Town of County Line

On March 16, 2014 · 1 Comments

I’m always on the lookout for odd town names and that’s what drew my eye to a dot, the aptly named County Line, Alabama.

County Line, Alabama, USA

I wish I could make a better map, however Google seems to be stripping features away from "old" Maps — and the newer version is even worse — so I can’t do simple things like customize the size and placement of embedded images anymore. The actual county line ran diagonally through the town of County Line, from northwest to southeast, right along the hypotenuse of that strange little doughnut triangle surrounded by the town. Jefferson County fell to the left (including the triangle) and Blount to the right. Incidentally, Mob Rule’s Google Maps with County Lines was extremely helpful for this exercise and keeps getting better and better. Go ahead and type County Line, AL into the search box there and the situation will become obvious.

Naturally, that began a 12MC quest for additional places named County Line. The general Intertubes wouldn’t be much help this time. There must have been a billion barbeque joints named County Line BBQ or something similar. I couldn’t find a plausible reason either. Maybe the wording reflected a quaint faux-nostalgia comfort for residents of the lower latitudes of the United States, something akin to emotional combinations like Biscuits and Gravy or Cracker Barrel.

Oh look, there’s one now:

County Line BBQ, Austin TX 05 by Larry Miller on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

This led to my reliable standby, the Geographic Names Information System, which wasn’t much help either when it generated 510 County Line results. I learned that lots of churches and cemeteries considered County Line to be a fine name. One could dine on County Line Barbeque during the week, attend County Line Church on Sunday, and rest in peace at County Line Cemetery after continuous feeding on County Line BBQ caused clogged arteries and a stroke, I guess.

That’s deliberately facetious. GNIS of course included an option for listing only Populated Places. That dropped the list to 26 sites including historical locations. I discarded those and was left with a manageable handful.

After all that, I discovered… the Alabama instance I found at the very beginning was probably the best. There were others, and I’ll get to those in a moment, although County Line in Alabama was the only incorporated town and it had at least 250 residents. The rest were rural crossroads, if that.

County Line Town Hall by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I never said it was a large town, just an incorporated one. Notice the size of the town hall and it became self-evident. The Fire Marshall will only allow 40 people in there at a time, strictly enforced, as happened during the landfill protests of 2011. That was the biggest thing to ever happen in County Line, Alabama. Combine small town politics, family friction, and large cities running out of garbage dumps, and it had the makings of an ugly fight.

From March through June that year, news sources recorded unsavory details in articles such as "Residents along Jefferson County-Blount County line protest proposed landfill," then "County Line Council approves landfill," leading to "Angry residents seek way to block proposed County Line, Alabama landfill," and finally "County Line, Alabama, landfill hearing on for Monday" as the story petered out.

It was a family affair, quite literally. John David Calvert owned a 219-acre parcel that he hoped to convert into a landfill, aligning with a group of speculators called Thornhill Marion Properties. The parcel had been annexed by County Line only the previous year, which according to those opposed to the landfill, was a deliberate attempt to eliminate opposition. That made it a town issue instead of a county issue so neighbors living next to the proposed landfill in immediately-adjacent unincorporated areas couldn’t prevent it. Pretty slick.

Did I mention that John David Calvert’s cousin James Larry Calvert was mayor of County Line or that "all but one member of the town council [was] connected to the Calvert family, and three of the five council members [were] appointed by Mayor Larry Calvert, since three elected members resigned"? Before getting too outraged, understand that the primary landfill opponent was Sue Calvert, another cousin. Apparently there were numerous interrelated Calverts in and around County Line, turning this into a family spat as much as a local political ploy.

The issue became moot later that summer when Alabama, finally tired of being a dumping ground for other States’ trash, put a statewide landfill moratorium in place. However the No County Line Dump Blog remained live, awaiting a day when it might be pressed into service once again.

What about the other County Line Settlements?

County Line, Oklahoma, USA

Two other County Lines befitted minor footnotes, one in Oklahoma (map), actually named Countyline (one word) and one in Wisconsin (map). They both seemed inconsequential unincorporated areas with maybe a few buildings, and in the Oklahoma instance, mostly abandoned.

The others were even smaller.

  • ARKANSAS, Fulton Co. / Baxter Co. (map): It was a little east of the county line (quarter mile) and intersected by State Line Road, which paradoxically did not run to the state line that was a couple of miles farther north.
  • GEORGIA, Meriwether Co. (map): Probably a half-mile north of the Harris Co. line.
  • NEW YORK: Niagara Co. / Orleans Co. (map): Definitely on the county line which ran north-south; not much more than a few houses.
  • OHIO: Preble Co. / Montgomery Co. (map): Also on the county line which ran north-south; and similarly not much to it.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Montgomery Co. / Bucks Co. (map): A solid example in the suburbs with the county line running northwest-southeast; not as much a distinct place as an artificial border extending through sprawl.
  • TEXAS: Rains Co. (map): Maybe about a quarter mile from the northern border of Rains Co., although maybe only one building remains today.

May they all grow significant enough to spark their own landfill fights.

On March 16, 2014 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Town of County Line”

  1. Calgully says:

    Here’s an Australian approximation to this one. Its an approximation not only in geo terms but also in cultural terms. In contrast to the USA where as I understand it you have four levels of government (National, State, Country, City), in Australia we have three levels Federal, State and Municipal – so we don’t have Counties – so there are no County lines. We do have Borders between Municipalities and States of course – but they’re never called ‘lines’ they’re always called ‘borders’. So, maybe the closest Australian equivalent of County Line is – Bordertown. And here it is:,140.8189933,11z Bordertown (South Australia) is located near the State border with Victoria. The only problem is that it’s not particularly close being maybe 15Km away. There are other settlements closer to the border (see Wolseley and Serviceton just on this map for instance). Maybe in the Australia context, and given the size of Australian States, 15Km does count as being close enough to the border to be considered ‘on it’. After all, it is a REALLY long way to the other side of South Australia where you find Border Village –,129.0042958,15z Google tells me that to drive from Bordertown SA to Border Village SA is 1522Km.

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