Monthly Archives: October 2021

Towns Named Florence

There are many towns named Florence in the USA. Most of them were named for the wives and kin of local men, but a few of them were named after the city called Florence (Florentia) in Italy. There are 12 towns named Florence in the US with fairly large populations including the largest Florence, which is in the state of Alabama. It was named after Florence, Italy. The 2nd largest Florence, the one in South Carolina, was named after Florence Henning Harlee, the daughter of a railroad president.

Websites will tell you that there are 34 Florences in America, and this is pretty accurate. There are towns named Florence in states like Illinois and Georgia. The one in Illinois is described as a village with a population of 66. There are said to be 2 Florences in Georgia. Most of these towns have very small populations or are unincorporated. The Florence in Arkansas, for example, is in Drew County, is near Monticello, and has a population that is apparently too small to count.

I first became aware of the many Florences while in Arizona. Its Florence was named for the wife of a Native American agent. It has about 25,500 people living in it now. Its claim to fame had to do with Tom Mix. I got out of our rental car to read a plaque about Tom without knowing hardly anything about him. As it turns out, he was a rather famous early star of movie westerns. He lost control of his car, a plush Cord Phaeton convertible, near this town in 1940. He died here as a result of this accident, hence the plaque. Not much of national note has occurred in the other US Florences besides the usual auto accidents and continuing social mayhem. Two people were shot and killed in the Alabama Florence in September, 2021; and a few days later 6 others were injured in a bar shooting. In 1964 the Klan burned a local church in Florence, Mississippi, and 3 young civil rights workers were killed. A massive investigation followed.

There are said to be 5 Florences outside the USA. The one in Italy is, of course, the largest Florence in the world and the star of The Renaissance with Michelangelo and da Vinci. But there is also a Florence in New Zealand and one on an island I was not familiar with, Mayotte. I am always glad to learn about new places. Mayotte is a tiny archipelago northwest of Madagascar. It has a culture similar to the nearby Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Mayotte broke away from Comoros in 1974 and is densely populated. There are 289,000 people living there. Mayotte is quite French and on the euro. It’s has 5 populated islands and 2 others that are nature preserves for a total of 144 square miles. Its biggest island is Grande Terre. Mayotte’s main language is Shimaore, but French is the second most common language. Mayotte sounds a bit like a Haitian Sultanate. Even volcanoes are prominent like in Haiti. Mayotte’s capital is Mamoutzou, and the town of Florence is 6 miles away from it.

The Florence in Colorado is known for its antique shops.


Mining Town Revealed

For most of its existence, Aspen has been a mining town, not a playground for the extremely well off. This town is beginning to realize its true past and is emphasizing its roots with 3 attractions: 2 ghost towns named Ashcroft and Independence, the Holden-Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum, and the current exhibit at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum.

The Wheeler/Stallard is situated on West Bleeker Street in town. It’s a late 18th century brick home in typical Aspen style that has been redone twice in this century. In fact, I have never gone into it without the staff pointing out something new. This time it was the wallpaper in the front room. Jerome Wheeler, a New York State investor, built this home for his family in 1888, and this one family owned it for 40 years. Wheeler was also a builder. Two of the Aspen properties he erected were the opera house and the Jerome Hotel, both of which still stand. Much of its 19th century infrastructure remains.

The Wheeler house didn’t change hands until 1945 when Aspen was in a huge downturn. It is now owned by the Aspen Historical Society and has been turned into the town museum. I have been through it often, and it always features a lengthy exhibit about Aspen’s true history. They have all been exceptional. The artifacts shown and the information presented are always historically accurate. The Society stores most of its artifacts in a separate building on the premises.

