Sandy Burleigh

1880 was a Census year at Baldwin, WI and everywhere else in the United States. This year, 2020, is another census year.  We already received and filled out our Census request.  You can expect yours if you've not already received it. 

In 1880, it was a bit different.  Census takers went to the homes and wrote down information. Some were likely good writers and others, not so precise and legible.  If one refers to early census lists, anywhere, it's sometimes hard to define whose name appeared. 

The census findings have been very useful for all of us over the years, even if we have not realized it.  I was very impressed with the census of 1900, as it helped me find much information on my husband's paternal grandparents who we had assumed were born and raised in Duluth MN.  Not so! 

I figured out how old his grandfather would have been in 1900 and upon looking up the 1900 MN census, I surprisingly found no such name.  Next, I looked at the National 1900 census, and found George's (future) grandfather, at that time, living as a teenager at Woonsocket, R.I. on Diamond Hill Road. I also found George's great-grandfather was living at that same address. 

Two years after finding that census, my husband and I made a trip to Rhode Island, and found at the address where his grandfather and great-grandfather had lived, a very large apartment complex. We also located his grandfather's marriage info. Upon looking at Rhode Island's next census, 1910, we found his grandparents no longer lived there. 

Once again, I went to the National Census, and found them living in South Dakota (this during the great Homesteading years).  His grandfather was a true cowboy there.  All this family trail, never known to George until several years ago, was opened up to us just because of the very useful national census listings.

Two of George's grandparents are buried out in S. Dakota.  The year after the Rhode Island trip, we traveled to his grandparents' South Dakota homestead acreage; all because of those U.S. Census listings. 

 A bit of history of the U.S. Census was written up in the June 18th, 1880 Independent newspaper at Baldwin. It stated the estimated population of the U.S. at the time of the upcoming 1880 census was expected to include about 45 million people.  The July l, 1880 Independent issue stated the St. Paul census was showing 46,000 people, with Mpls. coming in at 41,000. That rather surprised me.  (See my note at the end of this article for the actual account of total U.S. population.)  

Even more exciting, in the July 1, 1880 Independent, I found a little more in-depth history of the U.S. Census.  The first Federal Census had been taken in 1790, thereby making Baldwin's 1880 census the nation's 10th collected and recorded census. Our 2020 census today will go down in history as the 24th national census, so that first census of 1790 was taken 230 years ago.  It doesn't seem that many years though, does it, compared to the span of years between 1790 and today.   

 Also, in that 1880 Independent newspaper, printed out of the Baldwin office, it stated the 1880 census was showing citizens at Madison were numbering 10,342 and Milwaukee's count was 115,702. This puts in perspective how much larger Milwaukee was than Madison back 140 years ago: over ten times as large. The 2020 census figures showing the numbers of each of those two places will be interesting! 

 According to the 1880 article in the Baldwin paper, early census collections listed mainly the men of each household, whereas today, I believe all persons living in each household are listed. In the 1870 census, I'm sure portions of what eventually became Baldwin, WI were included on that census list, though not yet listed as Baldwin Village.

Their 1880 Baldwin census was likely the first official census taken as a Village, other than special local searches pinpointing citizen counts at the time of its 1871 settlement, and in 1874 at their Village Incorporation time.

  In that 1880 10th National Census, Baldwin Village reported having 591 citizens, while Woodville Village came in at 149. Wish I could see that 1880 census listing to find out if it included names of children and women, as well as the men.

One of the most interesting tidbits derived from the census news in those 1880 Independent lines was that one family in Georgia had been recorded on the census as having 13 children born, with only 6 different birth dates -- 5 sets of twins, and one set of triplets. 

Imagine that household in 1880 – just hanging on to their children to keep them all in one place long enough to count them. That many multiple births truly was “census noteworthy” in 1880 or anytime.  I guess it is not likely any family today would duplicate those few birthday dates with so many children.

 The “census enumerator” mentioned in that 1880 article was the person listing/counting individuals in a certain area in a designated period. I felt privileged to learn of so many census procedures through old Baldwin papers.

Just recently, my husband and I filled out, on-line, the census report for 2020 rather than on paper.  Depending on how well we, and each individual typed it in, we will see if it is easier to later read compared to those 1880 faded “fountain ink-filled” census papers they worked with. 

Apparently our 2020 computer method is a “first” as well, so it, too, being written up in this Baldwin newspaper now, will one day seem “a story written a long time ago”.   My how times have changed from those vulnerable, wrinkled pieces of paper carried around by census takers riding horses from one home to another, and walking on foot through Baldwin's streets, raindrops and gusts of wind playfully causing those sheets to become wrinkled, blurry name-filled papers! 

Hope you remembered to file your census papers this year.  It's an important record for history, so watch your typed “p's and q's”. 

 In the Jan. 6, 1881 issue of THE INDEPENDENT, the following was reported by editor and proprietor, W.D. Acherman.  “The superintendent of census gives the approximate population of the states and territories at  50,152,555.  This is believed to come pretty close to the exact figures, at least it will not vary a great deal from it.  Not more than a couple of million perhaps.”

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