Have you filled out your census form yet? Fill out your form by the end of April or you may receive a knock on the door from a census employee. As we have discovered in the past two installments of Lockport Lore, the census determines congressional representation, federal funding and a wide variety of decision-making in communities.
The Town of Lockport formed in 1824; let’s look into how the town evolved from 1825 to 1855. During this 30-year span, the population more than quadrupled from about 3,000 people to more than 13,000.
In 1825, with a population of 3,007, there were: five sawmills, three asheries, two fulling mills, and an ironworks.
During the town’s early years, the number of asheries (factories that turned hardwoods into potash and lye) and sawmills indicate residents were busy clearing forests and erecting buildings. Other early industries were fulling mills (which made wool into cloth) and iron works (which smelted iron and steel.)
In 1835, with a population of 6,092, there were: 10 sawmills, one ashery, one fulling mill, two ironworks, as well as four grist mills, two tanneries, a cotton factory, two distilleries and a brewery. After 11 years of townhood, the industries grew to include grist mills (to ground grain into flour) and tanneries (to process animal hides into leather.) Other new businesses included a brewery and distilleries. Residents were beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
In 1845, with a population grown to 9,314, there were: 12 sawmills, five grist mills, three tanneries, three fulling mills, two asheries, an ironworks, a cotton factory, two distilleries, a brewery, a wool factory and a glass manufactory. Lockportians were producing most of the resources they needed to survive.
In 1855, with a population of 13,386, there were: nine sawmills, four grist mills, two tanneries, an ashery, a cotton factory, a distillery, a brewery, a wool factory, a glass manufactory — and a profusion of new, specialized businesses. These included: 10 boot and shoe shops, six coach and wagon manufactories, six stone quarries, five blacksmith shops, five harness, saddle and trunk manufactories, five coopers' shops, four shingle factories, three machine shops, three stave manufactories, two brick factories, two lime manufactories, two cabinet making shops, two boat building shops, a plaster mill, a marble manufactory, a broom manufactory, a gunsmith shop, a hat and cap manufactory, a tobacco and cigar manufactory, a tin and sheet iron manufactory, a drug and medicine manufactory, a gas manufactory, a sash and blind manufactory, and an axe anbd edge tool manufactory. Lockport’s industries became more sophisticated and precise. There was even a Morocco factory which produced fine leathers, often for upscale footwear. Lockport housed seven of the eight tailor shops in Niagara County. In the state, there were 24 dental clinics, and three of those clinics were located in Lockport.
What were the most popular jobs in Niagara County in 1865? There were 5,885 farmers, 2,014 laborers, 767 servants, 391 carpenters, 283 clerks and accountants and 214 blacksmiths. Some of the least popular jobs were editor, furrier, musical instrument maker, saw maker, whip maker and nurse. Based on the census, there was only one nurse in all of the county. This is a far cry from today. A 2017 government survey estimates there are almost 6,000 employees in healthcare and social work fields in Lockport.
Farming has also changed a lot. While it was the most popular career for much of the 19th century, in the 21st century, it is one of the least popular. A census survey estimates there are 275 individuals working in the agriculture and forestry fields within the 14094 zip code.
If you want to uncover more “censational” facts, the New York State Library has many of the early censuses online here: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandocs/nyscensus.htm .
The questions on this year’s census are much simpler than in 1865. You just need to list who is living in your home; whether the home is owned or rented; age, sex, and race of each person in the home; and their relationship to you. Easy! In 72 years, your answers will become part of the historical record used to trace family and local histories — and for the next 10 years this data will affect our community’s funding and state’s representation.
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EPILOGUE: As of April 15, 2020, Niagara County is currently ranked second in census response rates in all of New York state. The towns of Cambria and Lockport are leading the way. More than 60% of you have completed the census. Keep it up! You can complete the census online here: https://2020census.gov/ or by phone at 844-330-2020.
Jean Linn is Lockport's town historian, as well as archivist and librarian at Niagara County Community College. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 716-438-2159.