Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Population Changes

Placentia's shrinking population is a depressing topic, but I just spent an hour with my nose in the 1935 census, and it's interesting to see Placentia suffered a similar population drop in that historical period of economic woe. In short, we've been through this before.

First of all, the Placentia St. Mary's district currently has a population of 11,115. This is obviously down quite a bit from the 70's and 80's, but look at what happened to the District's population in the early part of the 20th century:

1911: 16,099
1921: 8,504
1935: 8,454

It almost dropped by half. Boggling to consider, isn't it? It's also strange to think that more people lived here in 1911 than in 2007.

Similarly, the Town of Placentia's population declined significantly in the first part of the 20th century.

In 1901, its population was listed as 1,509, and it was the 8th largest town in the (then) Dominion of Newfoundland. By 1935, it was 1,140, and was down to 21st largest.

I got curious as to what they considered "Town of Placentia" to be in 1935 (as you still hear echoes of the amalgamation debates, almost 20 years old now). In the community profiles, they break the communities down as follows:

1935 Populations (in order)

Argentia: 477
Placentia: 469
Marquise: 283
Dunville: 261
Southeast: 216
Jerseyside: 161
Freshwater: 33

So, adding that up, what we consider as the modern Town of Placentia actually had 1,900 people in 1935, good enough for 12th largest town in Newfoundland (provided other places like Twillingate and Carbonear still have their 1935 boundaries today).

The communities they must have added together to get the 1935 population of 1,140 are: Placentia, Southeast, Jerseyside, Dunville, and Freshwater. So, in 1935, neither Argentia nor Marquise (nor Point Verde) was considered part of the town, but Dunville was.

So what about now? Well, the numbers on the other side of the century tell as sad a tale.

1991: 5,515
1996: 5,013
2001: 4,426
2006: 3,898

But we can take solace in the fact that our area has been through a cycle like this before. Hopefully the population will stabilize and begin to grow in the years to come, if promised industrial developments come through and the Province continues its economic upswing.

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