Monday, June 17, 2013

The World of the Saga: Stirling, PA

Stirling, Pennsylvania. No, don't bother to try to find it with your favourite "Map" tool. Since I realized that when I set out to alter history (and create some new history) I might as well do the same with geography, and so I did. I am not a very good artist or draftsman, but eventually I will get a map done so you can see where things are, and then you will realize just how much of the Saga's Mid-Atlantic region is different from that of the "real" world. Though I left the Atlantic, and Philadelphia, and New York, and Wildwood NJ and Baltimore and Washington, D.C., most everything else is different, including rivers. But enough about the general background.

Stirling is in the Appalachians, maybe two hour drive west of New York City, and a two hour drive north from North Belloc, the sister-city of Harley; those two are about an hour west-and-north of Philadelphia. (If you need to have locations, you can think "Scranton" for Stirling, and "West Chester" for Harley/North Belloc, but there is NOTHING to compare as far as town layout or character.)

Stirling is on the eastern side of a mountain, above the Fitch River, which is there flowing south. The famous old Chandler Railroad comes into town, then crosses the valley and the river on the splendid Fisher Viaduct, a curving bridge of stone. (In many ways this resembles the Barentin Viaduct.) The railroad sends off a spur to Zincton on the hill opposite, then goes through a tunnel and curves northward again.

The town is well-known as the site of Howell College, founded in 1866 by Joseph Chandler. Its "Old Main" (properly called "Chandler Hall") is a large four-story building with attached chapel and a soaring tower which is readily spotted from almost anywhere in the valley. It offers a comprehensive collection of liberal arts degrees as well as most of the theoretical sciences (geology, chemistry, and astronomy are very popular here); one can obtain a degree in Engineering in association with either Franklin University (in Tallistown, not quite an hour west) or Collins University (two hours south), which also provides for pre-med and nursing.

The town is a typical small town of eastern Pennsylvania, formerly dominated by mining and metallurgical industries. Its main streets run north-and-south along the mountain; most businesses and town offices are along Main Street. Of particular note is Adirondack's Department Store, a chain in this part of the country. St. John's is the oldest Protestant church in town, and St. Ann's the single Catholic church. Though old, the Stirling Hospital is a modern facility serving the area.

There is a park below the town, along the banks of the Fitch. The hills around are the mixed "old-forest" pines and hardwoods of eastern Pennsylvania; a few tailings and other remnants of defunct mining works are visible, though a recent upswing in development has begun removal of the most objectionable tailings for reprocessing. Zinc and other metals are found in the area, and there had also been a coal mine, since closed.

Despite the dominance of mining, the soil is remarkably fertile in the area, and there are many farms lining the Fitch valley and its lesser tributaries. Howell College is the principal employer along with the Hospital. There are a variety of small businesses and trades, and small industries still served by the Chandler rail line; the town is on Route 100 and is not far north of the main east-west Interstate.

At one time the population had been significantly of Eastern European heritage, but there has been a steady mixing ever since World War II. There are two sub-populations which may be noted:
First, there is a sizeable Mexican/Spanish population living south of the downtown area, some of whom have been in the country for a long time, but preserving their dignity and cultural heritage; celebrating the MaƱanitas at St. Ann's with a large parade through the town.
Also, the town is also the traditional home ground for the Allegan tribe, most of whom now live in small homes (sometimes considered mini-farms) just outside of the town limits. Most of the tribe has been Catholic for generations. The present Chief of the tribe is Michael Blackwing.

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