didn’t necessarily mean it was once "liberal." The town didn’t have a clearly-defined history. One local source said,

Mr. S.S. Rogers was the first homesteader in what would later become Liberal. Outside of the Cimarron River, water was very scarce in Southwestern Kansas and there was usually a charge for even a small amount; however Mr. Rogers always gave his water free to passing travelers. Quite often he would hear a reply of "that’s mighty Liberal of you" from the grateful recipients.

I wasn’t quite sure I believed that explanation although I didn’t find any hidden 19th Century atheist influences to compete with it either.


Liberal, Oregon


Liberal, Oregon
Liberal Country Store in Liberal, Oregon
via Google Street View, August 2016

Not every Liberal settlement exhibited conservative tendencies in the modern era. The Liberal in Oregon (map) fell within the borders of Clackamas County. Clackamas went for Democrats in the last three Presidential elections, and five of the last seven. Hillary Clinton registered nearly 48% of votes in 2016, compared to 41% for Trump. This Liberal also had a murky history.

The exact origin of the name of the community is lost in the past. Some believe that it was named for Liberal, Missouri… However the prevailing belief, shared by many old-timers including the late Dee Wright, a local historian, was that is was named because of the liberal credit policies of the local store.

One more Liberal once thrived in Indiana, although no signs of it remained today. The county where it formerly existed (Spencer) went 66% for Trump. That made three Liberals conservative, and one Liberal at least leaning liberal.


The Other Direction?


Confederate statue
Confederate statue (Alexandria, Virginia).
Photo by Christopher Connell on Flickr (cc)

I wondered if any towns went the other way, with conservative names applied to liberal enclaves. I didn’t find any. However, I recalled a local example where I knew that gradually changing political beliefs underwent a transition of that type. A specific recent incident drove the point home. The City of Alexandria, like much of the rest of Virginia, was once quite conservative. That hasn’t been the case in recent years. For instance, in September 2016 the city council voted to rename Jefferson Davis Highway. Jefferson Davis was once the President of the Confederacy and his name adorned many places in the Old South after the war. Times are changing in Alexandria, however. The city also wants to relocate it’s statue of a Confederate soldier, currently overlooking a prominent intersection (map), to someplace less conspicuous.

I freely admit to a bit of nervousness with this article after a bruising campaign fresh in everyone’s minds. 12MC is the only site where I read the comments anymore, where readers seem to actually respect the points of view of others. Let’s hope this article doesn’t devolve into splitting of hairs, wrangling over definitions, and hurtful words.

Twelve Mile Circle will now return to non-political topics. Maybe forever.

That Recurring State Line

On January 8, 2017 · 6 Comments

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, Idaho


State Line Idaho
State Line, Idaho
via Google Street View, September 2016

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?


Stateline, Nevada


Stateline, Nevada at California Border, Lake Tahoe
Stateline, Nevada at California Border, Lake Tahoe
Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

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, Kansas



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.


Others Even More Obscure



State Line Pond, Connecticut

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.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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