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Lincoln, Lancaster, and Franklin

The Question

> Hi,
> Nice web site!
> I was interested to read on your page:
> <https://www.allaboutomaha.com/Omaha/Lincoln.php>
> under "Origin of Name": that "(Lincoln, Lancaster, and Franklin
> are the three most popular city names in America)."
> And I wondered what the source of this information is.
> Thanks,
> RB

Thanks RB,

That is an excellent question.  It is not often that I receive a question that prompts me to create a web page to answer it; yours did.  Though accurate, the original information came about in a most peculiar way.

As you can tell, much of the website is based on common facts, and historic research.  The statement you commented on is also based on reference materials, but it is from back in my college days.  I wrote that bit of trivia thinking about how I first learned about it.  It is from one of the more interesting of my stories.

While attending computer science classes, I was approached by another student with the proposal of doing an independent study class for extra credit in geography.  The individual wanted to do some research that required some programming, except he didn't know how to do the programming.  I queried the individual on what the study was about and what programming would be involved.  The individual said that he could not reveal the details. Naturally, I became very skeptical and was not interested in collaborating on such a project.  Repeatedly, he tried to convince me that the study was legit, and that a professor had agreed to grant a class credit.  I think the more information was withheld, the more curious I was.  After meeting the professor, I agreed to help out, but I would need to have some idea of what we were doing.

The person that approached me was intrigued with the most common city names.  Specifically, he wanted to explore an idea of city names and locations.

Historically, humans were migratory, often following herding animals that make up a portion of their diet.  American settlements with any permanent status were formed along the coasts, and inland waterways, or where the railroad needed to stop to take on supplies such as wood or water.  Automobiles have afforded the possibilities to have settlements almost anywhere.  Still for the most part, our major cities are outgrowths of early settlements that were formed near accessible water or supplies.  As a result, you can see that city locations are not truly random or evenly dispersed across this great land of ours, except in the sense that river locations are somewhat random, being formed as a result of earth plates shifting and forming mountains.  Railroad towns fill in some of the gaps in between.

City names often came from prominent citizens at the time of name choosing.  Abraham Lincoln influenced several city names throughout the U.S. during the period where a lot of the U.S. was settled.  Franklin comes from Benjamin Franklin, and later Franklin Roosevelt, another prominent president.  I have no idea how, what, where, or who Lancaster comes from, however, it is also very common in England.

The Answer

Anyway, the student showed me that the encyclopedias listed the most prominent cites in each state along with longitude and latitude data.  Taking the city listing from each state, he was able to show that the most common city names were Lincoln, Lancaster, and Franklin, and as I recall, in that order.  I'm guessing that hasn't changed much since the time I was in college, so the encyclopedias should confirm this point.

Of course, that should answer your question, but now I'm sure you must be wondering why the individual was so secretive about the special credit class.  O.K., here is where it gets weird.

The Weird Part

He wanted to determine if the three city names were located in places that formed isosceles triangles with "other coordinates" he had, and if so, were the three common city names unique compared to other city names and their locations. The "other coordinates" were not defined as to their meaning or purpose other than a list of longitude and latitudes.

Since two sides of the isosceles triangles would be the same length (within a small percentage), they would form an arrow head of sorts.  He wanted to know if more arrows pointed to one place in the U.S. more than any other location.  Furthermore, if that was the case, he wanted to know where did they point to.

Weird except not extremely weird, right?  Here is where it gets extremely weird.

The Extremely Weird Part

As the project progressed, I gained the confidence of the other student as to what we were looking for.  If the triangle thing weren't weird enough, the "other coordinates" turned out to be locations of UFO sightings.  This is what prompted the study in the first place since supposedly there were an exceptional large number of sightings near the three most common city names, even though many other city names had larger populations, and the increased likelihood of sightings if they also were visited.

Finally, he took me to the house of a friend of his, an older guy than we were, probably in his 30s or 40s, and not a student at the university.  This is how I found out the student was actually doing the project/research for the friend of his.  The other guy claimed to have had his second encounter (get it?).  He was convinced that was his clue that there would be a third encounter where he would be "chosen" to join them. He was all for it and wanted to make sure he was in the right place at the right time.  They believed the arrows would point to this special location.

