Population of McEwensville, Watsontown, and Milton, 1910 – 2010, with Links to US Census Data

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, November 30, 1912:  Ruth and I washed this morning. Went to Watsontown this afternoon.

Click on graph to enlarge.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like a nice way for Grandma to spend a Saturday—doing a little work in the morning with her sister Ruth, and then rewarding herself by going to town in the afternoon. Maybe Grandma started her Christmas shopping.

There are three towns regularly mentioned in this diary—all small in the big scheme of things, but within Grandma’s world there was a small town (McEwensville), a medium-sized town (Watsontown), and a large town (Milton).

Today none of the three would be much of a shopping destination—but  a hundred years ago transportation was so much more difficult and each had stores.

McEwensville was the small town, but the one Grandma went to the most frequently . It also was where she attended school.  McEwensville was about 1 1/2 miles east of the Muffly farm. It had a general store, a pharmacy, a restaurant, and a few other businesses.

McEwensville

Watsontown was the medium sized town and where Grandma went a hundred years ago today. It was also about 1 1/2 miles from the Muffly farm, but in the opposite direction from McEwensville. Grandma often walked to Watsontown. It was to the west and is located along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. It had a small downtown with a full range of stores where clothes, housewares, etc. could be purchased.

Watsontown

Milton was considered the “big city” in Grandma’s day—even though the population was only about 7,500 people. At the time, it was a considered a glamorous shopping destination with glittery department stores, women’s clothing shops, shoe stores, and restaurants.   It was about 5 miles from the Muffly farm. Grandma would have either ridden in a buggy to get there—or she could have walked into Watsontown and then taken the trolley from Watsontown to Milton.

Milton

Since all three towns seem very sleepy today, I decided to see it they’d lost a lot of population across the years (see graph above). I was surprised to discover that the population had changed less than I expected between 1910 and 2010. Milton and Watsontown have lost a lot of factories since the 1970s—and many people moved away. It’s nice to see that the population trends have turned and that the population is increasing.

Links to Census Data Sets

I used data from US censuses to make the tables. There is an awesome amount of census data available for every town in the US. Here are the links to the Census population data for each of the years.

1910 census

1930 census

1950 census

1970 census

1990 census

2010 census

10 Responses

  1. I enjoyed getting some perspective on the towns your grandmother mentions in her diary. The graph tells an interesting story about Milton. I wonder what’s in store for it in 2020….

    • I hope that the recent trends continue. The late last few decades of the 20th century were difficult for these towns–but it seems things are getting much better.

  2. A most interesting post Sheryl. Thanks for all the info… great research! Have to confess that initially I thought Miss Muffly meant that she and Ruth washed/ bathed their bodies. What an odd thing to put in a post, I was thinking … thanks for setting me straight :-D

  3. Interesting to compare the cities from 1912 to today. Most people today seem to enjoy living away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities in the area and don’t mind a commute so it is nice to see the towns coming back to life. After visiting McEwensville, it is hard for me to picture all of those businesses.

    • When I was a child there was still a general store in McEwensville. There also was a candy store in McEwensville when I was a child. That makes no sense to me now, but I remember it as being a place that sold soda pop and candy, and that teen-agers hung out there.

      • that is interesting. When we moved here over 20 yrs ago there was a “general store” in our neighborhood that sold penny candy and the kids hung out there. It was a cute little store. Where there are kids there will be candy! :)

  4. Wow, that really is a great graph, you can tell not to much change at all. I’m kind of surprised too. How great that they had three choices. They only town that was near where my dad grew up has really died. There’s hardly anything there…sad.

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