The staff of the Wheeler/Stallard assured me that “Aspen Revealed” did not open until the COVID pandemic was no longer affecting visitations and that its run will be extended beyond a year. “Decade by Decade” begins in 1869 with a new railroad and ends in the late 1970s. I learned a lot about this unusual town by seeing it. First, I learned that its original name was Ute City according to its incorporation in 1880. At that time the Ute Native American tribe was in control, and its territory included most of Colorado and a large portion of Utah. Aspen began the 1880s as a small camp of prospectors and builders. When the decade ended it was a famous mining town known all over the world. It was a growing city with a 3 story opera house, a roller skating rink, street cars and a population nearing 5,000. Despite numerous lawsuits it produced $11million worth of silver over a 5 year period, but then banks failed and Aspen came to a standstill. The population dropped by 36% and those who stayed turned to farming and sheep herding. Through the 1940s high quality potatoes and livestock were far more common than billionaires. The Isis Theater showed movies by 1915 and locals attended barn dances. This movie house is still operating. By the end of the 1920s, the entire local county called Pitkin had a population of only 1,770. By 1940 the sheep population in Aspen Valley was more than 17,000, but the first ski resort had opened and a turnaround was beginning. The population hit a low point in 1950 but during this decade movie stars like Gary Cooper became interested in building houses in Aspen, the music festival was getting underway, the Aspen Institute was taking shape and this town was on its way to becoming an international ski resort and culture center with a rising population and soaring property values. By the 1960s Aspen was on its way to becoming a magnet for artists, athletes, and intellectuals with an astonishing growth rate. See this exhibit to be amazed by this singular town in the Rockies. Mining had only a brief recovery, and now its silver production is part of Aspen’s distant past.

Hank says see this town and this exhibit at the Wheeler/Stallard before it fades away like old wallpaper.


Double Dippers

There are many places in the world that double their names. For lack of a better term, they are often called double dippers. For example, there are 3 towns in the US called Paw Paw. They are in the states of Illinois, West Virginia, and Michigan. The largest Paw Paw is in Michigan and is home to about 3,000 people. The paw paw is a tree that produces an edible fruit. My brother-in-law Joe, who has a rural background, was shocked when I knew the name of the paw paw fruit. I don’t especially like their taste, but they are found in 26 states and are full of fruity nutrition.

My favorite double dipper is Blup Blup. Blup Blup which is fun to say, is an island off the coast of New Guinea with a small population. Blup has several meanings. A blup can be an island with an active volcano on it, two men kissing, a term used in animal breeding, and several other things.

Double dippers are mostly geographic. They are caused by localized language grammatical rules and are widely used around the world in many cultures, many of which are Asian. I became more familiar with them after visiting the South Pacific. Pago Pago is the territorial capital of American Samoa. Bora Bora is an atoll north of Tahiti and a very popular resort.

I have been to at least 4 double dippers: Walla Walla, Wagga Wagga, and New York City are 3 of them. Other double dippers include Bella Bella and Baden-Baden in Germany. Bella Bella is a First Nation Canadian village on the East Coast of Campbell Island in British Columbia. Baden-Baden is a spa town close to France known for its thermal baths. It became a thriving resort town and gambling center in the late 19th century. Its population is now about 60,000. Walla Walla in Washington wine country is a frequent summer travel stop for Ruth and me. We love it there, and I once drove through a dust storm and, exhausted, I spent the night in Walla Walla. Wagga Wagga is a farming town in the Riverina area of New South Wales in Australia. It’s the 9th largest inland city Down Under with a population very similar to Walla Walla. It’s on the important Murrumbidgee River so water sports are popular. In fact, its a sports-minded town that has been home to many famous Australians. Wagga means crow in the native Aboriginal language, so doubling it means “place of many crows”.

The Paw Paw is the largest edible fruit that is native to the USA. Some say its taste is tropical, but I think its taste is more like custard, I would not call it a favorite fruit of mine.


Towns Named After Real People

Many towns in the USA were named after real people. They were often original settlers, but not necessarily as you will see below.

Enid, Oklahoma, was named for one of the women in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 19th century epic “Idylls of the King”. That’s the common belief, but many think that the name was from another source.

