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A tale of two Borings
- Marcus Hathcock
- Sandy Post - Features
Residents from Oregon and Maryland share kinship, town name
Let's face it, the town of Boring is a novelty to outsiders.
The unincorporated community of 8,500 is known for making top 10 lists for boroughs with the world's most peculiar names. Its dull, adjectival connotations bring tourists to take pictures beside road signs bearing Boring's name for a comical souvenir.
Citizens of the community - who call themselves 'Borigonians' - proudly embrace the uniqueness of Boring, announcing on signs at the town's entrances that they reside in 'the most exciting place to live.'
While Boring, Ore., is easily the most high-profile community bearing that unusual moniker, it isn't the only one out there. Two other U.S. towns have the same name, and another one comes close ('Boreing').
A chance meeting in a post office 2,800 miles away set the stage for a family reunion between two Borings.
In early May, Charles Focht's otherwise predictable and routine duties as assistant postmaster of Boring, Md., were interrupted by some out-of-town guests. Focht said a woman and her husband came into the post office and asked him if they could take his picture.
Such an odd request must have an interesting reason, Focht figured. After posing for the picture and chatting, Focht found out that reason.
'I thought she said they were moving to Boring, Ore.,' Focht said, 'but I didn't believe her that there was another town with a name like that.'
After work the day of the visit, Focht searched the Internet to see if his visitors were telling the truth and found confirmation that the western Boring does, in fact, exist. Focht - a resident of Baltimore - said he became intrigued that another town had the same unusual name as his place of work.
He began to find out as much as he could about the town. His Internet searches led him to the Boring Community Planning Organization Web site, where he found contact information for the CPO officers. Those officers forwarded Focht's initial e-mails to Boring (Ore.) resident Kathy Bakke.
Since May, Focht and Bakke have been Boring pen pals, talking about the differences in their towns, among many other topics.
'Right now it just seems to be me and Charles (corresponding),' Bakke said. 'But everybody here wants to know what's going on. He seems to be as proud of that name as we are of ours.'
The connection between the Borings led to a face-to-face encounter between Focht and two pairs of Borigonians.
In late June, Boring CPO Vice Chairman Steve Wiege attended a convention for independent electrical contractors in Maryland, but before coming home, he and his wife, Candi, made a special trip to Boring. They had to drive only two hours out of the way to get to the town.
Upon arrival in Boring, the Wieges met Focht, who had a banner waiting for them that read, 'Welcome to Boring, Maryland.' Focht had his customers sign the banner for the Wieges, one of whom mentioned she had purchased a horse in Boring, Ore.
'He was so happy to see us,' Candi recalled. 'As soon as we pulled in, we instantly knew who he was before we got out of the car. He got T-shirts for my husband and me and for Kathy (Bakke) from the Boring, Md., Fire Department. It was a lot of fun.'
Last month, another CPO board member, Jack Valberg, visited Boring, Md., with friend Jan Karlen - who was in the Washington, D.C., area for a family reunion.
'It was too cool,' Valberg said of his trip to the other Boring. 'It's definitely worth seeing. Everyone was really friendly and nice.'
After meeting Focht, both pairs explored their sister city, noticing differences and similarities to their own hometown.
'It's a really small town,' Candi said. 'It was less than we have - no barbershop or anything. There's not even a store, there, really.' She said the borough basically had just the post office, a church and a combination fire hall and nightly bingo parlor. 'We had to take a picture of anything named Boring we could find there.'
The two towns both have a railroad history - Maryland's Boring sees a train roll between the post office and fire hall three times a day. Although the Oregon Boring's train disappeared decades ago, that heritage will be a part of the town's new trailhead park, built on the site of a train station.
Both Borings also have agriculture as its primary industry. While Oregon's Boring grows trees and other flora in nurseries, Valberg noted that the Maryland counterpart - whose 500-person population is considerably less than Oregon's - is 'much more agricultural-oriented' than its sister city.
'Cornfields grow everywhere there,' he said. 'There are thousands of acres of corn.'
Other differences include the narrow streets, the age of the buildings and the fact that the eastern Boring doesn't have any traffic lights (Oregon's has two).
Plus, 'There's bingo every night,' Wiege said. 'And from what I've heard, it's quite cutthroat.'
Despite the common railroad history, the presence of a fire department and post office, and the presence of agriculture, the biggest similarity between the two towns is the source of their unusual name.
Boring, Ore., was named for William Harrison Boring, an early settler in the area who donated some of his land for the first schoolhouse in the area, which was built in 1883. Though the school changed its name and moved several times over the years, the locals still called it Boring. The name of the school became a regional name for the area, and other buildings - from the train station to the post office - adopted the designation.
Boring, Md., was known as Fairview until 1905, when the postal service forced the town to change its name because another community already claimed the moniker. According to the Boring Volunteer Fire Company, 'The people of the town decided upon the name Boring to honor their first postmaster, Mr. David (Jeremiah) Boring.'
The Boring family's connection to the Baltimore County area began in the 1600s, when John Boring left England to start a family in America. Four generations of Borings lived in Baltimore County, including William Boring's grandfather, John Dorsey Boring Sr., according to census records. Some of the family then went to Tennessee (yes, there's a Boring, Tenn., as well) and on to Illinois and Oregon.
William Boring's grandfather had 17 siblings and his great-grandfather had 19 siblings, but no record of David J. Boring was found in census records. The best connection between William and David Boring, besides the fact that William's ancestors lived in the area, is the Wheeler connection.
Martha Wheeler was William Boring's great-great-grandmother, and Catherine Wheeler was David Boring's mother. The families were, apparently, close. Just outside Boring, Pleasant Grove Methodist Church sits on land that was donated by a John Wheeler in the 1850s.
Although the Borings whose names appear on signs in Maryland and Oregon may have been distant cousins, the family has been brought closer together in the modern age thanks to technology.
'I've had a great time meeting these new people and the friendship,' Focht said. 'You can tell they're good people. It's been great.'
Bakke agreed. 'It's fun just reaching out and knowing there's another Boring out there. They seem to be as proud of that name as we are of ours.'
The Boring family's Maryland-Oregon connection
John Boring: Born c. 1647 in England; settled in Baltimore, Md.
Thomas Boring: Born 1687 in Baltimore, Md.
James Boring: Born 1714 in Northumberland County, Va. (married to Martha Wheeler).
William Boring: Born c. 1737 in Baltimore County, Md.
John Dorsey Boring Sr.: Born c. 1763 in Baltimore County, Md.
John Dorsey Boring Jr.: Born c. 1791 in Washington, Tenn.
William Harrison Boring (founder of Boring, Ore.): Born 1841 in Greenfield, Ill.
Boring, Md., stats
Population: About 500.
Driving distance from Boring, Ore.: 2,858 miles.
Area attractions: Bingo parlor, train three times a day, Methodist church, post office.
Big events: There's just one - the Boring Gas Engine Show and Flea Market the second weekend of June. Many old tractors as well as old gas and steam engines are put on display and demonstration. The show also features antique tractor pulls, with classes from 2,500 to 10,000 pounds, and a garden tractor pull.
Nearest major city: Baltimore, 29 miles.
Largest employers: Farming/agriculture.
Other interesting info:
- Boring was named for its first postmaster, David J. Boring, and was previously named Fairview.
- The town once boasted 46 stores, including several blacksmith shops, general stores and saloons.
- The Postal Service has tried to close the Boring Post Office on several occasions, but public outcry against closure has kept it open.
- All-ages bingo at the fire hall takes place seven nights a week.