combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 06 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2008

Where's the CIRCLE in Circleville?

Once they arrive, and have a chance to gaze around while catching their breath, the first question most tourists ask is: "Where's the circle?" ... and aside from an enormous loop encompassing one or another ridgeline, spanning thousands of rugged acres and hundreds of rustic miles, there doesn't even seem to be enough room for a traffic circle in downtown Circleville on the banks of the south branch of the north fork of the Potomac River. Eventually, if persistent enough, some kind resident will explain ... in my case, the postmaster, a born and bred native denizen, took pity on my natural ignorance.

As with all genuine experiences, the truth is less romantic but no less adventuresome for its gritty reality. The pretty pictures and lovely ballads that inspire us to venture forth into remote locales can only hint at the blood and sweat that lies at the heart of any distant place ... and can never include the hardship or punishment that's willingly undertaken to forge a place in the sun. Very few Americans still live on the land, wrested by ax and shovel, rifle and plow, because its maintenance is demanding and uncertain, lonely and inconvenient ... but an exhausting challenge is just part of the fun of a wonderous holiday for desk-bound urbanites!

Geographically, there isn't enough flatland available for a European-style roundabout, and no cause for one, since Circleville is not a hub, not a nexus of convergence, not a plexus of divergence. Its derivation is really not a circle at all, but a Zirkel, as taken from the family name of a prominent businessman whose industriousness, so to speak, put the town on the map; and so the village was renamed Zirkleville on 20 November 1882, which was later corrupted into Circleville.

A neighboring town called Monterey, across the state line, took its name from the 1847 battle in the Mexican War, which was then current ... regardless of the misspelling, the word means mountain village. Another nearby town now called Blue Grass had its name changed by veterans returning from World War I, because they had been so mercilessly teased in the cosmopolitan military about its original name of Crab Bottom! Frontiersmen were nothing if not prosaic.

At least their town names are authentically representative, which is more than can be said of Glen Valley, a district located in a populous eastern state where neither a glen nor valley exists!

According to some anecdotal sagas, a similar corruption exists for the Rushing River, which was purportedly named for the Russian explorers and settlers who established the area; and its Russian pronunciation was recast as Rushin' by later Americanized generations, which misspelling was eventually corrected by government topographers ... and a rich tradition was lost to a careless history!

Well, if the community was renamed, then what was it called before? What was it called in the days when Scot and Irish and German émigrés headed for the hills to become our pioneer forebears? What was it named in the days before the late unpleasantness that's variously known as the Civil War, the War Between the States, the Second American Revolution, the War of Southern Rebellion, the War of Northern Aggression? According to history, the hamlet then extant, which still shelters in the valley between the uplands known as North Fork and Spruce Knob, seated on a lane between Seneca Rocks and Green Bank, was formally designated Mount Freedom on 17 September 1850. It's situated in the Alleghenys betwixt the bowl of Brandywine and the Sinks of Gandy, where the longest hiking trail in the state traverses Judy Gap and Nelson Rocks en route to Panther Knob.

The spirit that explored Seneca Caverns and Smoke Hole, that settled Sugar Grove and Germany Valley still exists in our community. Some native sons and daughters, almost twenty serving in all branches from about sixty families inhabiting these highlands, are defending those principles in distant lands this Christmas. Even though the terrorists have not yet visited their malice upon our remote locale, we are the essential redoubt of Americanism in another war, a different war, a modern war. America's enemies want to destroy her and forfeit her liberties. And I for one think of this bucolic place, this extended heartland, as a consecrated continuum from Mount Freedom.

Wouldn't it be nice to make the spirit manifest? ... to restore the good name of this pastoral burg? ... to declare ourselves true sons and daughters of the founders of Mount Freedom? By a simple reversion, we can be a paradigm of independence in a troubled world.

by Paul Brubaker
... who is retired from the U.S. Army, has since been a counselor, artisan, and writer, with numerous essays published in chapbooks and magazines; an earlier version of this essay appeared on the Spruce Knob bulletin board.

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