First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Landing number 2214; A Landing A Day blog post number 642.
Dan: My Score slipped back up to 150, thanks to this OSer landing in . . . IA; 46/41; 4/10; 2; 150.0. Here’s my regional landing map:
And my local landing map, which shows how close to Sigourney I landed:
I’ll need to zoom back a little to give you a look at the second titular town, What Cheer:
Here’s my watershed analysis:
As you can see, I landed in the watershed of the North Skunk River (2nd hit); on to the Skunk (6th hit); on to the MM (863rd hit).
Time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight in to SE IA (click below and then hit your back button after view):
Of course, as always I checked out GE Street View coverage. It’s not very good at all. Come on Googlemobile, you need a trip to the greater Sigourney area! Anyway, I was able to find a Street View shot of the North Skunk River, not far south of Sigourney:
And here’s what the orange dude’s view of the North Skunk:
So, it’s time to check out Sigourney. From Wiki:
Sigourney (pronounced “SIGG-ur-nee”) was founded in 1844 and the town was named by county commissioner Dr. George H. Stone in honor of popular poet Lydia Sigourney. A large oil-painted portrait of Lydia still graces the foyer of the county courthouse.
Don’t gloss over the pronunciation. In particular, note the accent on the first syllable! Say it out loud to appreciate how grating it would be Sigourney Weaver to have her first name pronounced that way . . .
So the town is named after a poet! This wouldn’t be my first experience with a town named after a poet – after all, Burns, Oregon is named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns – and I’ve landed there twice. But I’ve heard of Robert Burns and I’ve never heard of Lydia Sigourney. But son of a gun, she has a robust Wiki entry. Here are some excerpts:
Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791 – 1865) was a popular American poet during the early and mid 19th century. She published her first book “Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse” in 1815.
In 1819, she married Charles Sigourney, and after her marriage chose to write anonymously in “leisure” time. It was not several years later (when her husband had lost some of his former affluence) that she began to write as an occupation and began to write openly as Mrs. Sigourney.
Her main themes included old age, death, responsibility, religion and work. She often wrote elegies or poems for recently deceased neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. Her work is one example of Victorian-era death literature which views death as an escape to a better place, especially for children.
A contemporary critic called her work, infused with morals, “more like the dew than the lightning”. She enjoyed substantial popularity in her lifetime.
Since her death, her writings largely have been forgotten. When remembered, she has been criticized for being shallow or for catering to the society in which she lived where women were expected to avoid public lives. For example, much of her writing is referred to as “hack work” by Haight, her only biographer.
However, according to Nineteenth Century Criticism, “recently… there has been a renewed interest in Sigourney, particularly among feminist literary scholars who have studied Sigourney’s successful attempt to establish herself as a distinctly American and distinctly female poet.
“She was one of the most popular writers of her day, both in America and in England; her writings were characterized by fluency, grace and quiet reflection on nature, domestic and religious life, and philanthropic questions; but they were too often sentimental, didactic and commonplace to have much literary value.”
Some of her most popular work deals with Native American issues and injustices and one of her most successful poems was ‘Indian Names.’
Her influence was tremendous. She inspired many young women to attempt to become poets. She contributed more than two thousand articles to many (nearly 300) periodicals and some 67 books.
There you have it. The part about “Native American issues and injustices” caught my eye, and specific mention of the poem Indian Names. Well, here it is. If you (like me) are regularly bothered by the history of white Americans’ treatment of Indians, you’ll read this carefully . . .
By Lydia Huntley Sigourney
‘How can the red men be forgotten, while so many of our states and territories, bays, lakes, and rivers, are indelibly stamped by names of their giving?’
Ye say they all have passed away,
That noble race and brave,
That their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave;
That ’mid the forests where they roamed
There rings no hunter shout,
But their name is on your waters,
Ye may not wash it out.
’Tis where Ontario’s billow
Like Ocean’s surge is curled,
Where strong Niagara’s thunders wake
The echo of the world.
