Beery Places

On March 25, 2014 · 3 Comments

It began as I discovered Beery Reservoir in northeastern Montana appearing from my laptop screen (map). For once I decided to avoid overthinking the reference and have fun with it while wondering how awesome it would be to have a reservoir of beer. Don’t expect a lot of intellectual curiosity or historical background today, just beer-themed places that sounded funny and maybe a pun or two.

I was surprised by the number of beery entries listed in the US Geographical Names Information System. I selected a few of the best.

Beer Run

Beer Run, Eldred, Pennsylvania, USA

In my earlier years, a beer run was what we used to do when we thought we might finish the beer before the party ended and had to dash to the nearest convenience store before it closed. This activity needed to be well considered because Virginia didn’t allow off-premise beer sales after midnight. Fortunately that hasn’t been a problem in a long time for me. I can’t imagine being awake after midnight today and certainly not drinking. The Urban Dictionary included other definitions too like going into a store, grabbing a six-pack and running out without paying. Don’t do that.

Geographically the term "run" was used interchangeably with stream or creek in certain pockets of the United States including Virginia. An example familiar to many readers might include Bull Run, the site of two famous Civil War battles fought in the Commonwealth. The Union army often named battles after a nearby body of water.

Beer Run flowed past Frozen Toe Road. I’m sure there was a joke in there somewhere.

Beer Airport

Beer Airport, Hudson, Wisconsin, USA

A pilot could be fired for consuming alcohol anytime close to flight time so Beer Airport sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. The "airport" — and I used that term loosely here — was a thin grass strip set between two plowed fields in rural Wisconsin.

The Federal Aviation Administration maintained records on every airport including this one, which was listed by Beer Airport was a private field, 2200 x 60 ft. (671 x 18 m) with a 40 foot high powerline at the end of the runway (clearly visible on Street View). Richard Beer was listed as owner and Dan Beer was manager, thus explaining the name they selected for the facility. The Beers operated two single engine airplanes and an ultralight from their personal airport.

I’m impressed by the things one finds on the Intertubes. Richard Beer was also listed in

Richard L Beer is a Carrier truck company located in Hudson, WI. Richard L Beer’s United States DOT (Department of Transportation) number is 560700. Richard L Beer employs 3 truck drivers as owner operators or company drivers. Leasing opportunities may be available. Richard L Beer’s commercial over-the-road transportation services may include specialized, flatbed, or heavy haul driving. 3 of Richard L Beer’s trucks include auxiliary power units.

The Beer family had a fascination with machines.

Beer Can Pond

Beer Can Pond, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

I found no additional information on Beer Can Pond. I enjoyed the name and the Street View image was nice. That was all.

Beer Cemetery

In heaven there is no beer.
That’s why we drink it here
When we’re gone from here,
all our friends will be drinking all our beer

(traditional Polka)

On the surface it seemed that the Beer Cemetery in Fulton Co., Illinois (map) might have been an attempt to deliver a few creature comforts into the afterlife. It wasn’t of course. The cemetery was actually the final resting place for an extended family of about forty people, many named Beer. A gravestone listing suggested that it was active in the second half of the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century. The site later fell into neglect, judging by individual grave markers.

Root Beer Falls

I figured I’d also throw a bone at the teetotalers who suffered through the rest of this article, bless their hearts. GNIS recorded Root Beer Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in Gogebic Co. (map).

Upper Tahquamenon Falls (Paradise, Michigan) by Corey Seeman via Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

This is Tahquamenon Falls, also located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, however on the opposite side nearly five hours away by car. I found next to nothing about Root Beer Falls, however I found tons of information about Tahquamenon Falls which was known informally as Root Beer Falls.

The Tahquamenon River flows 94 miles from the Tahquamenon Lakes into Lake Superior, and its falls are sometimes affectionately called “Root Beer Falls” because of the water’s distinctive color. The flowing water has a rich, deep brown color, which is the result of tannic acid produced by decaying hemlocks, cedars, and spruces along the river’s banks.

Got that? Root Beer Falls was completely unknown except to the US Geological Survey, while a much better Root Beer Falls was officially Tahquamenon Falls.

Somewhat Related

We snagged tickets to SAVOR 2014 during the American Homebrewers Association pre-sale period today. Rumor has it they sold out in two minutes. Life is good. Any other 12MC-ers attending?

Three American Moscows

On February 11, 2014 · 3 Comments

I noticed an interesting aside on a Wikipedia entry for Moscow, Idaho while I examined background information about the University of Idaho for the recent What State U article:

It was reported by early settlers that five men in the area met to choose a proper name for the town, but could not come to agreement on a name. The postmaster Samuel Neff then completed the official papers for the town and selected the name Moscow. Interestingly, Neff was born in Moscow, Pennsylvania and later moved to Moscow, Iowa.

I couldn’t let an utterly fascinating tidbit like that go unchallenged without examining it further. One would imagine that something so precisely-stated would withstand a little scrutiny and basic fact checking. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, Samuel Neff existed, he very likely suggested the name Moscow and he did live in the states of Idaho, Pennsylvania and Iowa. The part labeled "interestingly" was bogus though, in my opinion.

Feel free to come back in a couple of days for a new article now that I’ve revealed the punchline, or follow along as I unravel the strings.

Moscow, Idaho

Moscow, Idaho

Most online sources and even the City of Moscow itself repeated a variation on that same theme. Allegedly Neff was postmaster and filed a permit circa 1877 requesting a new post office named Moscow in Idaho because he came from Moscow, Pennsylvania (and in many other versions also once lived in Moscow, Iowa). Most of these sources seemed to have copied directly from each other with or without attribution, and converted verbiage to fact.

The Idaho State Historical Society took a slighly different twist. In its version, Neff sold his farmstead on a site that would subsequently become Moscow to Asbury A. Lieuallen, and it was Lieuallen who filed the new name with postal authorities. Thereupon, "S. M. Neff, who previously had lived in Moscow, Pennsylvania, and Moscow, Iowa, took credit for suggesting that Lieuallen’s townsite on his farm be named Moscow."

I’ll note that this topic has inflamed passions and led to spirited Intertubes discussions on a number of fronts. The ones I reviewed focused on the timing of the founding of the various Moscows and ignored Neff. I examined both.

Moscow, Pennsylvania

Moscow, Pennsylvania

I reviewed the "History of Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming Counties, Pa" (Google eBook). On pages 483-484 it noted, "This village the principal one of the township was so named by Henry W. Drinker from the fact that there were living here a number of natives of the famous Russian city of that name" and referenced the first home as that of one belonging to Rev. Peter Rupert, a log house build in 1830. This explanation of etymology has been questioned because of a lack of physical evidence (e.g., lack of Russian surnames in the population, lack of appropriate architecture) that cast doubt upon the existence of early 19th Century Muscovites in northeastern Pennsylvania. Nonetheless Moscow, PA existed prior to Moscow, ID, and that’s what really mattered. I could search for Neff there.

I had to make sure I looked in the right place so I consulted the Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. It confirmed that Lackawanna County, where Moscow can be found today, did not exist until 1878. It was part of Luzerne. U.S. Census records produced zero matches for Neff or any logical variations of that surname including soundex for anywhere in Luzerne County between 1840 – 1860.

Strike one.

Moscow, Iowa

Moscow, Iowa

Moscow existed in Iowa during the requisite period as noted by the Muscatine County GenWeb page. Moscow "was one of the first townships organized in 1842." The Newberry atlas confirmed the county boundaries. Nonetheless, I found no signs of Samuel Neff. I did see a single Neff family in various records for Muscatine over several decades, the household of George W. and Rebecca Neff and their children, however they were from Ohio not Pennsylvania and none of them were named Samuel.

Strike Two.

The Migration of Samuel Miles Neff

Samuel Miles Neff
SOURCE: The Spokesman-Review, Sept. 30, 1957,
via Google News

Several sources converged to identify Samuel Miles Neff, son of John Neff and Mary Grubb, born in 1841 in Pennsylvania, married to Josephine Adline Terhune in 1883, and died in Puyallup, Washington in 1927, as the likely Samuel Neff of Moscow, Idaho. A wildly exaggerated version of the Moscow, Idaho origination story printed in a 1957 newspaper article confirmed my theory. It was based upon family folklore as told by one of Neff’s daughters to the person who wrote the article. It never mentioned the other two Moscows, and believe me, it was so over-the-top that it most certainly would have made such a claim if it was even remotely true.

Federal census records showed that he resided in Indiana Township, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania in 1850. That’s nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) (map) from Moscow, Pennsylvania. State census records showed that he then lived in Iowa, appearing in Jackson County first in 1852, a place where his father remained until at least 1880. That was 80 miles (129 km) (map) from Moscow, Iowa. He might also be the same Samuel M. Neff who appeared in the Civil War Draft Registrations Records in Mahaska, Iowa, even farther away from Moscow.

Neff seemed to slip between the most obvious records as he dropped briefly into Idaho (he slid in between the 1870 and 1880 Census). There were plenty of other sources that placed him there so that didn’t bother me too much. I feel quite confident that he was in Moscow, Idaho upon its founding.