There is a Hanksville in the middle of Utah, but it was not named after me. We went through it this past summer, and Hanksville is shrinking from its former prominence in a very isolated location. It was once a far more important town named for Ebenezer Hanks, who was a Mormon settler. In its early years before it shrank to its current population of 230, which is actually a significant increase, Hanksville was a supply post for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch. They would often hide out south of town.

There is a Ruth near Ely, as I noted in “Character of Ely, Nevada” very recently. Ruth was pleased by this mention, but this mining town was not named for her. It was named for Ruth McDonald, the daughter of a man who had a mine claim here in 1903. Ruth was 3-years-old at the time.

There is a town named Erick in Oklahoma, a state with many towns named after residents. Erick was named for Beeks Erick, the President of this Choctaw townsite. Erick was an important town developer of a once very prosperous community. This town still has more than 1,000 residents, and 2 once famous recording artists, Sheb Wooley and Roger Miller, grew up in Erick. Miller had a hit with “King of the Road” and some other songs. There’s also a town named Ada in Oklahoma. Ada Reed was the daughter of a settler here in the early 20th century.

There’s an important town called Marvin in North Carolina. It’s often referred to as the best community in this state and is now a suburb of the big city of Charlotte. E. M. Marvin, a bishop, provided the name for this town. Charlotte, the woman for which this North Carolina city was named, was British royalty. She was the wife of King George III of England for 57 years. She was Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and probably of mixed race from her African background. She had 15 children with George and is played by Golda Rosheuvel in the series called Bridgerton. She was played by Helen Mirren in “The Madness of King George”, an award winning movie.

There’s a town called Pablo in Montana just south of Flathead Lake that has a very interesting history. Michel Pablo was a Flathead Native American Chief, rancher, and stockman who is credited with saving the bison from extinction, which is probably why a town in Montana was named after him.


Towns Named Hollywood

There are lots of Hollywoods and few of them too. If you get caught up in them, you will be led to believe that there are between 30 and 40 of them. However, many of them are appropriately fantasies like the Hollywood in California, which actually doesn’t exist. I could only find 7 real Hollywoods in the entire world.

The most famous Hollywood of all is the dream factory in California. But actually it does not exist. If you check a Rand McNally map of Los Angeles, you will not find Hollywood. There’s a West Hollywood but no pure Hollywood. This was a shock to me. Here is what happened. Way back in 1910, Hollywood merged with Los Angeles. One source, a genuine wag, said of Hollywood, CA that it’s, “A district of LA and a place where dreams are made (sometimes).” Amen.

The other actual Hollywoods are towns in Alabama, Maryland, South Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, and the large city in Florida just south of Fort Lauderdale that contains about 141,000 people. Yes, there are only 6 of them in the United States. West Hollywood, CA has only about 34,000 residents, making it the 2nd largest Hollywood on Planet Earth if you split hairs.

The internet will try to convince you that there are 24 Hollywoods in the USA and 6 others around the world. Just try to find the Hollywoods in Singapore, Russia, and Worcestershire, England. The Hollywood in West Virginia was placed on a 1911 map and does not otherwise exist. The Hollywood in Oregon is a neighborhood in Portland. Several Hollywoods are either unincorporated or are neighborhoods in larger communities like the one in Kentucky that is actually part of Lexington.

geodatos, a website, gets it fairly right when it says there are only 4 Hollywoods, but one of them is the Hollywood in California. deals with the 2 supposed Hollywoods in Ireland. It reports that the name Hollywood actually got its start in Ireland, County Wicklow. It says that the Wicklow Gap is one of 2 passes through the Wicklow Mountains and that the lovely little village of Hollywood is nestled in the center of these mountains. The photo of the Hollywood sign above was taken in Hollywood, Ireland. The shamrock just above is from

Bits of Trivia. Four of the existing US Hollywoods have similar populations. The Hollywood in Alabama and the one in Maryland both contain about 1,000 people. The Hollywoods in Pennsylvania and Washington both have about 800 residents. I tried very hard to find Hollywood Heights in the Chicago area but then learned that it’s in Collinsville near St. Louis.