Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
RISE AND FALL OF VILLAGE POPULATION
The rise and fall of population in the villages of Van Buren County had more to do with the coming and going of the railroad and railroad activity than any other factor during the county’s history.
From the beginning of the Civil War until after the floods of 1903 and 1905, Van Buren County held a somewhat steady population of around 17,000. (1860, 17081; 1870, 17672; 1880, 17043; 1900, 17354; 1905, 16565; 1910 15020) During the same period of time, villages along the railroads doubled and tripled in population, then began to fall back as railroad activity began to decline. Bentonsport was an exception to the rule as its population began to decline after river navigation ended in 1870.
In 1865 village populations were: Keosauqua 888; Farmington 673; Birmingham 575; Bentonsport 469.
In 1870 the village populations were: Keosauqua 869; Farmington 640; Birmingham 626; Bentonsport 432.
In 1880, census figures were: Keosauqua 883; Farmington 781; Birmingham 515; Bentonsport 305; Bonaparte 689; Milton 412.
In 1890, populations were: Keosauqua 831; Farmington 1002; Birmingham 545; Bentonsport 283; Bonaparte 762; Milton 643; Cantril 356.
The figures for 1900 are: Keosauqua 1117; Farmington 1332; Birmingham 622; Bentonsport 254; Bonaparte 898; Milton 849; Cantril 356.
In 1905, village populations were: Keosauqua 1144; Farmington 1342; Birmingham 551; Bentonsport 201; Bonaparte 968; Milton 1107; Cantril 416.
By 1910 a county-wide decline in population was evident. Posted populations were: Keosauqua 1009; Farmington 1165; Birmingham 572; Bentonsport 141; Bonaparte 597; Milton 913; Cantril 445.
Although the river had served to establish the villages that became population centers, commercial activity as a result of the railroad was the primary factor that allowed the villages to thrive. An attempt was made to establish about 90 villages, but only a handful became large enough to have several hundred residents. All of the larger villages were served by at least one railroad.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick