Presidential Distances

On July 8, 2014 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle talked about birthplaces and death locations of the Presidents of the United States. Now let’s finish this off with a comparison of distances between those two points. This involved a rather simple process of dropping the lat/long coordinates for each president into a great circle distance calculator and recording the results. Then I plotted the distances between birth and death onto a chart.


Distance between Birth and Death of US Presidents

Don’t get too hung up on the lack of presidential names. Readers can always cross reference the numbers to each administration on the shared spreadsheet if curious. Also, don’t be concerned that it’s not scaled to time, either. Administrations lasted from a single month (William Henry Harrison) to just north of twelve years (Franklin Roosevelt). The more important point was to confirm in graphical form that distances between birthplaces and death locations increased quite remarkably for latter administrations. This wasn’t entirely unexpected as it tracked nicely with growth and settlement patterns in the United States.


Shortest


LBJ's Birthplace
LBJ's Birthplace by Jim Bowen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Four presidents came to this earth and shuffled off this mortal coil at spots less than two miles (3.2 kilometres) apart. It didn’t surprise me to see this happen for some of the earliest presidents. Travel was more problematic and the landed gentry tended to stick close to their ancestral estates for multiple generations. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren all passed away within extreme proximity to their birthplaces.

The shortest distance, less than a single mile, caught me off-guard completely. Lyndon Johnson? He didn’t serve until the middle of the 20th Century, and died in 1973. By no means did it seem logical for Johnson to be lumped into the same category as presidents born during the colonial era. And yet, not only was he there, he led the pack.

Johnson was an anomaly of course and a throwback to an earlier time. Paraphrasing from the Handbook of Texas, Lyndon Johnson’s grandfather, Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr., built a home near Stonewall, Texas in the 1880′s. Lyndon’s father, Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr., occupied the home in 1907 and Lyndon was born there in 1908. The adjacent ranch was purchased by a relative of the Johnson family. Lyndon purchased that 438 acre ranch in 1951.

Johnson united the properties. Then, as the National Park Service explained,

Lyndon Johnson took great pride in his heritage and his roots here in the Hill Country of Texas. In order to share that heritage with interested visitors, President Johnson hired architect J. Roy White of Austin, Texas in 1964 to reconstruct the birthplace home. President Johnson and Roy White relied on old photographs of the original birthplace house as well as family members’ memories to guide the project.

Thus, Johnson consciously and explicitly chose to move near his extended family and then later in life he focused on preserving his legacy.


Median


President William McKinely Birthplace
President William McKinley Birthplace by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I used median rather than average because outliers threw the average way off. The median distance from birthplace to death location equated to about 130 miles (210 km), while the average came in closer to 430 miles (690 km). Three presidents scored very close to the median; Woodrow Wilson, Millard Fillmore, and William McKinley.


Longest



Ronald Reagan Estate, Bel Air, California

Then there were presidents who found themselves a long way from their birthplaces — more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) — when they passed away, some unexpectedly and some at a ripe old age. John Kennedy and Warren Harding both died in office. Kennedy and Nixon died in hospitals. The vast majority of the 12MC audience would already be familiar with Kennedy’s story so I won’t dwell on it other than to mention that I visited the Grassy Knoll in 2008. Warren Harding died in the Presidential Suite of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, probably from a stroke or congestive heart failure. His wife’s refusal to allow an autopsy led to conspiracy theories the continued to persist even through the present.

I guess I have to use Ronald Reagan’s estate to illustrate this section since he was the only member of the 1,500 mile club who died at home.

The president who died farthest from his birthplace was Richard Nixon. He was born in Yorba Linda, California and died in New York City, a great circle distance of 2,436 miles.

Make Tracks to Midland

On June 10, 2014 · 1 Comments

I had to admit it. My odd fascination with Every County’s slow-motion serial recitation of literally every county progressed towards an obsession. I couldn’t stop checking the author’s crawling pace once every few days. He arrived vicariously at Midland County, Michigan about a week ago where he noted that it "got its name because of its proximity to the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The only other Midland County is in Texas."

Of course the wheels started turning as I wondered about that Texas county of Midland. Was it in the middle of Texas similar to the one in Michigan, and if not then what did its midpoint represent? What about Midlands in other parts of the United States and even internationally?

Midland, Texas, USA


Odesolate
Odesolate by Bo Nash, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I began by examining Midland County, Texas, and discovered almost immediately that it wasn’t positioned at the center of the state. It did alright on latitude. However it skewed way towards the west for longitude (map). That wasn’t the answer.

I turned to Texas State Historical Association’s ever-useful Handbook of Texas for its Midland County page. Success. "The county was named for its location halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railway."

While that provide an acceptable answer it didn’t give the complete story. Midland County wasn’t the original midland in those parts. The county took its name from the town of Midland that existed there first. From the Handbook’s town page.

In late June 1881 the Texas and Pacific Railway, which was building its line between Dallas and El Paso, established Midway Station, a section house, halfway between those two cities… Because other towns in Texas were already named Midway, the site was renamed Midland to get the post office… When Midland County was organized in March 1885, Midland became the county seat.

Not all explanations for other places would be this clear-cut, I soon discovered.

The City of Midland prospered as a transportation hub. It became an integral part of the Midland–Odessa combined statistical area that provided a home to more than a quarter-million residents.

I’d hoped to examine other Midlands in the United States. However, the US Geographic Names Information System listed hundreds of different things Midland, including 84 results just its for it Civil and Populated Places groupings. Then, I noticed a pattern. "Middle" often referred to something related to railroads just as I’d observed in Texas.


Midland, Western Australia, Australia


Old Railway Workshops, Midland, Australia
Old Railway Workshops, Midland, Australia by Norman Jorgensen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Perth, Western Australia included a burgeoning suburb called Midland, the council seat for the City of Swan on the northeastern side of a large metropolitan region. The growing suburbs may have begun to obscure Midland’s original purpose as a vital railway hub. As the City of Swan explained,

True to its name, Midland Junction was a junction for the roads north and east (now Great Northern and Great Eastern Highways) and the railway system… Between 1902 and 1904 the Western Australian Government Railway Workshops were relocated to Midland and they had a profound and lasting influence on the town… The Midland Railway Company was bought by the Western Australian Government Railways in 1964 and their land became the site of the Rapid Transit Terminal… The ‘Junction’ part of Midland’s name was dropped in 1961.

The Railway Workshops closed in 1994.

Additional context was provided by Wikipedia. The "midland" referred back to the name of the railroad, the Midland Railway Company, of which this site served as a terminus. I never did learn why the railway was named Midland and speculated that it may have had something to do with its line that ran along the middle coastline (map) of Western Australia.


Midland, Ontario, Canada


midland, ontario
midland, ontario by sara hattie, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

Another Midland, another railroad, this one in Ontario (map). The town offered its early history:

In November of 1871, the Midland Railway Corporation of Port Hope, Ontario, selected Midland as its western port and terminus. Adolphe Hugel and George Cox formed the Midland Land Company and purchased most of the acreage in the area from various farming families. In 1872, they had Peter Burnett survey the new village site, complete with large lots, wide roads and big plans for the future. They named the new community “Midland City.”

The company began as the Peterborough & Port Hope Railway, then became the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway and changed its name to Midland Railway of Canada in 1869. I found plenty of sources that documented the name change including the actual Statute of the Province of Ontario although, once again, I never found an explanation. I guess it sounded less limiting.


The Midlands, England, UK


158A 2
158A 2 by Tony Hisgett, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Does referencing The Midlands count as cheating? It represented a broad somewhat amorphous geographic belt across central England, and the reason for the designation was obvious. It didn’t derive its name from a railroad, rather, the opposite condition was true. I included it because, well, just because. I was on a roll.

