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.

Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 3 (Cape Girardeau)

My brief Easter Weekend road trip focused the majority of its time on Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That consisted of a couple of hours poking around downtown on Friday evening and then the race the following morning. Nonetheless it still consumed the bulk of our waking hours in a single location. We initially rolled into town and enjoyed the vista at Cape Rock Park as described in the previous episode. Then we checked into our hotel, washed up a bit and headed out to see the old, historic section of Cape Girardeau.


Buckner's Brewing Company

We needed something to eat after the initial drive down from St. Louis and our busy day of touring. Of course I also wanted to add more breweries to my completion list as the total approached 400. There seemed to be a brewpub right in the midst of Cape Girardeau so Minglewood Brewery became a logical choice for dinner that evening. Afterwards we strolled downhill towards the Mississippi River shoreline.

Then we came upon a surprise just a couple of blocks away, a sign for Buckner’s Brewing Company. It didn’t appear on my go-to source,, that I consult before every trip I take. It dawned on my that maybe the site couldn’t keep up with the explosion of breweries in the last couple of years. New ones appeared with such regularity that no single source could ever be considered definitive anymore. I tucked that away for future reference. I will need to be more diligent as I prepare for upcoming trips. Take that as foreshadowing.

Buckner’s didn’t serve food. It couldn’t let anyone less than 21 years old onto the premises thanks to a quirk of local regulations. We had two kids in tow and I thought it might become a "brewery that got away." Fortunately my wife drove our personal car on this trip (remember I joined them a few days later after flying to St. Louis) and we always keep a spare growler tucked away for occasions such as this. We left the kids outside, filled the growler, and went on our way. I added Buckner’s Brewing to my list of visits, legitimately. Crisis averted.

Historic District

Cape Girardeau Riverfront

A small area designated the Cape Girardeau Commercial Historic District hugged the Mississippi shoreline. Both breweries resided in contributing structures inside the district. That was fairly common as I’ve discovered on my journeys. These types of businesses often clustered where revitalization efforts focused. I enjoyed walking around, taking note of architecture from the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Cape Girardeau expanded rapidly during this era, first due to riverboat traffic and later as a railroad stop. As described in its Inventory Nomination Form,

From 1880 to 1920, Cape Girardeau’s population grew from approximately 5,000 to over 10,000 residents. By 1930 the population had reached over 16,000. The downtown commercial district expanded to meet the needs of the growing community and larger brick buildings appeared along Main Street replacing earlier one- and two-story buildings. Many of these buildings were designed with Colonial Revival detailing and vernacular "Brick Front" design elements.

This district would be considered a jewel in many places. It appeared eerily quiet though, even on a Friday evening. Adjacent neighborhoods also seemed as if they’d seen better days. Meanwhile other parts of Cape Girardeau a couple of miles away near Interstate 55 thronged with activity and traffic. Hopefully people will begin to return to the urban core as they’ve done in other cities.

Flood Wall

Cape Girardeau Riverfront

I also strolled along the flood used to protected Cape Girardeau from the Mississippi River when it overflowed its banks. No such issue existed during my brief stay and the gates remained open. That let me enjoy murals painted on both sides of the wall. A barrier didn’t need to be ugly. I’d seen a similar philosophy when I visited Matewan in West Virginia last year. A concrete surface could be a great place for artwork outlining the history of the area. Here the paintings in Cape Girardeau told a story in 24 panels stretching 1,100 feet (335 metres), known collectively as the Mississippi River Tales Mural.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the wall as part of the Flood Control Act of 1950. Cape Girardeau flooded regularly before that, just a fact of life along a mighty river that drained a huge portion of the continental interior. However, the wall saved the city many times since then, including the "historic floods" in 1993 and 2011. It also held during the more recent 2016 flood.

The Race

Riverboat Marathon Series - Missouri

I guess I should get back to the whole purpose of this frenzied road trip, the race. Well, as I admitted earlier, I went along to capture counties. However we really went so my wife could run another one of her Mainly Marathons races. This one happened to be the sixth event in their Riverboat series, their stop in Missouri. The series included only five races when we participated back in 2014 so this provided an opportunity for her to pick up a new location. I did run the 5K so I didn’t feel like a total slacker, while my wife ran a half-marathon. We also enjoyed seeing friends we’d made at previous races. Then we hopped in the car and drove another 8 hours, heading back home.

Any Excuse for a Road Trip articles:

Any Excuse for a Road Trip, Part 2 (Short Haul)

Now I needed to execute my ambitious plan, a long weekend drive that would result in my capture of 24 previously unvisited counties. Friday, the first day, covered fewer miles than Saturday or Sunday. However, I made up for that shorter distance with plenty of sightseeing activities. I’d never traveled between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri so I wanted to enjoy this particular route following the Mississippi River downstream.

