In which our intrepid hero discovers a saintly town…
One thing I discovered very soon after moving to Ohio was that Ohio is a state that steals place names. This is true of many areas of the country, no doubt, but it wasn’t true where I grew up. Place names near me included El Paso, Las Cruces, Canutillo, Anthony, Fabens, Alamagordo, Truth or Consequences (well, that was stolen from something, but not a place), and so forth. But in Ohio? We have Toledo and Moscow and Athens and Brooklyn and Cambridge and London and Dublin and Geneva and Macedonia and Ontario and Oxford and Toronto and many others—none of them even modest enough to throw a “New” in front of their theft. The one that gets me the most, though, is Rio Grande, Ohio, because locals don’t pronounce it the right way, they pronounce it “Rye-Oh.” As someone who used to ride a horse along the actual Rio Grande, that grabs my goat by the balls and twists.
[Please note that you can click on any of the images below to see larger, better versions]
Of course, the place where I live, Columbus, Ohio, didn’t steal its name from a place, but named it after the explorer, whose reputation has steadily dropped lower and lower as more people have become aware of what a nasty person Christopher Columbus actually was. Still, we are better off than Hitler, South Dakota, by a long shot.
Continuing my westward meander towards Troy, Ohio, I came across this abandoned building which I almost missed, so overcome by vegetation it had become—and this was still only spring.
One advantage of flat country in the spring before crops are coming up is that you can see a long ways—I was able to spot this speeding train across a long empty field. I scrambled to be able to take a quick shot of it while the engine was still in view.
That brings us to the town itself, or rather, the village of St. Paris, Ohio (population 2,089, salute!). St. Paris is a great example of Ohio name stealing. David Huffman, the anachronistically named man who founded the place in 1831, wanted to name it after Paris, presumably because the early residents were so rude towards tourists. At least he had the grace to want to call it New Paris instead of Paris. Only he discovered that somebody else had already named an Ohio town New Paris. So he called it St. Paris, instead, but really he just ripped off the city of Paris (in case you were wondering, somebody did later name an Ohio settlement Paris, Ohio).
This old building, home to “St. Paris Embroideries” and “Professional Alternative Therapies,” has been nicely restored. Note that you don’t have to go to a big city to stupidly fritter your money away on bogus “therapies” such as “reflexology” and “ear candling.”
Leaving St. Paris behind, I was happy to find the house below. This is not a residence for gnomes, it is actually built into the ground, with only the top part exposed. We are looking at the back of the house—the front of the house is “normal,” as the ground dips down in front of it. I have seen a handful of these homes in Ohio, maybe five total so far, but usually by the time I actually realize what it is I have already passed the house, so this is the first one I have captured for this blog.
This is the side of the house, still partially obscured by the ground. But you can see that the house has a porch in front. I would suspect that houses like this are energy-efficient, because of the insulation of the ground, but you have to wonder whether they can get clammy like basements can.
For a few seconds, I was in the hamlet of Casstown, Ohio (population 267, salute!). I presume, though I do not know for sure, that this hamlet was named after Lewis Cass. Lewis Cass was an Ohio militia officer who took part in the incompetent Detroit campaign at the beginning of the War of 1812. One of the four key American officers in the campaign, all either argumentative, scheming or incapable, Cass had to surrender along with the rest of the American force. He was paroled and sped to Washington, D.C., to cast blame on others. This worked and he became a brigadier general, later serving under William Henry Harrison and showing up at, but playing no real part in, Harrison’s big victory at the Battle of the Thames. Harrison appointed Cass military governor of the Michigan Territory, which led to a long political career marked by very little praise or distinction. If Casstown was indeed named after Cass, it’s a little puzzling. He was largely a failure in Ohio, then moved to the state’s great rival, Michigan, but didn’t really distinguish himself there or in national office, either. I guess they had to name it after somebody.
I thought the building below was interesting because someone took the trouble to put those weird windows in, but didn’t do anything else to address the appearance of the place.