Quad County Towns

On May 5, 2013 · 10 Comments

I mentioned Braselton, Georgia a few months ago in an article called "Bought the Town." In that case the person who bought the town was the actress Kim Basinger who later sold her interest for a stunning financial loss. More interestingly, I noted, the town boundaries included a county quadripoint. Braselton sprawled across Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson Counties. The quadripoint itself fell within a creek.

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I’ve done a couple of things since that cursory observation. First, I converted the static image from the earlier article into an interactive Google Map. Bear in mind that it’s a pain to draw town and county boundaries on this media so consider all lines approximations designed to prove a point. You’ll see all kinds of anomalies if you drill in. Town boundaries were particularly difficult to render exactly due to the haphazard nature of their annexation histories.

Second, I attempted to find additional examples of towns with boundaries that crossed into four distinct counties. I found only three legitimate instances, including Braselton.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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I’ve probably been to the Dells at least a half-dozen times over the years. It’s completely tourist-cheezy which I suppose one could view favorably or not so much depending on one’s tolerance for such things. Much of the Dells is over-the-top kitschy although the Ducks are always a good time. I also happened to be nearby in June 2008 right after a huge flood devastated the area. I wrote about Lake Delton’s destruction after the dam blew. The entire 267 acre lake dumped into the Wisconsin River right at the beginning of the tourist season, leaving behind mud, fish and tree stumps.

Nonetheless, until my recent Internet sleuthing, I had no idea that Wisconsin Dells crossed into Adams, Columbia, Juneau and Sauk Counties. The most intensive development fell within Columbia. However, land within the other counties contributed rather significantly too.

The quadripoint fell within the middle of the Wisconsin River.

High Point, North Carolina

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High Point, North Carolina was the third example although possibly less remarkable than the other two. Certainly, it’s territory included acreage in Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph Counties. However, the vast preponderance of High Point fell within the southwestern corner of Guilford. Land within the other three counties ranged from minor to inconsequential. It was obvious that High Point began as a Guilford County construct and sprawled only recently into the others.

Town annexations in North Carolina became rather contentious in recent years. Organized efforts such as Stop NC Annexation sprang up in opposition. The state’s law authorized forced annexations of unincorporated areas, with acquired residents suddenly hit with municipal taxes and utility hook-up charges against their will. North Carolina changed its laws in 2012 to allow people living in such areas to block annexation attempts with a majority vote.

Walkerton, Indiana

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Walkerton, Indiana was a near-miss even though the town itself claimed, "Walkerton is uniquely located where four counties meet." No, Walkerton’s town boundaries remained within a single county, St. Joseph. Also it wouldn’t be "uniquely located" even if borders happened to cross all four because, as noted, there are at least three other instances of such.

What I will concede to Walkerton — and I still find it fascinating — is that the town fell within a little knob of St. Joseph. It’s surrounded on three sides by La Porte, Marshall and Starke Counties. One will hit another county almost immediately after leaving Walkerton heading south, east or west. Walkerton needs to grow just a little bit more to join the other quad county towns.

Postville, Iowa

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Postville, Iowa also fell just short of the mark. It straddled the Allamakee and Clayton County lines. The quadripoint formed along with Fayette and Winneshiek Counties can be found less than a mile from town. Postville holds promise if it can grow towards the west.

I’ll include one final honorable mention, the unincorporated Citrus Ridge community (also known as the Four Corners census-designated place) in Florida. It included the quadripoint of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties (map). However Citrus Ridge is not a town even though more than 25,000 people lived there during the last census. Citrus Ridge simply needs to incorporate. It has more than enough residents to function as a town and it would make a welcome addition to the quad county list.

It was very difficult to find examples of quad county towns. I know there are more out there. Feel free to mention your discoveries in the comments.

Mystery of the Mexican Quadripoint

On January 27, 2013 · 1 Comments

Does México have a quadripoint? That’s not intended as a trick question. Ideally this should have an easily verifiable solution. Either four Mexican states touch at a common spot — a quadripoint — or they do not. The answer however is considerably more elusive. I remain at a loss as I attempt to uncover whether someone should reasonably conclude one way or the other.

There are a couple of candidates, and the Mexican states of San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas are common denominators.

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Notice the relative proximity of the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. A small notch of Zacatecas protrudes just far enough south to prevent Jalisco and San Luis Potosí from sharing a common border according to Google Maps, with all of the usual caveats about the accuracy of Google Maps. The situation seemingly separates the two states by about 1.88 kilometres (1.17 miles) according to my quick calculation.

This is an agricultural area farmed and ranched fairly intensively judging by satellite mode and confirmed by proximal Street View availability (sample image). There’s even a ranchero within the Zacatecas notch, which would be an interesting geo-oddity homestead for the lucky resident: a click east to San Luis Potosí; a click south to Guanajuato; a click west to Jalisco. It’s easily accessible from the nearest town, Ojuelos de Jalisco, less than 12km down a road called Deportiva (which translates to "sports" and runs by the town’s athletic fields as it departs town). A driver would also cross the border between Jalisco and Zacatecas a couple of times for good measure too (map).

This happy confluence of multiple borders didn’t seem to be controversial. It did in fact appear to represent two tripoints falling in very close proximity to each other. A cube of Zacatecas less than 2km on a side blocked a rare opportunity for a quadripoint.

The other potential Mexican quadripoint takes place in the vicinity of Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas either where they all join together or where they all nearly do so, depending on the evidence one chooses to accept.

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Google Maps sides clearly with the camp that believes in two tripoints in close proximity to each other rather than a single quadripoint, once again considering that Google isn’t the arbiter of all things geographic. However, notice the distance between to two tripoints: 12.17 km (7.56 mi). It would hardly seem to be a question with such a sizable gap. Yet, other maps are much less clear including some published by the Mexican government. The Yahoo! Group "boundarypointpoint" which specializes in just these types of situation appeared to have reached a consensus that a quadripoint did not exist, after lengthy discussions and earlier research.

However, a monument exists at what many would call the northern of the two tripoints, the "Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados" (Marker of the Four States). There are various photographs of the marker posted on the Intertubes although none that I could find with Creative Commons licensing so I couldn’t embed them here. Feel free to open a photo from Panoramio or from Flickr in another tab and observe the results. The marker would be readily accessible albeit after enduring a jarring 8.1 km (5.0 mi) ride down a rough road. I think the guy in the Flickr image with the mountain bike had the right idea.

Wikipedia bought into the idea of a Mexican quadripoint, for what that’s worth. It was presented as fact without citing any evidence, and was immediately flagged as such. Wikipedia attempted to weasel-word around the issue by stating that this is the place where the four states "effectively" meet. Right. I’m not sure de facto or close-enough provides a decent standard for a concept that implies precision. Even the contributors on boundarypointpoint seemed conflicted after the revelation of the Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados.

Examining the Mexican Geological Service website, Servicio Geológico Mexicano, provided nothing definitive and Internet searches using the Spanish-language term "Cuadripunto" yielded no better results either.

Was it a situation created by imprecise surveying techniques like the Delaware Wedge? Is it so rural and effects so few people that the governments involved simply don’t consider it enough of a priority to figure it out? Or has it been overtaken by events with a named boundary stone, the Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados, converting a close-enough approximation to an exact declaration?

In my mind, the elusive Quadripoint of México remains a mystery.

Bought the Town

On November 15, 2012 · 0 Comments

The article-generating loop continues with the recent Creative Marketing article leading directly into this one. It’s not quite a geo-oddity perpetual motion machine although that would certainly be an interesting thought. It’s hard enough to find meaningful topics without having to stitch them together end-to-end so I think the coincidental associations will end here at a sample size of three.

I will however expand upon the topic suggested by the situation of Bikinis, Texas, where a town was sold on Craigslist. In that situation, the town founder a century ago retained unsold lots, repurchased previously sold lots as residents moved away, and later sold them as a complete package to a third-party in the 1920’s. The family controlling these interest for decades and then transferred assets to the proprietor of a jiggly-themed restaurant chain in 2012 via the aforementioned Internet sale. I’ve often wondered how one could own an entire town, probably because I’ve spent a lifetime in towns of considerably larger size, so this explains a plausible way that this could happen.

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Arguably one of the better-known instances involved the actress Kim Basinger, undoubtedly because it involved Kim Basinger. It probably would have gone unnoticed except by geo-geeks had the transaction been handled between unknown private citizens. The Intertubes are filled with accounts of the story about how she bought Braselton, Georgia for 1989 for $20 million and sold it at a great loss in 1994 for $1 million.

The one significant detail these accounts tend to gloss over is that apparently she didn’t take control all by herself so it’s not really accurate to say that she bought the town, not that facts would ever get in the way of a good story. She held a minority interest in a partnership and sold her portion when she ran into unrelated financial difficulties. The story seems to be a bit of an exaggeration. Ms. Basinger may have been in better shape if she’d been able to hold onto her share. Braselton is an exurb of Atlanta that has grown wildly, with 418 residents in 1990 (when she held her share), 1,206 residents in 2000 and 7,511 residents in 2010!

Braselton Quadripoint

That demographic explosion fascinates me although another feature of Braselton interested me even more. The town boundaries extend across four Georgia counties: Jackson, Barrow, Gwinnett, and Hall. Don’t bother trying to click on the map, above. Google Maps by itself will display only a single county at a time so it’s not effective for this purpose. Instead I turned to Mob Rule’s county lines imposed on Google Maps utility, took a screen print and embedded the resulting image. Braselton appears as a slightly darker tan than the surrounding area. Clearly it does cross into all four counties although the quadripoint seems to fall in the middle of a creek along the town limits.

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On the other hand, Google Maps is very effective for demonstrating that one would need to drive only 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometres) through a quiet suburban neighborhood to hit all four counties. I imagine this would have to be a strange situation for the residents living in this little corner of Braselton depending upon functions the town provided versus those performed by the respective counties.

Braselton isn’t the only town that has been bought or sold though. It’s actually a lot more common than I imagined.

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Buford, Wyoming is one of those towns of "Population 1" although it fills a useful purpose and function. It sits directly astride a major highway and operates as the Buford Trading Post (includes video) with a gas station and a convenience store. It started as an 1866 construction point for the Transcontinental Railroad with a couple of thousand residents and slowly dwindled from there until it had only a single inhabitant by 2007. The town sold in 2012 for $900,000 to a Vietnamese businessman: "He said that although he is not exactly sure what he will do with the town just off Interstate 80, he expects to use it to sell items made in Vietnam." I wish him well in his venture although I am not so sure how much demand exists in rural Wyoming for such items.

There are plenty of other towns for sale. However, some towns refuse to be bought.

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Shaniko, Oregon falls into that category. According to the New York Times, a wealthy outsider settled in Shaniko and began to spruce-up the town. Water was scarce so he dug a well and hit an aqueous jackpot gushing at 250 gallons (950 liters) per minute, much to the surprise of all. The town needed to approve easements for him to pipe water from the well to his various properties. He struck an agreement to supply the town with water and then threw-in a condition: he wanted permission to open the town to development. Residents responded that the town "was not for sale" so he capped the well, closed his hotel, shuttered his two-thirds stake in the town and put his property on the market (feel free to call and make an offer). Now the 26 remaining residents are up a dry creek without a paddle.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Shaniko is that I drove through it last summer.

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