My flight touched down at St. Louis Lambert International Airport at 9:00 a.m., on time and blessedly routine. My wife picked me up at the arrivals curb and we began our ambitious road trip. I brought an awful cold with me, too. The virus passed through the family in sequence over the previous couple of weeks, from the younger son to the older, to my wife and finally to me. The cold dogged me the rest of the trip although I kept it mostly in check with antihistamines. That still improved upon my last trip to St. Louis. I got stuck there on September 11, 2001, as airlines ground to a halt after the horrific events of the day. It led directly to a long drive I called The Dreadful Road Trip. Now, I finally returned to the city however briefly after an absence of fifteen years.

Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary

Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary

I didn’t want to be completely selfish so I tried to include an activity that the kids would enjoy. It depended upon my punctual arrival — certainly not a guarantee with airlines involved — although it worked out this time. We had two hours to get from the airport to the Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary in Ste. Genevieve for the first tour of the day. We made easily, with several minutes to spare. Sometimes everything lines up just right.

This sanctuary provided a caring home for tigers (and one lion) that they rescued from unhealthy situations. Sometimes people wanted to raise tigers or other exotic animals as pets. They got tired of their pets, the animals grew too large or aggressive, or whatever. Other times, little roadside attractions featured wild animals as babies in petting zoos, and of course they matured into full-sized adults, no longer cute. Neglectful situations sometimes resulted. Sanctuaries then offered hope by serving as healthy places where animals could spend the remainder of their years in peace. Unfortunately, raised in captivity, they could not be returned to the wild.

If the photo makes it seem like the tiger lived in a small cage, take heart because this corner served as a corral to funnel the tiger into an indoor space. The larger part of the yard appeared off to the left, beyond the range of the camera.

Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling

Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling

Longtime readers of Twelve Mile Circle know that I count many things, including breweries. The kids got their tigers, now I got my beer.

The tour of the tiger sanctuary ended around noon so we headed to our next activity a few miles farther west. A brewery and a distillery? Count me in. Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling offered a convenient stop for lunch, and a chance for us to split a sampler. It seemed like a big place, much larger than the average craft brewery, although I’d not seen their products before. Their range must not extend to the East Coast. Nonetheless we enjoyed our stop and I could add it to my brewery visit map. I noticed that my brewery total began to approach 400. I wouldn’t be able to hit that landmark during this particular trip. It will happen soon enough though, I imagined.

Bollinger Mill State Historic Site

Bollinger Mill State Historic Site

I also liked to visit covered bridges. I’ve bored 12MC readers with these objects a number of times before. Remember Western Virginia and New Hampshire, as examples? The Bollinger Mill State Historic Site in Cape Girardeau county offered yet another opportunity. It included a large historic mill combined with an adjacent covered bridge. That, I couldn’t miss.

First, we toured the mill. It dated to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century although the present structure rose right after the Civil War. Union forces burned the original mill because Bollinger’s descendants sympathized with the Confederacy and provided flour to help its cause. We received a nice, personalized tour of the building too. I guess very few people wanted to visit on some random Friday afternoon outside of tourist season so we used that to our benefit. The docent actually locked the front door, put up a sign telling others to come back later, and then led us through every floor of the mill from top to bottom.

The Whitewater River powered the mill, and likewise people needed a bridge to get across its 140 foot width. The Civil War halted construction of the bridge so wasn’t completed until 1867. By that time a settlement existed near the mill, named Burfordville for a local resident, John Burford. The bridge took the name of the village and it became the Burfordville Covered Bridge. It’s been restored a couple of times over the years although it’s too fragile for anything other than pedestrians today.

From there, we took the brief jog to capture Bollinger County as described earlier. Did the opportunity to cross into one more county influence the trip to the mill, or did the mill influence the jog to Bollinger? I’ll never tell.

Cape Rock

Cape Rock Park

How did Cape Girardeau get its name? Both a cape and a Girardeau existed, historically. France once owned this stretch of river as part of its vast colonial empire extending through the North American interior. In 1733, Ensign Jean Baptiste de Girardot, stationed at Kaskaskia, opened a trading post on the far extreme of the frontier. He chose a rocky promontory easily visible along the river. A town would eventually grow there, and appropriate his name as well as the geographic feature. Ironically, the actual cape, the prominent landmark rock visible from so far away no longer exists. They needed a railroad along the river so they destroyed the outcrop to make room for it. That’s how they rolled in the Nineteenth Century; blowing up the very namesake of the city in the name of "progress."

Nonetheless, the bluff where the trading post once stood still existed. The city marked the spot with Cape Rock Park. We finished the first day’s drive at the park atop the bluff, gazing upon the swiftly flowing Mississippi River.

Any Excuse for a Road Trip articles: