Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
IOWA TOWN/CITY POPULATION ESTIMATES 1857
For the first time, I have found some Iowa town and city population estimates for the year 1857, and they are quite interesting. Unfortunately, the newspaper does not reveal the source of these population figures of 150 years ago.
From the Burlington Weekly Hawkeye, July 15, 1857:
"We give below the estimated population of nearly 100 cities and towns in this state. Many have doubtless escaped us, (but) the list will give our residents a pretty good idea of the increase in population, and consequently the prosperity of Iowa."
Town or city (county) population
Davenport (Scott) 16,000
Burlington (Des Moines) 16,000
Dubuque (Dubuque) 16,000
Keokuk (Lee) 16,000
Muscatine (Muscatine) 10,000
Cedar Rapids (Linn) 8,000
Iowa City (Johnson) 8,000
Mt. Pleasant (Henry) 7,000
Montrose (Lee) 5,000
Fort Madison (Lee) 5,000
Council Bluffs (Pottawattamie) 4,000
Oskaloosa (Mahaska) 3,000
Marion (Linn) 3,000
Maquoketa (Jackson) 3,000
Des Moines (Polk) 3,000
Clinton (Clinton) 3,000
Ottumwa (Wapello) 2,000
Keosauqua (Van Buren) 2,000
Fairfield (Jefferson) 1,500
Farmington (Van Buren) 1,000
Waterloo (Black Hawk) 700
Washington (Washington) 500
Note: This is only about one-fifth of the list, but I have included the only two listed from Van Buren County, the largest towns in the state, and numerous towns in nearby counties for comparative purposes. Towns with populations as small as 500 made the list.
Since Bentonsport, Bonaparte and Birmingham were not included, we can observe that they were either missed in this survey, or (more likely) forward the conclusion that they were not large enough to make the list.
This is the only time I have ever found such a large official estimate for one of Van Buren's villages (Keosauqua at 2,000) but must immediately add that it is quite inaccurate, since the census of 1863 revealed a Keosauqua city population of only 849.
The estimate must have been for the surrounding area, probably for the township of Van Buren. In the official census reports, Van Buren Township had only 1,870 residents in 1856, but counted 2,244 in 1860. An estimated population of 2,000 in 1857 for all of Van Buren township can therefore be justified.
Similar mistakes were made on several occasions by the media concerning the population of other Van Buren villages, particularly Bonaparte and Bentonsport. We're getting used to finding these discrepancies.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick