Reading sets mind off wandering

About 100 years ago, American humorist Will Rogers began using the line, “Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.”

He used that as an introduction in his monologues and in his newspaper column which at one time was carried by 600 or so newspapers. These days, the line would need to be expanded not by a little bit, but by a whole lot. Something like, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers, magazines, books, emails, blogs, wikipedia, etc. and heard on radio, tv, streaming, etc.”

The quote loses a little bit of its punch with the more modern stuff thrown in.

However, what I still read in the newspapers sets my mind off wandering and wondering about all sorts of things. On Saturday I read one of those triggers that set my mind to wandering. It was in the Independent column, “On the Porch – a glimpse into the past,” by Lyon County Historical & Museum Executive Director Jennifer Andries. The story was about the town of Garvin. It mentioned the streets were named: First, Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan.

So on an almost spring day, i.e. three days before spring arrived, we drove to Garvin to see if the streets still existed. I wouldn’t have had to drive to Garvin – instead I could resort to the World Wide Web and Googled, which I did later, but it was such a nice day for a drive. I turned onto First Street from U.S. 59 and soon came to north/south streets of Polk, Sheridan, Grant, Sherman, and eventually Adams and Quincy. The other east/west streets are Second, Third, and Fourth.

Now Polk (U.S. Pres., 1845-49); Adams (U.S. Pres., 1797-1801); and Quincy (U.S. Pres. John Quincy Adams, 1825-29) were not Generals, but the other three you all will remember were Civil War Generals. Furthermore, Garvin was located in the township of Custer, yet another Civil War General. It was those Generals’ names that had set my mind wandering off. Clearly such street names would not be common where I lived in the quasi-southern state of Missouri before moving to Minnesota – all were Union Soldiers. Someone must have had a sense of history in devising the naming of the streets. But there’s even more to the story than those four generals. Stay tuned.


Last fall I happened to read Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant – it was more of what I would call a tome than a book. It was long, thorough, and VERY interesting reading — giving me a whole new perspective on the man who, before reading the book, I probably would have been somewhat dismissive of him as being just a prominent drunkard rather than great leader and intellectual who had great empathy with virtually all he met regardless of their station in life. His own life was fraught with adversity even to the end of his life, which was a most tragic episode.

Then just a week ago, I had begun a biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, he with the Indian (Native American) middle name which is a story in itself. It is another tome with small print, but fascinating nevertheless. Again, it gives a different perspective than what most people think of hearing his name, viz. his March to the sea and the burning of Atlanta. Sherman was a good tactician and a great organizer as he continued after the war for another 20 years serving as Commanding General of the U.S. Army from 1869 to 1883.

Buried in a box somewhere around here I have a book about Sheridan that I have not read in some time. He also is considered to have great accomplishments in helping win the Civil War for the Union.

As for Custer, I am sure readers know of lots of controversy about his actions as a general both during the Civil War and his assignments in the Indian Wars on the Great Plains ending at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. My many books about Custer and The Battle, include books by Custer (My Life on the Plains), and three books by Custer’s wife Libby. Those books are also buried in some box(es) around here. One of these days I may again try reading through them.


This brings me back to Director Andries’ newspaper column as she mentioned that Garvin was originally called Terry. Though not mentioned in the column, Terry was in honor of General Terry who just happened to be the General who led his men from the east, arriving at the Little Big Horn battleground to find Custer’s dead. So the town of Terry, MN transitioned to Kent (I haven’t yet found out who Kent is.) and then to Garvin who was a railroad man when the railroad was put through the area.


As it happens, I found that the town of Terry, Montana was also named after General Terry. Terry, MT is on the Yellowstone River just off Interstate 94.

One cannot help but wonder if the Minnesota folks found out about Terry, Montana and wanted a more unique name.

Garvin and Terry are both small and both seem to have suffered similar population declines. Garvin had 264 residents back in the 1950 census which today is about 135 (135 in the 2010 census). Terry had 1,191 residents in the 1950 census and now has about 600 (605 in the 2010 census.)

A final coincidence: The Montana town was originally named Joubert’s Landing but was soon changed to Terry.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!