The intersection of my various hobbies provides a nice tangential benefit for the Twelve Mile Circle, a steady stream of curiosities and article ideas. I like to look through census records and use Street View to see if I can spy on the former homes of ancestors and distant relatives. Many of the census records from the first part of the 20th Century included street addresses. Frequently those have remained unchanged (as in the case with my Great Grandparents’ home in 1940) and it can provide a window into their lives. More often streets changed names or numbering schemes over the years, or the houses have been demolished. Sometime that can still lead to interesting if unrelated discoveries. Like today. That’s how I found Little Canada.
The census record said a family lived on Canada Street in Ramsey County, Minnesota, in a suburb near St. Paul. Canada Street doesn’t exist on a modern map as far as I could tell, however Google suggested Little Canada Road in the City of Little Canada. That seemed like a name with a story. I put down genealogy for awhile and redirected my investigative energies to geography.
View Little Canada in a larger map
Certainly there are places much farther east, say within the St. Lawrence River watershed and along the Atlantic coast where a blended population occupied a space with little regard for an international border. Add to that Acadian exiles from the Canadian Maritime provinces who settled in Louisiana in the mid 18th Century and its obvious that many people in the U.S. trace a portion of their ancestry back to Canada. The Little Canada community felt somehow different though, resembling a more traditional ethnic enclave instead of a broader mix and meld of Canadian and U.S. populations directly along the border or a mass migration to Louisiana’s Nouvelle-France.
Let’s begin with a definition that I’ll steal from Wikipedia since it seems to get the point across succinctly and I’m not sure I could write it any better:
An ethnic enclave is a physical space with high ethnic concentration; thus these spaces are culturally distinct from the larger receiving society. Their success and growth depends on self-sufficiency, and is coupled with economic prosperity. Therefore, the general definition of an ethnic enclave is a geographically defined space with characteristic cultural identity and economic activity.
I can think of numerous prominent ethnic enclaves in the United States, historic and current. Chinatown in San Francisco, Little Italy in New York City, Little Havana in Miami, Koreatown in Los Angeles, and Irish "Southie" in Boston all come to mind. Add to that, Little Canada in Minnesota?
Ethnic enclaves don’t last forever. They assimilate into broader communities over time. That’s largely the story of Little Canada albeit the assimilation didn’t appear to have presented much of a challenge. The cultural distinction between its French Canadian settlers and the Minnesota population as a whole were pretty similar despite the language difference. The state absorbed numerous ethnic groups during the latter 19th Century, reflecting a large swath of northern European cultures in addition to French Canadians. Immigration and ethnicity were common features across Minnesota’s population during its formative years.
Little Canada described its history in typical terms for that particular place and time:
The Mdewakanton Dakota from Little Crow’s Village or Kaposia (seasonal home) made their summer home in the area that is today Little Canada because of the abundant fishing and hunting resources. The first white settlers in the region were French/Canadians. Many of the descendents of these settlers still reside in Little Canada. The city’s largest lake, Lake Gervais, was named after Benjamin Gervais. He was the first white man to claim land here in 1844. In 1850, the first school was established and classes were taught in French… In 1858, Little Canada became a township, a village in 1953, and in 1974 a city.
This city of 10,000 residents continues to cling to its Canadian heritage in a number of ways, most visibly through its flag.
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the public domain
The sentiment carries forward through a long-standing Sister Cities relationship with Thunder Bay, Ontario, a six hours drive by automobile (map). There might be better ways to select Sister Cities however it’s hard to discount the convenience factor.
That also makes it easy for Canadian delegations to participate in Little Canada’s annual community festival, "Canadian Days." It’s held the first weekend every August to coincide with Canada’s August Civic Holiday. Canadian visitors can participate in the festivities and drive home on Monday without missing any work.
View Larger Map
Canadian heritage has also been stamped upon the town’s geographic features and landmarks. Benjamin Gervais is recognized by the previously-mentioned lake and by the location of his pioneer grist mill which is now a park (map). The theme carries forward with Thunder Bay park, situated between Thunder Bay and Ontario Roads, as well as through several French-language roads sprinkled throughout the city.
The citizens of Little Canada continue to recognize their heritage, albeit largely shifting from French-Canadian culture specifically to a relationship with Canada more broadly as a nation.
The same family I researched also had a connection with a nearby neighborhood called "South of Maryland" (map). Like SoHo (South of Houston) in NYC and SoMa (South of Market) in San Francisco, this one derived its name from a street; south of Maryland Avenue in St. Paul, MN in this instance. It came to mind solely because I thought of my own home in Virginia as more appropriately south of Maryland, along with West Virginia and the District of Columbia. There’s even an anomaly along the Maryland border where a small part of Delaware is south of Maryland (map). I’m not sure where I’m going with that other than I found it interesting.
Twelve Mile Circle loves its borders, and probably none more than the border between Canada and the United States (for instance). The statistics are impressive: 119 border crossings; 39,254,000 trips by Canadians into the United States in 2009; and nearly $500 million in international trade passing every day on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
Those are great. I rather enjoy examining the other end of the spectrum even more. Not every crossing can be as popular as the Ambassador Bridge. What about some of the lesser-known ports of entry? Fortunately the U.S. Department of Transportation funds a Bureau of Transportation Statistics deep within the bowels of its bureaucracy, which offers a convenient Border Crossing/Entry Data website. Let’s take a peek.
First thing, I noticed that it’s difficult to determine which crossing might be the least popular. Should I count people, vehicles, cargo containers, or what? I decided to select a few choice categories and let them stand on their own rather than force apples-to-oranges scenarios. All figures were compiled from the perspective of the United States government for the year 2011.
