I get a lot of search engine queries that include the phrase, "Twelve Mile" within them. Really, that’s not so odd and it’s bound to happen with a blog called the Twelve Mile Circle. I’m amazed at the number of places called Twelve Mile something-or-another that turn up in these queries. Sometimes I feature them. You’ll probably recall Twelve Mile House and Twelve Mile Indiana.
I’ve started getting queries for Twelve Mile Lake in Iowa, or variations on that theme, for the last several weeks. It’s not a huge volume but just enough for me to notice in the background. I decided to explore it some more. I discovered that it’s located in the southwestern portion of the state about four miles east of Creston.
It seems rather similar to thousands of other artificially-constructed reservoirs spread throughout the heartland. Fishermen come here in search of channel catfish, walleye, crappie, bluegill, and bass. There are something like thirty fishing tournaments held at Twelve Mile Lake each summer. Hunters come here in-season for whitetail deer, duck, geese, turkey and pheasant. The surrounding park land has a number of amenities for people wishing to get a little taste of nature.
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Twelve Mile Lake gets its name from Twelve Mile Creek, which the state plugged-up to create the reservoir. It’s a companion water source to nearby Three Mile Lake just to the east, which got its name from Three Mile Creek in similar fashion. They weren’t too inventive with their names, apparently. The question remains, however, what the "miles" in their titles represent.
It turns out that they’re both tied historically to the Latter Day Saint — the Mormons — who established a way station in the vicinity. They remained here for several years on their epic journey between Nauvoo, Illinois and their final destination in Salt Lake City, Utah. They called their semi-permanent settlement Mount Pisgah. As described in Wikipedia,
After the 1844 death of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, most members of the Church aligned themselves with Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Under Young’s leadership, about 13,000 Mormon citizens of Nauvoo, Illinois set out to find a new home in the West. On May 18, 1846, Nauvoo exiles established a permanent camp and resting place on the middle fork (Twelve-Mile Creek) of the Grand River on Potawatomi Indian land. The site was selected and named Mount Pisgah by LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt, who, when he first saw the modest hill was reminded of the biblical Pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:27) where Moses viewed the Promised Land.
From what I’ve been able to discover from a variety of sources, the distances assigned to both creeks were reference points related to the period of Mormon occupation during the mid-Nineteenth Century, and thus have a direct connection to the very early history of the Later Day Saints.
The story went from bland to historic instantaneously.
A Totally Unrelated Topic
Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned the odd stretch of New York highway extending into the territory of neighboring Connecticut? Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest has now had an opportunity to visit that spot and he’s posted an article about it on his website. Check it out!