The Figures of Population.
The figures for the population of Franklin county as announced last week, give
opportunity for speculation as to causes of increase and decrease. Greenfield's
increase is a very material one. Montague's figures are disappointing, and Orange
shows a considerable growth.
For an analysis of the figures, the towns might be divided into four classes.
The results to be obtained from any such classification are, of course, only
roughly true, because any classification is at best defective. Greenfield, for
instance, classed as a manufacturing town, is not only that but it is a residence
town, and has large farming interests, too. Still some results of value can
perhaps be reached.
The growth is almost entirely in large towns having the largest manufacturing
industries, Greenfield, Montague and Orange. To this class it might perhaps
be best to add Deerfield, on account of the confusion caused by the annexation
of Cheapside, and then Deerfield as shown by the census of 1895 stands fifth
in the county in the number of men employed in manufacturing industries. These
four towns had a population of 19,026 in 1890, 20,655 in 1895, and 21,566 in
1900. The growth of this part of the county is the only one that approaches
to the general rate of increase in the State which is 25 per cent., while these
four towns have grown 13 per cent.
For the second class might be taken the six towns which according to the census
of 1895 have the next largest number of men engaged in manufacturing industries,
and which are to be classed as largely agricultural, but depending considerably
on manufacturing. These are Buckland, Conway, Colrain, Gill, Shelburne, and
Erving. This group rather singularly shows a small falling off in population.
The figures for the group 1890, 8177; 1895, 8068; 1900, 8146. The figures for
1895 represent the low water mark, due no doubt to manufacturing depression.
This loss has now been nearly made up. It is hard to say whether this failure
to make any gain is due to the agricultural or the manufacturing part of these
towns. As the industries of these towns probably are of smaller size than those
of the first group it might possible by argued to show that towns with large
industries are prospering better than the smaller ones, but there is some question
whether this inference is warranted in this case.
The next group of towns may be considered to be those distinctively agricultural,
but having some special advantage. These are Northfield, Ashfield, Sunderland,
Whately, Bernardston and Charlemont. Northfield has the Moody schools, Ashfield
has a considerable influx of summers visitors, and the others are all on main
lines of railway. This is the only group but the distinctively manufacturing
class to show increase. The population was in 1890, 6078, in 1895, 6146, and
in 1900, 6347. That would seem to indicate that there will be a growth for farming
towns that have railroad facilities.
The fourth group of towns are the distinctively hill towns. These are Hawley,
Heath, Leverett, Leyden, New Salem, Rowe, Shutesbury, Monroe, Wendell and Warwick.
A few of these gain, but as a class they have lost slightly. Their population
was in 1890, 5829, in 1895, 5288, in 1900, 5147, showing a regular falling off
of about 90 for every five years. This is regrettable, but it by no means proves
that these towns are on the whole falling behind, because various influences,
like the greater spread of books and newspapers, the library movement, systematic
superintendence of schools, and the like, are steadily improving them. When
their loss in population is considered in comparison with the gain in the state
at large of 25 per cent, there is a call for the earnest study of existing conditions,
in the hope that something can be done to draw population back. Such an investigation
of economic, social, and religious conditions as that begun by a group of clergymen
that recently met at Northfield, as described in last week's Gazette and Courier,
cannot fail to be of great value in the study of this problem.