This older guy had collected everything he could get his hands on about UFOs, Flying Saucers, Area 51, and all the other trivia associated with extraterrestrials.  The house was packed with this stuff.  I don't recall if anything was said about his marital status, but he was the only person there at the time.

The older guy explained how he had been followed by the "four-men-in-black in a black car" that had appeared behind him in a place where it could not have turned onto the road unseen, and likewise disappeared mysteriously.  He told of his first two encounters, which I recall weren't much more than the black car thing.  He firmly believed that he was one of the "chosen" to have a third encounter and be transported to the world our extraterrestrial visitors were from.

Around this time, my programming was completed, and I had ran the program several times. The various UFO landing sites did indeed form isosceles triangles with the three most common city name locations more than with other city name locations.  The arrows pointed all over, but quite a few more pointed to a general direction in the Southwest portion of the U.S.

The two individuals (student and older guy) knew of a mountain with a plateau in the general area (I have since learned the location was common UFO lore, but I had not been aware of it prior to this).  By the way, this was before the movie "Encounters of the Third Kind" came out.  I don't recall what the basis was for when the third encounter was to happen, but they were planning on being there.

At the time, I was very busy with more legit studies.  Part of the class credit required a report that I had not bargained for.  Since I had done all the work, I was the only one that could write the report.  The other guy didn't know what to write.  My curiosity was already satisfied, so I didn't allocate as much time to write the report, especially with a large workload for other credits.  I recall that the other student talked to the professor and somehow worked out a deal where he could get his credit.  I recall being disappointed (but only slightly), that I got nothing for my effort.  Perhaps coming up with weird ideas is more important.  I'm still impressed with the concept, but I don't believe in flying saucers.

Even this is not the end of it

It seems the story should end there, but there is a tiny bit more.  During my first year of engineering studies, I took a computer plotting course.  For my final project, I plotted out the Star-Trek Starship Enterprise different levels, and a lot of other details from the Star-Trek manual.  The professor was impressed, and I got an A+ for the job (not only for the appearance, but I used good programming practices).  The plot was displayed on the bulletin board in the hallway outside the classroom.  The next year, the very fantastic professor left my drawing up for another year; I was even more pleased.

Sometime near the end of that second year, and during a cold winter night, I took the warm route through the engineering building on my way to meet someone at the library.  Classes had all ended at this time so the building was usually empty until security locked it up around midnight.  The bulletin board was near the end of the hallway where I was entering.  As I entered the hallway, I noticed an older guy (not university age) looking at the bulletin board of plots, and it appeared that he was looking at my plot.  Being proud of my plot, I bravely asked, "Which one do you like the best?"  He said, "This one" as he pointed to my plot.  I said, "Yeah, alright!   That one is mine." as I turned my head to answer.  Immediately I realized it was the older guy that we visited, the same one that already had his second encounter.  Instantly I regretted opening my big mouth and was afraid that he might recognize me or remember my name since it was on the plot, so I turned my head back and didn't slow down as if I was in a great rush.  As I was getting farther away, he called out to me again, "Hey, do you know anything about these things?"  Without turning my head back, I said, "Not a thing!" just as I walked out the door at the other end of the building.

When I got to the library, I found out the person I was to meet couldn't make it, so I started back across campus.  I wanted to take the same "warm route" through the engineering building, but I did not want to encounter the weird guy again, so I peeked down the hallway before stepping inside.  The coast was clear, totally empty.  I had used this warm route lots of times without even having a second thought about my plot on the bulletin board.  Of course, this time I glanced at the bulletin board as I passed, except this time I had to stop.  My plot was gone!  Only one tiny corner was left under the staples used to hold the plots to the cork.  For nearly two years the plot had been in the same spot.  It had only been five minutes since I had seen the drawing and the mystery man.

I don't know what happened to either of the other two individuals.  I hope they are happy, wherever they are.  Now, if I disappear for some unexplained reason, point the officials to this page, and hope they start an investigation.  And if you see strange flashing lights in the sky around Lincoln, think nothing of it; apparently, it is common for those "special" cities.


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