For most of my Our Towns East Extra career, I was responsible for submitting a column every single week. Usually I had no shortage of ideas, given that my “beat” included all the east-side towns. But every once in a while, I had absolutely nothing, and as my deadline approached, I really had to get creative.
That’s where this column came from. It was originally published July 11, 2014, and since all the research it required could be accomplished while sitting at my desk with a computer and the Internet, it was really easy to write.
I liked those ideas the best.
Game with town names yields neat results
Have you ever searched the Internet for your name? It’s fun to see how many of you there are in the world.
I did that for our towns. I wondered if there are more Brightons in the United States (lots). If Irondequoit, with its Iroquois-inspired name, is the only one in existence (yes).
It was an entertaining exercise. Here (with help from Google, Mapquest and Wikipedia) is what I found out.
Brighton and Webster win the same-name sweepstakes, with almost 30 towns across the United States sharing their monikers. Victor is a distant second with 18, Fairport has nine, Penfield has seven, East Rochester four and Pittsford three. Irondequoit, as I said, is unique.
Standing out from the Brighton crowd is a small town in northern Vermont. It’s famous because in 1853, the final tracks were laid there to complete the nation’s first international railroad, from Portland to Montreal.
The most famous of our nation’s Webster communities is Webster, Massachusetts, home to Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Its 45-letter name is often cited as the longest place name in the United States.
Among the three Pittsfords I found, I particularly liked happy little Pittsford, Vermont. It proudly calls itself “Vermont’s Sunshine Village” because, according to its website, “a state survey once found that Pittsford had the most sunshine of any Vermont town.”
There are a lot of Victors in the United States, but my favorite is Victor, Colorado, called “The City of Gold Mines.” It’s a former mining town located in the Cripple Creek mining district near Pikes Peak. Today it survives on a bustling ghost town tourist trade.
I found references to seven Penfields. They’re all small, but probably none as small as little Penfield, Illinois, with 193 people. Its Wikipedia reference, just four sentences long, provides an exhaustive list of the town’s highlights: the Tractor and Gas Engine Club, St. Lawrence Catholic Church and The Last Call Bar.
What’s most interesting about our country’s nine Fairports is that two of them have lighthouses. One’s in Ohio on Lake Erie, but the other one (mostly ornamental) is in Iowa, on the Mississippi River. I’m thinking that if Fairport, Iowa — a landlocked state — can have a lighthouse, then Fairport, New York, should have one too. I mean, at least we have a canal.
Finally, there really isn’t anything outstanding about any of the other three East Rochesters in the United States. They’re all unincorporated communities, overshadowed by their namesake big cities. That is, except for East Rochester, New York, which stands independent from its big sister to the west, unique perhaps not by name, but certainly by the great things it offers to its residents.
Which is the case for all of our east-side towns, actually. We might not have unpronounceable lakes, a tractor club or a lighthouse, but if you ask me, they still beat all those other towns hands down.
What happened next…
Obviously, town names will not have changed much since I wrote this column. I did, however, think it might be fun to expand my search worldwide for same-name towns.
So once again I sat at my computer with a cup of coffee at my side and started my search. Very quickly I stumbled upon a website called geotargit.com which I thought was going to be a wealth of information. Basically I could just type in a town name and it would tell me how many towns around the world share that name.
But just as quickly, I discovered the website wasn’t as magical as I’d hoped. It led me down a lot of dark alleys.
Take Victor, for example. Geotargit.com reported that there are 26 “Victors” in eight countries, including the Netherlands, Angola, S. Africa, India, Peru, Haiti and French Guiana. But a little more digging, and I soon discovered that the Victor in Angola is a financial assistant at the Angola Consulate. The Victor in the Netherlands is a drainage mill (i.e. windmill). Victor Haiti is an actor, and Victor, India is a company that sells professional badminton accessories.
There is actually a town in Peru called Victor Largo Herrera, so I guess that counts as one hit.
I had a little better luck with some of the other towns. Here’s what I found out once I weeded out the false positives:
- The town of Brighton has the most matches, no doubt reflecting the far-reaching British Empire of years past. They include three in the UK, four in Australia, four in Canada, two in Jamaica and one in Barbados.
- I confirmed two sister towns for Webster in Canada … if you can call them that. Both are basically just crossroads which were established along rail lines decades ago. Geotargit.com says there’s also one in S. Africa, but I can’t find that.
- There’s a town named Penfield in Australia, which is named after William Penfold. It’s mostly an industrial area now with a population of around 800.
- As far as I was able to tell, Irondequoit, Pittsford, East Rochester and Fairport have no world-wide cousins.
Hope you had a much fun reading this as I did researching it!