in 1960, the nation was getting ready for a presidential election – and 1960 was
also notable for another reason; the national census was to be conducted. But
prior to that, in Sept. of 1959, a syndicated writer named William H. Gardner
wrote a story, which appeared in the Lavaca County Tribune, about another census
that was held a hundred years prior to 1960. Gardner got his information from
the 1860 census report which he found in the State Library.|
I found it
interesting to see what Texas was like just prior
to the Civil War – in those days the state didn’t have the 254 counties that it
has today – back then there were only 151 and according the Gardner, some of them
were so sparsely populated that the census taker could find only 20 people in
Zavala County. But he also noted that back in those days you didn’t just walk
up to a Comanche brave, pull out a form and ask him how many members were in his
family. “He might consider it a personal question,” wrote Gardner, “in which case
the government likely would have to hire a new census taker.”
doing the census were able to find 403 Indians who stood still long enough to
be counted. Gardner speculated that those were probably drunk or had come to town
to do some shopping. The census of 1860 showed the population of Texas
to be 604,215. That number included 421,294 whites and 182,566 who were listed
as slaves. And 35 were identified as “free colored persons.”
to the census one out of four were actually born in Texas
– to be exact, that comes to 153,053. Tennessee was the birthplace of 42,265 Texans
(in 1860) and 34,193 of them were born in Alabama. Texans born in Georgia numbered
23,637. Those states made up the largest number, although there were others. The
largest group of foreign-born Texans came from Germany, Mexico, Ireland, and England
(in that order).
Gardner wrote that Harris County’s population of 1860
was a mere 9,070 – of that number 7,008 were white, 2,053 were slaves and nine
were “free colored citizens.” Males outnumbered females in Harris County by better
“Texans of a century ago  were a prolific lot,” he said.
“The state ranked fifth in birth rate. Oregon was first, and New Hampshire last.”
Gardner found that the director of the 1860 census admitted candidly that he didn’t
try to compute the birth rate in Utah, where the Mormons were allowed as many
wives as they thought they could handle.
The census showed that Texans
followed a wide variety of occupations in 1860, from actors (three) to well diggers
(77). The state had 1,290 blacksmiths, 89 barkeepers, 758 clergymen, five clockmakers,
178 coach makers, 13 button makers, 24 brewers, three broom makers, six dancing
masters, and two distillers.
Texas had a
predominantly rural society back then and farmers numbered 51,569 along with 6,537
being farm laborers – there were 2,576 stock raisers; 265 planters and 1,254 listed
as overseers. But there were also 904 lawyers, 29 professors, 33 speculators,
17 judges, 15 midwives, 1,471 physicians, 45 editors, 47 hunters, five surgeons,
four wild horse catchers, 13 woodcutters, two tea dealers, and 27 harness makers,
among many other occupations.
“The state had 1,571 teamsters,” wrote Gardner,
“and not a union organization in the lot.”
He said that some occupations
were strangely missing from the Texas census. Cited as one example was that not
one single undertaker was reported. And little Vermont, which followed Texas
in the bound reports, had 26 daguerreotypists, but none were shown for Texas.
Perhaps they were part of the 1,340 who fell into the category of “other occupations
Gardner said that the general remarks on the national census
as a whole disclosed that the average age of Americans in 1860 was a youthful
23-28 years. However many lived to a ripe old age.
“In the census year,
ending June 1, the deaths of 466 persons 100 years and older were reported,” he
said. “Of which 137 were whites, 39 were free colored and 290 were slaves.”
oldest of these were two slaves in Alabama, who died at the age of 130, and one
in Georgia who attained the phenomenal age of 137. A native Mexican in California
died at 120, and two white women – one in South Carolina and the other in Georgia
– reached 115 before time cut them down.
December 3, 2012 column
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