Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/646

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sections of the country. In the decades immediately succeeding 1820 the New York canal system gave many portions of the State advantages not possessed in equal degree, if at all, by any other equally productive and extensive section of the then settled area of the land. The development of the railroad system of the country has made the canals of far less relative importance to-day than they were sixty years ago. The lessened value of its exceptional transportation facilities and its consequent nearness to the ocean and the world beyond, might be thought to explain the decrease of population of rural New York, were it not that regions which never enjoyed those facilities, which are a thousand miles from the Eastern seaboard, and which were not thoroughly settled until after the railroad system had reached a considerable stage of development, show a similar decrease. The nine southeastern counties of Minnesota cover an area of 5,682 square miles—that is, they are together about one sixth larger than Connecticut. Only forty years ago they were an unsettled wilderness, and yet every one of the nine has fewer rural inhabitants than it had ten years ago. Outside of the cities and towns these counties had, in 1880, 149,622 inhabitants, and in 1890 but 138,259, a decrease of 11,363, or at the rate of 7·60 per cent, a ratio of decrease but slightly less than in rural New York. This decrease becomes doubly significant in the light of the fact that a similar loss has taken place over a very wide area of which this corner of Minnesota forms only the northwestern extremity. From the time a traveler down the Mississippi leaves St. Paul until he reaches a point more than fifty miles south of St. Louis, or during the journey between places which are over five hundred miles from each other in an air line, and very much farther following the bends of the river, there will only be once, and that while traveling less than twenty miles, when either on one bank of the river or the other, and usually on both, he will not be passing counties which had less rural population according to the eleventh census than were credited to them by the tenth. The distance back from the river to which this area of decrease extends ranges at different points all the way from twenty miles or less to more than two hundred. If the counties which had less rural population in 1890 than in 1880 be distinctly colored upon a map, it will appear that the Mississippi, from the thirty-eighth to the forty-fifth parallel, is the center of a very large tract composed entirely of such counties. This tract, while very irregular in outline, is composed entirely of contiguous counties, as the word contiguous at all events is practically construed by the modern disciples of Elbridge Gerry. It extends over portions of the five States of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It has an area of 81,020 square miles, or nearly a third more than that of all the New Eng-