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Friday, July 25, 2014

Where Did Lake Milton Get Its Name?

“Where did Lake Milton get its name?” a curious patron wanted to know.

We checked the Milton Township website, which includes information on its history. From the website, we learned that Milton Township was originally home to the Erie Indians until the Iroquois Confederacy went to war with them in 1653. Settlers, including Nathaniel Stanley, Aaron Porter, and John Van Netten, arrived in 1803. The town was one of the most sparsely populated in Mahoning County until development of the lake began.

However, not finding any information on the origins of the town’s name, we brought in reinforcements and called the reference librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. The librarian we spoke to was extremely friendly and willing to help. Since she didn't know off the top of her head either, she consulted Ohio Place Names by Larry L. Miller. According to Miller’s book, Lake Milton most likely takes its name from Milton, Connecticut, which makes sense given that it was originally part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

As it turns out, we have a copy of Ohio Place Names here in the library. Out of curiosity, we looked up Newton Falls and found that it was originally just called “Falls.” The “Newton” was added later, probably in reference to Newtown, Connecticut, though a piece of local folklore credits the name to  Eben Newton, an 1812 schoolteacher.

If you’re interested in knowing where your own town’s name comes from, feel free to give us a call or stop by!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Where Does the Term "Red Herring" Come From?

“Where does the term ‘red herring’ come from?”

A red herring is commonly defined as a piece of information that misleads or distracts from the real situation. You can often find them in mystery stories, added in by the author to keep the reader from unraveling the plot too quickly. uses The Da Vinci Code and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as examples – both contain characters who function as red herrings by behaving so suspiciously that the reader believes them to be the culprit, until the end of the story when they’re revealed to be innocent all along. Red herrings also appear in arguments when a person brings up an unrelated topic in the hopes of turning their audience’s focus away from the actual issue at hand.

According to NTC’S American Idioms Dictionary, the term comes from the practice of using a strong-smelling smoked fish (the aforementioned red herring) to throw hunting dogs off the scent they were following, particularly to keep them from chasing a fox.  However, Michael Quinion’s article on World Wide Words disputes that commonly-held belief. In all his research of fox hunting, the only time he came across anyone using a literal red herring was the mention of hunters dragging one across the ground for dogs to follow so that the horses used in the hunt could grow accustomed to following along with the dogs. Obviously, that doesn’t have much to do with confusing a trail.

Quinion writes that the proper etymology of the phrase has since been traced back to 19th century journalist William Cobbett. Cobbett claimed that, as a boy, he used a red herring to divert dogs from their quarry. Most likely he had made this story up, but he compared the dogs being distracted from their hunt by the false scent to other journalists being distracted from domestic matters by false news of Napoleon, and the idiom “red herring” was born.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How Do Deer Make It Through the Winter?

"How do deer make it through the winter?” 

Even as hot as it’s been lately, one of our patrons is looking ahead to colder months, concerned for the deer that have to weather them. We found our answers in Leonard Lee Rue III’s The Deer of North America and Way of the Whitetail and the websites of New Brunswick’s Natural Resources Department, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

In the fall, deer begin to grow out their winter coat. Grayish-brown in color, the winter coat is comprised of hollow hairs and a dense undercoat and provides excellent insulation. Deer’s metabolism will also drop, allowing them to get by on less food.

Even with their winter coats, cold winds can chill, and deep snow requires a lot of energy to move through. To avoid the wind and snow, deer in the north will move to wintering areas, also known as deer yards, which can be anywhere from a few to a hundred acres and can draw in deer from all over the area. The most important function of a deer yard is to provide cover, so they’re typically found in swamps and gullies with good stands of evergreens.

While moose will lie down in the snow and use it as a blanket, deer prefer to make their beds by pawing down to the leaves and sleeping there. As another way of conserving energy, they’ll move as little as possible. During a bad snowstorm, they may not even leave their beds – an impulse many of us can understand.