You Complete Me

On May 17, 2015 · 2 Comments

Washington and Idaho seemed to have a little bit of a romance going on with a couple of their towns. Their names could stand alone, however they were paired rather nicely in the form of meaningful symmetry. Those names weren’t accidental either. They were completely intentional.


New and Old

First came the curious case of Newport, Washington and Oldtown, Idaho.



Newport, WA and Oldtown, ID

Newport and Oldtown were contiguous, both situated along the banks of the Pend Oreille River. The distinction between them was somewhat artificial though. They were located on either side of North and South State Avenue and otherwise appeared as a single entity except that one part fell within Washington and the other fell within Idaho.


Newport City Hall
Newport City Hall by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr (cc)

Of the two, Newport was the newer. That made perfect sense. New should be new and old should be old. It happened to be the second town with that exact name in the area. Oldtown was once Newport before Newport became Newport.

HistoryLink provided an explanation:

Newport, originally in Idaho, acquired its name by virtue of being the "new port" when Albeni Poirier (1861-1936) established a trading post and port on the Pend Oreille River in the 1890s. Upon moving the short distance into Washington, Newport soon became the major town in Pend Oreille County, the last homestead frontier in the United States… During its frontier days, Newport was a steamship port serving the settlers in the Pend Oreille Valley. In 1892, with the arrival of the Great Northern Railway, the town was able to link river with rail, relieving the isolation of its people and eventually transporting Pend Oreille County‚Äôs wealth of mine and forest products to distant markets.


Albeni dam pano
Albeni dam pano by Jasper Nance, on Flickr (cc)

Newport, Idaho — the original Newport — gradually dwindled to the point where residents felt it should be renamed Oldtown in 1947.


Intrepid Explorers



Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA

The pairing of Newport and Oldtown was certainly appropriate although there was an even better pairing along the shared border: Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. It even had an accurate historical context.


Lewiston, Idaho
Lewiston, Idaho by Andrew W. Sieber, on Flickr (cc)

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery Expedition between 1804 and 1806, a journey also known by many as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The two adjoining towns on opposite sides of the state border were named in commemoration of the Corps’ passage. I probably would have placed Lewiston in Washington and Clarkston in Idaho so it could be read Lewis-Clark from west to east on a map, however I wasn’t consulted so it looked more like Clark-Lewis. I’m sure William Clark would have been happy to receive top billing for once.


Tidewater tug at Clarkston Washington
Tidewater tug at Clarkston Washington by Richard Bauer, on Flickr (cc)

Lewis and Clark actually traversed through the future location of their namesake towns between October 7-10, 1805. As the Lewis and Clark Trail described it:

A succession of treacherous rapids damaged the canoes, and while the canoes were being repaired the Corps dined on fish and dog. It was then that the Captains made the discovery that their Shoshone guide, Toby, had slipped away during the night to rejoin his nation.

Yes, dog.

Lewis and Clark stopped at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers on October 10, 1805. That’s where the towns would be founded later, Lewiston in 1861 and Clarkston in 1862.

I tried to see if there were other paired towns situated between Idaho and Washington, or perhaps their neighbors and came up short. The closest example I discovered was The Dalles, Oregon and Dallesport, Washington. I’ve not seen other pairings like these elsewhere although I’m sure they must exist.

On May 17, 2015 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “You Complete Me”

  1. Aaron of Minneapolis says:

    How about La Crosse, Wisconsin and La Crescent, Minnesota, right across the Mississippi from each other? (La Crosse was named first.)

  2. Ross Finlayson says:

    An interesting ‘factoid’ about Lewiston, Idaho: It has a Pacific seaport (accessible via the Columbia and Snake Rivers)! It’s the farthest inland West Coast port in the U.S.

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