Neff Was Here; Puyallup, Washington

He spent the second half of his life in Washington state. By 1920, the tail-end of his life, he resided in Puyallup at 315 2nd Street Northeast. Today that’s the home of Yellow House Yarns. Consider that for a moment as we ponder the paper and digital trails we leave behind us in the modern age.


Samuel Miles Neff was a real person who lived in Idaho, Pennsylvania and Iowa. He has been credited with providing a name to Moscow, Idaho, although the extent of his involvement in the founding of the town and the reasoning behind his recommended name may never been known. The true history has been obscured by an overabundance of embellishment, oral tradition and fanciful tales, some likely started by Neff himself in his old age as he spun yarns in a home that later became a yarn store.

It is unlikely that Neff ever had a connection to three different Moscows. He did own land that became Moscow, Idaho. It is doubtful that he was born or lived in Moscow, Pennsylvania or that he lived in Moscow, Iowa.

And I so wanted the Triple Moscow nexus to be true.

Confluence of Confluences

On February 6, 2014 · 3 Comments

I began to consider confluences while pondering the Confluence Brewing Company during my recent Geo-BREWities exercise. Maybe I should credit Google Map’s auto-completion function for the suggestion after I typed the brewery name into an address bar. It noted that at least one town of Confluence existed. A quick check of the Geographic Names Information System uncovered two more although the occurrences in Kentucky (map) and Alabama (map) barely registered as pinpricks.

By comparison, Pennsylvania’s Confluence was a veritable metropolis, and home to several hundred residents nestled in the hills of the southwestern corner. Confluence was even large enough to justify its own Tourism Association.

The Confluences of Confluence, Pennsylvania, USA

Confluence, the town, recognized a couple of distinct riverine confluences. First, Laurel Hill Creek flowed into the Casselman River. A few hundred feet later a slightly-enlarged Casselman River flowed into the Youghiogheny River. Truly this Confluence represented the facts on the ground. Abundant water descended from neighboring hillsides and joined near a common spot where a settlement sprouted.

(A) Fallingwater (B) Kentucky Knob (C) Town of Confluence (D) MDPAWV Tripoint (E) PA Highpoint

The situation went beyond those literal confluences as I considered the surrounding landscape. Confluence, the village, offered a gateway to a confluence of interesting historic and geographic features within remarkably close proximity.

Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob

Fallingwater, photographed by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Fallingwater (aka the Kaufmann Residence) — Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 architectural masterpiece — perched on a hillside nearby. This was arguably one of the most visually recognizable homes ever built, an iconic symbol certainly within the United States and perhaps beyond. The unusual cantilever design constructed over a natural waterfall has been hailed as a masterpiece.

Lesser known, Wright designed another home only seven miles (11 km) away, Kentuck Knob (aka the Hagan House). This property remains a private home, owned by Lord and Lady Palumbo of the United Kingdom who reside there part of the year. It has become available for limited tours only recently.

Great Allegheny Passage

Great Allegheny Passage Trail Outside of Confluence

The Great Allegheny Passage bicycle and walking trail blazed directly through Confluence. This Rails-to-Trails project followed the path of several lines abandoned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad and Western Maryland Railway. Someone could bike 150 miles (240 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland on the Great Allegheny Passage, and from there pick-up the C&O Canal Towpath all the way to Washington, DC, stretching the ride to more than 330 miles (530 km).

Maryland-Pennsylvania-West Virginia Tripoint

Confluence and the MDPAWV Tripoint

Government officials drew artificial lines all over the eastern side of the continent during Colonial times and tweaked those boundaries in the early years of the newly-independent United States. That resulted in a tripoint for the current states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia very near where Confluence later grew. The MDPAWV Tripoint should be a readily-approachable waypoint for those fascinated by borders and boundaries. It maintained additional historic significance as a marker along the famed Mason-Dixon Line.

Pennsylvania Highpoint

Mount Davis Observation deck by David Fulmer on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

As an added bonus, nearby Mount Davis marked the highest point of elevation for Pennsylvania at 3213 feet (979 m). Summit Post said,

Views from the top are nice, especially with the very tall observation tower, that allows for expansive views in all directions. You are surrounded by mountains, and you can also see modern wind turbines on a nearby ridge.

For a lazy highpointer such as myself, I noticed that a visitor could drive almost all the way to the very top and reach the summit with a short, easy hike.

Now that I’ve considered it more, I think I’ll have to put Confluence on my list for a long weekend. This should be a feasible itinerary for anyone living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Someday maybe I’ll take this trip and report back to the 12MC audience.


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