That of 345 towns in Massachusetts, from 1845 to 1855, there was a decrease of population in 86 towns; that from 1855 to 1865 there was a loss in 166 towns; from 1865 to 1875 there was a loss in 142 towns, and the census of 1880 reports a loss in 143 towns.
It will be seen that the number of towns losing population varies at each census, but undoubtedly the same towns are reported as decreasing in numbers each decade. It should be stated that, in about one quarter of those towns, the loss was occasioned by a division of the town or annexing a part of it to some other place. It should also be stated that the removals from the country districts to villages and cities do not account for all these losses of population; emigration to the West, and to other distant places, does a part of the work, and so also does death.
There is another item in the account: the birth-rate has so much declined in rural districts, that scarcely any addition, if any, comes from natural increase. But, as the death-rate in many places exceeded the birth-rate, the thinning out of the people is not confined to Massachusetts.
In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the hill towns and many of the agricultural districts are losing more or less population—not alone by death or emigration of young people, but by the removal of whole families to more populous places. In Rhode Island and Connecticut there is not the same extent of territory, and population is more equally distributed; but still the census of Connecticut reports a decrease of population in some sixty towns in the western part of the State. Statistics show that this removal of people from the country to the city has been increasing every year; and when it will cease, or what is to be the result, time only can tell.
Agriculture as related to other Pursuits.—Connected with this decrease of population in country districts, there is one very important consideration, that it involves a change of occupation. Farming is given up for work in the store, the shop, and the mill. Within half a century the business of New England has passed through great changes.
By the censuses of 1860, 1870, and 1880, we find, instead of an increased number engaged in agriculture with the increase of population, that the number has been actually diminishing. The census divides all kinds of business or occupation into four classes: 1. Agriculture; 2. Professional and personal service; 3. Trades and transportation; and, 4. Manufactures and mechanics. An examination of the tables representing these four classes in the reports of 1870 and 1880 shows that the last three classes have increased relatively far more than the first class.
The number engaged in agriculture has fallen off in every State. Vermont and Massachusetts stand in respect to agriculture at extreme points; the former has more people engaged in farming than in all