Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Vincent Over the Years: Demographics

St. Vincent 1900 Census - William Ash, Enumerator
[Click to enlarge]

Census Population Counts:

1880 - 489
1890 - 507
1900 - 256
1910 - 328
1920 - 343
1930 - 304
1940 - 327
1950 - 272
1960 - 217
1970 - 177
1980 - 141
1990 - 116



I don't remember where I ran across the census figures for St. Vincent through the years, but since then I have often wondered why the dramatic decrease in population from 1890 to 1900, compared to other fluctuations up or down?  It definitely wasn't because of crop failures; according to this source record from the time, things were going well in that department:
Having heard that crops were poor outside the Red River valley and that many would leave as soon as threshing was over, 1 walked and drove through Pembina, Walsh, Cavalier and Towner counties, North Dakota, and Kittson county, Minnesota, but found that generally the farmers in that vicinity were not suffering, and that their yield was so much better for 1890 than in preceding years that most of them would remain. - From Sessional Papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Vol. 4.
After that, there are changes both up and down fairly steady for a half century, then when 1960 hits, the steady decline began.

According to Rural Depopulation, the region in which St. Vincent is located - the Great Plains - has been experiencing depopulation "...more prevalent and more severe" than in any other region in the United States. In fact, the Great Plains is "...home to 304 of the country's 662 depopulating rural counties."  On top of that, "...populations in rural counties in the Great Plains are significantly smaller than populations in...other depopulating regions, and the population density (people per square mile) is substantially less."  That last statistic is the most disheartening, because low population makes viability of more and more small communities impossible.

Whatever the cause, the Great Plains of which we are a part, has been at a crossroads for a long time.  People living here recognized this, and have been working hard to find new ways to keep their communities alive and healthy.   Are we headed towards becoming the American Outback?  Only time will tell...