Myth On The Map

Scores of towns and counties all over the nation honor some heroics largely invented by Parson Weems

Wherever there’s a Newton, there’s a Jasper.”

When my father said that to me three years ago, he inaugurated a search that reveals what I believe to be a heretofore unrelated bit of American history. Casually spoken, his remark had been casually received. Soon afterward, however, my husband and I attended a fox hunt in Jasper County, Texas, and discovered that Newton County was next to it and that the towns of Jasper and Newton were their county seats. Coining home, we drove through Jasper, Arkansas, which proved to be the seat of Newton County, and from then on it seemed that no matter where we went Newton and Jasper were on the way. Sometimes they were associated as counties, sometimes as county and county seat; often a town or county of Marion was nearby. Maps showed more than sixty Newtons and Jaspers in all, half of them juxtaposed in an almost conjugal relationship. They were about as much a part of the American scene as Lincoln Avenue, Washington Street, and Courthouse Square. But why?