Saturday, March 16, 2019

The State of Mismatched Names

As the 29 Democratic presidential candidates fan out across our state, operatives and journalists are taking note of one of our notable quirks: our bad habit of mismatching city names and county names.

It starts at the top. Our capital, Des Moines, is in mid-state, while Des Moines County is on the Mississippi River. The city of Keokuk is also on the Mississippi, but Keokuk County is about three counties northwest. Cedar Rapids is not in Cedar County, Iowa City is not in Iowa County, the list seems endless.

There are so many mismatches that I wondered if it was possible to draw a RAGBRAI route that successfully avoided all places that have mismatched names.

After wasting a bunch of time I determined: Yes, it is, just barely and with a couple asterisks.

In the map above, "Match" means a city in the county with the same name, with no other mismatches. Washington is in Washington County.

A mismatch is when a city is in a county with a different name. This disqualifies BOTH counties. Des Moines is not in Des Moines County, which makes both Polk County and Des Moines county a mismatch.

Borderline cases involve name variations or unincorporated, little known places. And there are some counties with no matches at all.

To successfully draw a RAGBRAI route without cities and counties with mismatched names you need to start in Missouri Valley and swing northeast. You have to ignore two borderline cases: Lake Mills is in Winnebago, not Mills, County, and Mitchellville is not in Mitchell county (though the smaller Mitchell IS in Mitchell County.)

Once you get through that one county corridor along the Minnesota border, you have several options in northeast Iowa. For a slightly shorter route, stay along the northern border all the way to Allamakee County and finish in Lansing or New Albin.

If you want to finish in Dubuque, just make sure you pass your bike tires through a quadripoint where Fayette and Delaware counties meet (or, if you lean slightly to the right into Buchanan, you can opt to ignore the unincorporated town of that name in Cedar County).

If you've made it this far, you probably want to see my work. Someone else is welcome to do the pronunciation guide.

Adair - Adair is in Adair County. (Part of city crosses the line into Guthrie County.)

Adams - no city with this name

Allamakee - no city with this name

Appanoose - no city with this name

Audubon - Audubon is in Audubon County

Benton - city of Benton is in Ringgold County

Black Hawk - Borderline. Cedar Falls not in Cedar County

Boone - Boone is in Boone County

Bremer- no city with this name

Buchanan - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buchanan in Cedar County.

Buena Vista - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Buena Vista in Clinton County

Butler- no city with this name

Calhoun - no city with this name

Carroll - Carroll is in Carroll County

Cass - no city with this name

Cedar - Cedar Rapids is in bordering Linn County. Almost a borderline name-variation case but Cedar Rapids is both big enough and close enough for confusion.

Cerro Gordo - Plymouth not in Plymouth County

Cherokee - Cherokee is in Cherokee County.

Chickasaw - no city with this name

Clarke - Osceola is not in Osceola County

Clay - no city with this name. Ignoring Clay/Clayton county confusion.

Clayton - the city of Clayton is in Clayton County, but they fail because the city of Monona is not in Monona County. There's also unincorporated Hardin here and not in Hardin County.

Clinton - Borderline and a tough call. The city of Clinton is here of course, but so are the unincorporated towns of Buena Vista and Lyons.

Crawford - no city with this name

Dallas - Melcher-Dallas (formerly two cities, Melcher and Dallas) is in Marion County.

Davis - Davis City in Decatur County

Decatur- Davis City in Decatur County

Delaware - Delaware is in Delaware County

Des Moines - City of Des Moines is in Polk County.

Dickinson - Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Dubuque - Dubuque is in Dubuque County

Emmet - Emmetsburg is seat of neighboring Palo Alto County,

Fayette - Fayette is in Fayette County.

Floyd - Floyd is in Floyd County

Franklin - City of Franklin is in Lee County

Fremont - city of Fremont in Mahaska County

Greene - Jefferson not in Jefferson County

Grundy - Grundy Center is in Grundy County

Guthrie - Guthrie Center is in Guthrie County

Hamilton - city of Hamilton is in Marion County; Webster City not in Webster County

Hancock - city of Hancock is in Pottawattamie County.

Hardin - City of Union not in Union County. Iowa Falls not in Iowa County. Unincorporated town of Hardin is in Clayton County.

Harrison - no city with this name.

Henry- no city with this name

Howard- no city with this name

Humboldt - Humboldt is in Humboldt County.

Ida - Ida Grove is in Ida County

Iowa - Iowa City is in next door Johnson County

Jackson - no city with this name. (Ignoring Jackson Junction in Winneshiek County.)

Jasper - Even if you ignore the Mitchell/Mitchellville issue, the city of Monroe is here and not in Monroe County.

Jefferson - city of Jefferson is in Greene County

Johnson - Iowa City not in Iowa County

Jones - no city with this name

Keokuk - city of Keokuk is in Lee County

Kossuth- no city with this name

Lee - Keokuk not in Keokuk County; Franklin not in Franklin County

Linn - Cedar Rapids not in Cedar County; Marion not in Marion County

Louisa - Wapello not in Wapello County.

Lucas - city of Lucas is in Lucas County.

Lyon - Borderline. Unincorporated Lyons is in Clinton County.

Madison - Fort Madison is in Lee County

Mahaska - Fremont not in Fremont County

Marion - city of Marion is in Linn County; Melcher-Dallas not in Dallas County.

Marshall - Marshalltown is in Marshall County.

Mills - Borderline. Lake Mills is in Winnebago County.

Mitchell - Borderline. Mitchell is in Mitchell County but Mitchellville is in Jasper County. I'm inclined to give them a break here, especially since they are key to the RAGBRAI route.

Monona - city of Monona in Clayton County.

Monroe - city of Monroe in Jasper County.

Montgomery- Borderline. Unincorporated Montgomery is in Dickinson County.

Muscatine - Muscatine is in Muscatine County

O'Brien - no city with this name

Osceola - city of Osceola is in Clarke County

Page - no city with this name

Palo Alto - Emmetsburg not in Emmet County.

Plymouth - city of Plymouth is in Cerro Gordo County.

Pocahontas - Pocahontas is in Pocahontas County.

Polk - Des Moines not in Des Moines County

Pottawattamie - Hancock not in Hancock County

Poweshiek - no city with this name.

Ringgold - Benton not in Benton County

Sac - Sac City is in Sac County

Scott - The biggest county with no mismatch. Iowa has no city named Scott or any variation of Scott or Scot, they don't have so much as a township sharing a name with another county, and I'm not penalizing them for unincorporated Scotch Grove in Jones County.

Shelby - City of Shelby is in both Shelby and Pottawattamie Counties. Unincorporated Jacksonville not in Jackson County.

Sioux - Sioux City is in Woodbury County, though Sioux Center IS in Sioux County.

Story - Story City is in Story County.

Tama - Tama is in Tama County

Taylor- no city with this name

Union - city of Union is in Hardin County.

Van Buren - no city with this name

Wapello - city of Wapello is in Louisa County.

Warren - no city with this name

Washington - city of "Warshington" is in Washington County

Wayne - no city with this name

Webster - Webster City is in Hamilton County

Winnebago - Borderline. Lake Mills not in Mills County.

Winneshiek - no city with this name (Ignoring Jackson Junction.)

Woodbury - Sioux City not in Sioux County

Worth- no city with this name

Wright - Borderline. Unincorporated town of Wright in Mahaska County.

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