It’s important to note that these are all the lowest non-zero values. Most ports of entry lack train traffic as an example. Zero values were excluded from my search.
View Larger Map
Fewest Trains (25th place) – Calais, Maine International Avenue / New Brunswick. This border crossing recorded 77 trains. There are train tracks in the immediate area although I can’t seem to find where they cross the border. Does anyone know how this works? Does the train cross elsewhere and then check-in at Calais because that’s the closest location that’s staffed by border officials? Why did they record so few trains?
Fewest Train Passengers (25th place) – Laurier, Washington / Cascade, British Columbia. This is why it’s so difficult to draw comparisons between categories or in aggregate. One would expect a correlation between trains and train passengers, however that overlooks the simple fact that many trains haul freight exclusively. Thus the place with the fewest cross-border train passengers traversing the border takes place on the other side of the North American continent.
Fewest Trucks (79th place) – Ferry, Washington / Midway, British Columbia. A grand total of three trucks crossed there in 2011. That’s one truck every four months. I imagine that this would be a very poor choice for a smuggler. Trucks are so rare that it’s an event. I bet customs agents scrutinize them intensely just to have an opportunity to do something a little different. It’s not hard to see why trucks don’t generally pass through here. It’s a little out the way and several larger, more truck-friendly roads cross the border to the east and west.
View Larger Map
Fewest Buses (3-way tie for 64th place) – Pinecreek, Minnesota / Piney Manitoba, Bridgewater, Maine / Centreville, New Brunswick, and Hannah, North Dakota / Snowflake, Manitoba. Each of these locations recorded a single bus. That’s right, only one bus passed each of these locations in all of 2011.
I wonder if this included a bus full of geo-oddity tourists on the way to see the bi-national airport runway at Pinecreek?
View Larger Map
Fewest Pedestrians (43rd place) – Noonan, North Dakota / Estevan, Saskatchewan. Seriously, I’d love to know the story behind the single pedestrian who crossed here. Just look at the Street View image. It’s remote. It’s empty. Why would anyone be walking through here and where would they be going?
View Larger Map
Fewest Personal Vehicles (85th place) – Whitlash, Montana / Aden, Alberta. This might be my favorite proxy measure for the least popular border crossing. Passenger vehicles are by far the most common way to cross between the two nations. Only 656 used Whitlash in an entire year. Two per day. Wow. I’d probably cross here if I were in the area just to inflate their statistics.
Foreshadowing. I’ll perform a similar exercise on the U.S. – Mexico border in the next installment.
Totally Unrelated. Remember Pinwheel? I just received another batch of invitations for their private beta. Let me know if you’d like one and I’ll send it to an email address of your choice.
Welcome. It sounds so welcoming when used as a town name, as if the town founders and developers genuinely wanted visitors and residents alike to enjoy their time there. It sets a nice tone and a pleasant expectation. Settlements named Welcome exist in a number of areas. I’m a little surprised there aren’t actually a few more.
Welcome, North Carolina
View Larger Map
Welcome, NC is the largest of the Welcomes, with nearly four thousand residents. It’s probably the best known of the bunch. It might have received more attention if it stood in a slightly more isolated location but it’s lost amidst several much larger towns and cities nearby such as Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Lexington.
I appreciate the sign they’ve placed along the roadside. You might be able to just barely see it in the Street View image: "Welcome to Welcome" is what it says. It’s not entirely creative but give them points for simplicity and sincerity. I can’t think of any other town names where one can create such an elegant symmetry. I take that back — how about "Amble to Amble, Michigan." Are there others? Maybe you can come up with better ones. That’s a contest, folks.
Welcome, the town, is most notable as the home base for Richard Childress Racing and the RCR Museum, for those of you who follow NASCAR.
View Larger Map
Welcome, Minnesota, offers a hearty welcome too. Several hundred people call this town home but I could find precious little more about it. It has great access to Interstate 90. Anything else?
I do know the name comes from a gentleman who owned a farm on the outskirts of town in the Nineteenth Century. Over time the town grew onto his land and eventually took his name. He was Alfred Welcome, an English immigrant who arrived in the years after the U.S. Civil War. That leaves me to wonder if Welcome is truly welcoming, as it’s named for a person rather than a genuine expression of emotion.
I noticed several other Welcome towns. Welcome, Georgia includes streets with names like Welcome Rd., Welcome Sargent Rd., and Welcome-to-Arnco Rd. In Mississippi the townspeople are even more receptive. Here they call it Bewelcome. Visitors will be welcome here, I guess. The street grid includes some rather descriptive names that I may have to research further someday: Busy Corner Rd. (which doesn’t seem to have any busy corners) and my personal favorite, Old 24 Compromise Road. Surely there’s a story behind that.
Other Welcomes can be found in: New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
I also found a Welcome in Ontario, Canada thus proving that North America is the most welcoming of all places, if places called Welcome are any indication.
View Larger Map
Welcome Stranger isn’t a town. It’s the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found, weighing in at 72 kilograms (159 pounds), in 1869 in Victoria, Australia. That’s a lot of welcome! It was so impressive that an obelisk was placed at the spot a few decades later. It’s known as the Welcome Stranger Monument. That’s why it makes the list of welcomes. Geoscience Australia pointed out one more welcoming location, a place in Queensland although it doesn’t look very welcoming at all. In fact it looks downright hostile.
I then turned to the United Kingdom but found no Welcomes anywhere, not because it’s an unwelcoming place I’m certain, but probably because everything was already named.