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Playing by the rules…and with them.


For those of us born and nurtured in the Midwest, the Jeffersonian Grid is so ubiquitous that it has become our default. Whether deep in the heart of Des Moines or out among the aerial irrigation systems of western Nebraska, the long reach of Rene Descartes is everywhere. Oh, sure, there are variations, but they only prove the point. This is not a place to seek the tail wagging the dog.


I decided almost immediately that my Sullivanesque library circa 1914 would be in Iowa (northwest Iowa specifically and on land ceded to the U.S. government through a treaty with the Sac and Fox peoples) and that it would not be in an existing community. (After all, I was on a Summer budget and had no time for travel.) But the Jeffersonian Grid combined with the westward extrension of railroads to simplify my immediate task: create a typical mid-19th century railroad town whose dates would conveniently fit the political circumstances of the time. Don’t ask where the name Agincourt came; I don’t know. It’s turned out to have been a serendipitous choice, however; one richly veined with enough imagery to create a dozen community histories. I have learned in sixty-five years to trust my intuition.

Within a day or two of that fateful CSI rerun, I had created Agincourt, Iowa; based it upon the familiar pattern of typical railroad towns, and tweeked it as planners of that era often did. I must confess, though, that Philadelphia has also been my hidden inspiration and that I owe William Penn and especially his Surveyor General Thomas Holmes an enormous debt.

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