When Milam was a ‘metropolis’
Biggest census ever was 110 years ago with 40,000 counted
Census workers will begin door-to-door visits in Milam County next week as the once-every-10-years nose count shifts into high gear.
Where did 39,666 Milam County residents live in 1900? Everywhere. A drive down county roads will show relics of the past like this former home on County Road 205 south of Pettibone. Eighty-five percent of residents lived somewhere besides Rockdale or Cameron. Reporter/Mike Brown
While an increase from the 24,238 counted in 2000 is a probability, don’t look for anything resembling a record.
Many Milam residents don’t realize what a “metropolis” the county was at the turn of the 20th Century, when the census turned up almost 40,000 residents.
Where did the 39,666 persons who called Milam County home reside in 1900? Not in Rockdale (population 2,515) or Cameron (population 3,341).
Where did they live? Almost everywhere else. There were literally dozens of small, farming communities, virtually all with their own schools.
The San Gabriel school is still there, more than a half century after its last classes were held. There were still 33,120 Milam County residents in 1940. But that population dipped to 20,028 by 1970 before starting a rebound that is anticipated to continue in the current census.
Big Lump had a mine, Bushdale a lodge hall, Gay Hill a gin and blacksmith shop, Hicks, on the Lee-Milam line, boasted a railroad station and Pleasant Hill organized a literary society.
Forty years later Milam County’s population was still well over 30,000. Then the 1940s, a nd World Wa r II, changed everything. Between 1940 and 1950 Milam County lost almost one third of its population.
The population bottomed out at 20,028 in 1970 then began climbing.
And this year? It’s anyone’s guess but Milam County is well positioned between three fastgrowing metropolitan areas, Austin, Bryan-College Station and Killeen-Temple.
At left, historic Sharp Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1902, tower was added in 1912. Above, the patina of age shows on a barn off FM 486.