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  Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Twin Towns

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
The big yellow and red blob moving west through Llano County toward Austin looked like a living thing on the radar, with a couple of rotating rings indicating possible tornadoes.

The huge thunderstorm, a TV meteorologist warned, soon would be dumping rain and large hail directly over Gainesville.

Gainesville? That townís in Cooke County, practically on the bank of the Red River. Why would an Austin television station be alerting its viewers to bad weather approaching a city 250 miles from its viewing area?

Later, a little research revealed that the sophisticated computer software the TV station uses to superimpose the radar image over a map showing area communities and roadways had not made a mistake. Llano County does indeed have a place called Gainesville.

Of course, judging from the satellite imagery, the Gainesville in Central Texas is the ghostliest of ghost towns. Nothing appears to be there anymore, just a name on the map designating a point on Ranch Road 3404 between U.S. 71 and Kingsland. (For the global positioning set, itís Latitude 30.678, longitude 98.521, elevation 974 feet above sea level.)

Also known as Paschall, Llano Countyís Gainesville has no zip code to call its own. Or anything else for that matter. Just a dot that still survives on the U.S. Geological Survey map.

Turns out, Texas has not only two, but three Gainesvilles. The third is in Harrison County in East Texas. (Latitude 36.617, longitude 94.319, elevation 367 feet.)

This East Texas community has a cemetery and once had a church, though a satellite image doesnít reveal much of anything else but a computer-generated pinpoint on FM 1793, east of U.S. 59 and before you get to Bonita Lake.

Like Llano Countyís Gainesville, the Gainesville near Marshall does not have a zip code under its name. If either community ever had a post office (which seems unlikely given their copycat names) they donít now.

While Gainesville seems to be the only Texas city with the distinction of having two satellite burgs, itís not the only community in the state with a little-known double.

The largest Texas city with a nomenclature skeleton rattling around in its closest is Victoria, the 61,000 population county seat of Victoria County.

The other Victoria (31.355 longitude, 96.463 latitude) is in southwestern Limestone County, slightly west of FM 339 and the small-dot community of Kirk. If you get to Ben Hur, youíve gone too far. If you end up in Mart or Thelma, youíre hopelessly lost.

Going down the list of Texas cities and towns, no other identical twins show up, but no shortage of kind-of-close names exist to pose confusion to travelers or researchers.

With apologies to Johnny Cash, thereís Bay City, Baytown, Bayview; Bridge Center and Bridgeport; Brownsboro, Brownfield, Brownwood, and Brownsville; Cedar Park and Cedar Hill; Center City and Centerville; Eden and Edom; Falcon and Falcon Heights; Friendship and Friendswood; Grapevine and Grapeland; Orange and Orangefield; Palmhurst, Palm View, and Palm Valley; Progresso and Progresso Lakes; Ranger and Rangerville; Richland, Richmond and Spring and Springtown. And probably a few others.

Despite all the similar town names that somehow made it through the post office vetting process, some nominal (yes, pun intended) successes can be found.

One example is a community in Liveoak County first called Hamiltonburg.

The Hamiltonburg post office got mail intended for Hamilton, in Hamilton County, and vice versa. In 1914, the Post Office Department complained about the similar town names. Hamilton being long-established, the onus fell on Hamiltonburg to come up with a different name.

Citizens circulated a petition proposing that the year-old town be named Tips in honor of developer Charles Tips, but Tips modestly declined. Instead, he proposed a name based on the local geography. Since the Atascosa, Frio and Nueces Rivers converged nearby, he suggested, why not call our town Three Rivers? That handle suited the townsfolk and made it unscathed through the federal bureaucracy. With the stroke of some government workerís pen, Hamiltonburg became a place with a much more evocative name. An added bonus: The name gave the impression that the place had plenty of water, helpful for business development.

Maybe the good folks in some of the kissing cousin towns of Texas need to get a petition drive going and come up with something catchier than their same-sounding names.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
June 26, 2008 column

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Announcement
Mike Cox's "The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900," the first of a two-volume, 250,000-word definitive history of the Rangers, was released by Forge Books in New York on March 18, 2008

Kirkus Review, the American Library Association's Book List and the San Antonio Express-News have all written rave reviews about this book, the first mainstream, popular history of the Rangers since 1935.
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