• Paul Anthony Jones

Center, North Dakota

(n.) the town at the geographical midpoint of North America

A fact we just couldn’t leave unexplained this week also turned out to be the week’s most popular: the town at the geographical centre of North America is called Center.

That on its own is interesting enough, but then to find out that it’s name is a complete coincidence? How the dickens did that happen?

Well. Center was founded in 1902, and so called because it was believed at the time to stand roughly in the centre of Oliver County, North Dakota. Alas, it doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter. The town laid claim to nothing else, the years ticked by, and today Center is home to around 550 people.

Elsewhere in North Dakota there are two towns—Rugby and Robinson—that both stake claims to being the centre of North America. There is an annual town fair in Rugby, for instance, to celebrate “Geographical Center Day”, and there’s a bar in Robinson that sells t-shirts claiming to be the centre of all America. But there can’t be two geographical centres—and when an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 2016 pointing out precisely that, University of Buffalo geographer Peter Rogerson stepped into the fray.

Rogerson’s work involves using modern surveying techniques to calculate the precise centre of towns, states, countries and, at a push, continents. When he heard that no one had attempted to figure out the precise centre of North America is since 1931 (when Rugby first took the title), he set to work.

The people of Rugby and Robinson held their collective breath. Unfortunately for them, Rogerson found that the precise centre of the entire continent was—well, Center.

And even more astoundingly, its name was a complete coincidence.

#geography #America

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