County Oddities


Let's start with a trivia question.


Did you know that only forty-six of our fifty states are divided into counties with county governments?


South Dakota has sixty-six counties but only sixty-four county seats. Two counties (which are Indian reservations) are "unorganized" and borrow the county seats of neighboring counties!

unorganized county neighborly county county seat
Shannon Fall River Hot Springs
Todd Tripp Winner


In contrast, the U.S. has counties that have two county seats!

state countyseats
Alabama St. ClairAshvillePell City
Arkansas ClayCorningPiggott
LoganBoonevilleParis
MississippiBlythevilleOsceola
YellDanvilleDardanelle
Iowa LeeFort MadisonKeokuk
Kentucky CampbellAlexandriaNewport
KentonCovingtonIndependence
Massachusetts PlymouthBrocktonPlymouth
MississippiBolivarClevelandRosedale
HarrisonBiloxiGulfport
Missouri JacksonIndependenceKansas City
New Hampshire HillsboroughManchesterNashua
New York SenecaOvidWaterloo


You know that the capital of the United States is not in any state, but in an indepedent area, right? The District of Columbia is sandwiched between Maryland and Virginia.

Well, the capital of Nevada is not in any county! Carson City is surrounded by Washoe, Storey, Lyon, and Douglas counties.

Both Baltimore, Maryland and St. Louis, Missouri lie outside of all counties as well.

Virginia has forty-one such "independent" cities (in addition to its ninety-five counties):
Alexandria Bedford Bristol Buena Vista Charlottesville
Chesapeake Clifton Forge Colonial Heights Covington
Danville Emporia Fairfax Falls Church Franklin
Fredericksburg Galax Hampton Harrisonburg
Hopewell Lexington Lynchburg Manassas Manassas Park
Martinsville Newport News Norfolk Norton
Petersburg Poquoson Portsmouth Radford Richmond
Roanoke Salem South Boston Staunton
Suffolk Virginia Beach Waynesboro Williamsburg Winchester

Now, just to confuse you, Virginia's independent city named Roanoke is right next door to (but not in) Roanoke county, while the independent city named Richmond and the county named Richmond do not touch.

Not confused yet? Okay, two of Virginia's counties are named "James City" and "Charles City".


Not to be confused with an independent city is a consolidated city-county. This is where a municipal government has merged with a county government.

In some cases, the city includes the entire county:

citycountystate
AnacondaDeer Lodge*Montana
BroomfieldBroomfieldColorado
ColumbusMuscogeeGeorgia
DenverDenverColorado
LexingtonFayetteKentucky
LynchburgMooreTennessee
NantucketNantucketMassachusetts
PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
San FranciscoSan FranciscoCalifornia
*This is not to be confused with the city of Deer Lodge, Montana, in Powell County.

In other cases, the city includes all of the county that is not in separate municipalities:

citycountystate
AthensClarkeGeorgia
AugustaRichmondGeorgia
ButteSilver BowMontana
IndianapolisMarionIndiana
JacksonvilleDuvalFlorida
Kansas CityWyandotteKansas
LouisvilleJeffersonKentucky
NashvilleDavidsonTennessee


The county I grew up in has nine incorporated municipalities in it. Can you name a single municipality that covers five counties? It is the subject of a Lien À Trois. There is more information HERE.


Florida's 54,000 square miles are divided into sixty-seven counties. Seems normal to me.

Its neighbor to the north, Georgia, is slightly larger in land area, with 58,000 square miles. However, it is divided into more than twice as many counties, one hundred fifty-nine, to be exact. These include Clarke county, covering only 110 square miles, and Echols county, which doesn't have any incorporated towns!


There are other U.S. counties with no incorporated municipalities:

Northumberland County, Virginia has no incorporated cities of its own, but Kilmarnock in Lancaster County spills over into it.

And then of course, there are the counties of Hawaii. . . .


The State Of Hawaii (Moku'aina O Hawai'i) is an unusual case. It is the opposite of Connecticut and Rhode Island in that there are county governments but no city governments. Some sources list four counties in Hawaii, but there are five. The fifth is a leper colony, Kalawao County, which has no county seat and is administered by the state department of health. But it is definitely not part of Maui County, at least according to Maui County.


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