Not unexpectedly, there was once a Midland Railway and now a Midland Railway Society and a Midland Railway Study Centre. Also, let’s not forget about the Midland Railway – Butterley museum (map) "dedicated to the glory of the former Midland Railway." It houses the 158A, the oldest surviving Midland Railway locomotive, one of a type built sometime between 1866 and 1874.

The UK’s Midland Railway operated between 1844 to 1922.

Remnants

On June 1, 2014 · 0 Comments

What does one call it when a bunch of fabric gets cut-up when making an item of clothing, and then there are a bunch of leftovers? What are those residual scraps? Remnants? That’s what I was left to work with today, a bunch of little snippets that didn’t quite make it into previous articles. They’ve been hording valuable real estate on my list of potential topics for quite awhile, cluttering up the place. I think I have enough of them to cobble together into a single article and dispense with them.

Shooting for H’s


4-H Stamp
4-H Stamp by Hacktweeters, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I grew up in farm country. I’m quite familiar with 4-H. The 4-H of my childhood focused on making better farmers through agricultural fairs, educational efforts, overnight camps, and the like. I vaguely remember my sister grooming a horse or something like that for some "Old School" 4-H contest. The present-day 4-H, from what I gleaned from their website, shifted rather more broadly into the suburbs, urban areas and even internationally. The four H’s referenced head, heart, hands, and health. What I didn’t know until just now was that 4-H was part of the US Department of Agriculture, through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture, specifically. I guess I never thought about it in that amount of detail before.

How should I interpret this odd lake in Carthage, Texas?



H and H Lake / 3-H Lake, Carthage, Texas, USA

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names provided two names for this lake. One was "H and H Lake" with a Geographic Names Information System entry date of 30-Nov-1979. The alternate name was 3-H Lake, entered 06-Apr-2000. It’s like the lake was trying to work its way up to 4-H status.

Actually, I think the H’s may have been associated with families that lived in the area, Heaton, Hill and Hull. Notice the small roads named for them, all leading up to the lake. I’m related to the Hull family which is how I discovered this odd little lake. That wasn’t the only minor, inconsequential road named for my distant relatives. I’ve also discovered a Howder Street in Hillsdale, Michigan, named for the brother of my 3rd-great-grandfather (and featured in the third article every published on 12MC!)


Rappers Delight


Sandfly (actual size)
Sandfly (actual size) by Seth Mazow, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

No-see-um is another term for a sandfly. They made a very brief appearance in The Article That Nobody Will Ever See. Well the bug wasn’t featured. Rather I posted a map of No-see-um Lake, Shoshone Co., Idaho. I almost chose another location, a lake in Wisconsin.



Old School Road, Phelps, Wisconsin, USA

I found it amusing that Old School Road led to the lake. I reserved it because I thought I might want to create a pun with Old School Rap. Then I discovered that there were lots of Old School roads because apparently there were a lot of old schools, and the potential joke lost its allure (although I still think that the Sugarhill Gang should live here).


Caribbean Paradox


Basseterre - City from Ship
Basseterre – City from Ship by Roger Wollstadt, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

I found a nice photograph of Basseterre, St. Kitts, the capital city of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis. It looked so typically Caribbean, and dare I say perhaps even a bit Old School Caribbean.



Caribbean There, Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA

Does Fort Collins, Colorado look anything like the Caribbean? No, I feel fairly certain that Fort Collins might be considered pretty much the equal and opposite of anything Caribbean. That’s not intended to disparage Fort Collins. I wouldn’t expect to see Rocky Mountain High in Basseterre, either.

Why would a developer consider Caribbean-themed streets appropriate along the Front Range: Basseterre Place; Saint John Place; Barbuda Drive; Aruba Drive, and so on. Really? How hard up for names would someone have to be before having to resort to something this far out of alignment with the prevailing geography?

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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