Postcard courtesy of John Hastings of Queensbury
The official naming of Jimmy’s Peak, as shown in a vintage postcard, has not only sparked a mini-controversy in Thurman, but it has garnered the rural town some international exposure — over a deleted apostrophe.
The Town of Thurman received international news exposure last week — and it wasn’t focusing on the town’s nationally-recognized broadband initiative, nor any controversy that’s been sparking angry debate at recent town meetings.
The article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday May 15 was instead about language, punctuation and the naming of a mountain dear to Thurmanites.
The article quoted four residents of Thurman, stemming from on-site interviews conducted by famed Journal Reporter Barry Newman.
Titled, “There’s a Question Mark Hanging Over the Apostrophe’s Future,” it focused on the naming of the hill known locally as “Jimmy’s Peak” — and the U.S. government’s 113-year-old policy of deleting apostrophes when establishing official names for locations, natural features and municipalities.
The news story featuring Thurman has been aired on television and published in print media from San Jose to Canada and throughout Europe. As of Wednesday evening, the article describing the Thurman apostrophe affair was mentioned on no less than 207,000 web pages.
Newman has traveled all over the world to report on quirky situations that have broad intellectual appeal, and Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood said Sunday May 19 she was happy Newman visited Thurman and focused on Jimmy’s Peak rather than Pike’s Peak in Colorado or another destination with an apostrophe quagmire.
“This was something that doesn’t happen every day,” Wood said. “Barry called me and asked me if anyone in town would be interested in talking to him about Jimmy’s Peak, and I said ’Of course they would.’”
The article notes that Wood, 35, possesses a college degree in English, and it quotes her objecting to the apostrophe being deleted, as doing so obscures the difference in a reference between plural and possessive.
“Apostrophes are an important part of our language and I like to see them used,” Wood said Sunday.
Newman apparently discovered that Thurman was host to a source of literacy — the Adirondack Mountain Writers’ Retreat founded by local resident Perky Granger, and he quoted her defense of the apostrophe in his article, too.
The article also quotes Susan Jennings, a descendant of Thurman settler James Cameron — for whom “Jimmy’s Peak” has been named locally. More than two years ago, she lobbied to have the name officially established by the U.S. government.
Keep in mind, this naming issue surfaced in Thurman — where who’s heading up a town youth committee, or what hours the food pantry operates, can spark angry public debates laced with insults and accusations.
Jennings’ action, however benign it might appear, prompted Lillie Cameron, 82, to make a formal protest to the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Cameron contended that the wrong peak of the trio of hills referred to locally as “The Three Sisters” was being named Jimmys Peak, Newman reported.
The federal Committee on Names responded by voting to delete the name from its latest digital maps, Newman stated. The Committee is now considering Willard Mountain for the peak’s official name, he said.
Jennings said Sunday she wasn’t going to make a fight of it — she was merely seeking to have a local unnamed peak bear the locally-used name.
“I’m through with all this,” she said, noting she was frustrated at seeing her mountain naming effort thwarted, but she did have fun giving Newman a tour of Thurman while he was in town.
Newman said this week in a phone interview that he chose Thurman as the focus of his article because the Board on Geographic Names had cast an unusual split opinion, and it piqued his curiosity.
Sunday, Wood wasn’t focusing on the controversy — instead, she was pleased for the international exposure for her rural town, she said.
“The Journal article was light-hearted, and it introduced a lot of people to our town — people who otherwise might never hear of Thurman. “It was really cool.”