Where red Missouri bringeth
Rich tribute from the west,
And Rappahannock sweetly sleeps
On green Virginia’s breast.
Ye say their cone-like cabins,
That clustered o’er the vale,
Have fled away like withered leaves
Before the autumn gale,
But their memory liveth on your hills,
Their baptism on your shore,
Your everlasting rivers speak
Their dialect of yore.
Old Massachusetts wears it,
Within her lordly crown,
And broad Ohio bears it,
Amid his young renown;
Connecticut hath wreathed it
Where her quiet foliage waves,
And bold Kentucky breathed it hoarse
Through all her ancient caves.
Wachuset hides its lingering voice
Within his rocky heart,
And Alleghany graves its tone
Throughout his lofty chart;
Monadnock on his forehead hoar
Doth seal the sacred trust,
Your mountains build their monument,
Though ye destroy their dust.
Ye call these red-browned brethren
The insects of an hour,
Crushed like the noteless worm amid
The regions of their power;
Ye drive them from their father’s lands,
Ye break of faith the seal,
But can ye from the court of Heaven
Exclude their last appeal?
Ye see their unresisting tribes,
With toilsome step and slow,
On through the trackless desert pass
A caravan of woe;
Think ye the Eternal’s ear is deaf?
His sleepless vision dim?
Think ye the soul’s blood may not cry
From that far land to him?
I like it.
It’s time to move on to a town with an incredibly unique/puzzling name: What Cheer. I would suspect that only Providence RI readers might have a clue as to why a town might be named What Cheer, as you’ll see. I’ll start with an excerpt from Wiki:
It is likely that Joseph Andrews [one of the founders] chose the name because of his native town of Providence, RI. A founding myth of Providence goes like this: when Roger Williams arrived at the site that would become Providence in 1636, he was greeted by Narragansett Native Americans with the phrase “What Cheer, Netop.”
Netop is the Narragansett word for friend, and the Narragansetts had picked up the “what cheer” greeting from earlier English settlers. Through the years, “What Cheer” and “What Cheer, Netop” have become the shibboleth of Rhode Island.
Here’s a little more from the National Park Service site for the Roger Williams National Memorial:
In a canoe with several others, Roger scouted the area across the Seekonk River. They spotted a group of Narragansett on a large rock, known afterwards as Slate Rock. As they approached the Narragansett greeted them by calling out: “What Cheer Netop!” This greeting is a combination of English and Narragansett languages. ‘What cheer’ was an informal common English greeting of the day, short for ‘what cheery news do you bring’ and today’s equivalent of “what’s up?’’ “Netop” is the Narragansett word for friend.
A quick web search shows that What Cheer lives on. There’s a What Cheer Tavern, a What Cheer record store, the What Cheer Brigade, a musical band (basically all horns), and the Rhode Island Historical Society has its annual “What Cheer Days” festival.
Before moving on, did you notice Wiki’s use of the word “shibboleth,” having to do with the association between the city of Providence and the phrase What Cheer. I have never heard of the word shibboleth. For those of my readers who, like me, don’t have a clue, here’s a definition from Meriam Webster:
- an old idea, opinion, or saying that is commonly believed and repeated but that may be seen as old-fashioned or untrue
- a word or way of speaking or behaving which shows that a person belongs to a particular group
Moving back to Sigourney (remember to pronounce it correctly!), here’s a GE Panoramio shot from the center of town entitled “2010 Recreation of Historic 1908 Panoramic” by 480sparky:
So, of course, I rolled up my sleeves and found the historic 1908 panoramic:
Good work, Sparky!
I’ll close with some Panoramio shots around Sigourney. To give you an idea of the local landscape, here’s a shot by Knights532 of a road just east of town:
Here’s another roadway shot (a little further east) by ahiah01:
I’ll close with this moody view of the Keokuk County courthouse in Sigourney by Patrick Eldridge:
That’ll do it . . .
© 2015 A Landing A Day