A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Wrong Name, Wrong Face, Wrong Place

Ness City, Kansas, is "out west," where the population thins, the elevation rises gradually but steadily to the front range of the Rockies, and the water level in the Oglallah aquifer, also steadily but not so gradually, declines.

Ness City is the county seat of Ness County, population 3454. The town and the county were named after Noah Van Buren Ness, a soldier in the Union army, who died in battle in 1864. He had moved from Ohio to southeast Kansas in the mid-1800s. He never set foot in what is now Ness County. In fact, he was probably never closer than 200 miles to the place that, for reasons that are unclear, bears his name.

Or what the namers thought was his name, anyway. Newly discovered records, including a document with his signature, reveal that Noah's name was spelled Kness. The town and county's spelling probably came from 1860 census records, probably from a phonetic spelling.

Four years ago, before this recent discovery, the citizens of Ness County raised $50,000 to erect a bronze statue to their nonfounding father namesake. The statue of course bears the now-known-to-be-incorrect spelling. Further, the artist who designed the statue had no old photographs or other likenesses to work from, only military records, which gave such physical details as height and weight, maybe hat and boot size.

Now, probably not surprisingly, a photograph has also turned up, and the statue bears no resemblance at all to Noah.

Noah Van Buren Kness--a man immortalized by a town and county of which he knew nothing, his name misspelled, with a likeness not at all like Kness.