Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/651

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THE DECREASE OF RURAL POPULATION.

in the Central and Eastern States, there has of course been in the trans-Missouri States no decrease of rural population in the proper sense of the term.

East of the Missouri and north of the cotton States, nearly all the well-settled agricultural neighborhoods have fewer inhabitants than they had ten years ago. It is possible to travel from the Bay of Fundy to the southern bend of the Tennessee River, a distance of fifteen hundred miles, and not pass through a single county in which the rural population is not less than it was ten years ago; or go all the way from Boston to western Iowa, except for the space of about five miles, through counties with less rural population than they had in 1880.

The better adapted for farming a community east of the Missouri may be, the greater the apparent probability that it lost rural population during the last ten years. As a rule, in the older States it was only the mountain sections, and other regions containing mineral wealth or resources other than purely agricultural ones, which showed a gain of extra-urban population. Districts situated near great cities, and well adapted for early vegetables and fruits, have in some instances gained, but, as a rule, communities which depend upon farming as distinguished from trucking have fewer inhabitants than they had in 1880.

In that great section of country comprising New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virgina east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan south of the forty-third parallel, Illinois, Wisconsin south of the forty-fourth parallel, Iowa east of the ninety-fourth meridian, and the southeast corner of Minnesota, there are some 726 counties, and of these no less than 450 have lost population since the tenth census was taken. Each of the New England States, New York, Maryland, Ohio, and Illinois had fewer rural inhabitants than it had in 1880. Pennsylvania is the only one of the older Northern States to show any substantial increase of extra-urban population, the gain during the decade being at the rate of about 7ยท29 per cent. In this State the growth has doubtless been due to other causes than the increase of classes directly dependent upon agriculture.

The general tendency to a loss of rural population is manifest in regions which differ in the character of their soil as widely as does a rocky and sterile hill town in New England from a rich prairie county in Illinois or Iowa, and whose climatic conditions are as unlike as are those of the Mississippi in the latitude of St. Paul and of the James at Richmond, Virginia, or as those of Vermont and Alabama. In some of the districts in which the loss is marked, hay and rye are the staple crops, in others wheat, in others maize, and in others tobacco. In the decreasing dis-