- Written by Gerry Gamel, Editor
- Published Jun. 24, 2016
The Future of Mason County Population
Thanks to a recent conversation, I started wondering about the population of Mason County over the years since its founding. I knew we've had more people in the past; but, I was unsure of how many, and just what happened to them.
Here are some of the interesting numbers I found at population.us that tell our story.
1860 - 630
1870 - 678
1880 - 2,655
1890 - 5,180
1900 - 5,573
1910 - 5,683
1920 - 4,824
1930 - 5,511
1940 - 5,378
1950 - 4,945
1960 - 3,780
1970 - 3,356
1980 - 3,683
1990 - 3,423
2000 - 3,735
2005 - 3,813
2010 - 4,012
2014 - 4,013
The two biggest jumps in Mason County population were in the decade between 1870 and 1880, and the following decade of 1880 and 1890. That's easy to explain, as settlement was being encourage, the frontier was being tamed, and land prices in the far flung reaches of Texas (which is what we were considered) were relatively inexpensive. Additionally, all those farms and ranches needed lots of labor to run their operations, so there were lots of support jobs available for folks who couldn't afford to buy their own land.
The population increase continued all the way up to 1910 when we hit our highest numbers. And then, a drop. The easiest answer to the drop would be follks who left to serve in World War I and didn't come back to Mason after fighting ended.
And then, an increase once more before dropping off considerably between 1940 and 1960. Consider that many who served in World War II, like in the earlier conflict, decided to enter the job force in cities rather than returning to Mason County. Add to that the severe drought ravaging Texas during the same period, and the exodus of folks to other areas makes perfect sense.
Since 1960, the poulation has stayed between 3,300 and 4,000 people. We actually have more folks living in the county today than during the 60s and 70s. Yet, many people remember that period as more prosperous, more active, more bustling than what we have today.
There were multiple grocery stores, barber shops, a hotel, jewelry stores, dress shops... the list goes on and on. Of course, since this period coincides with my own memories, I can recall that most families didn't have more than one or two cars, and at least one of those was usually reserved for the farm/ranch.
I also remember that going out of town, even to Fredericksburg, was an isolated event, not a weekly trip. My own family was over at Brady quite often; but, that was because my grandparents lived there, and we were half way between Mason and Brady. Trips to San Angelo or Brownwood were special occasions reserved for big purchases or big events.
And then, we all started driving. Gas was cheap ($0.23 per gallon) and it became commonplace to head to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas or Houston. During the same time, new sources of financial aid became available to potential college students. People who might have spent their lives in the county got college degrees and jobs in other cities and other states.
People shopped elsewhere. They lived elsewhere. They came home to visit, and sometimes they even returned to retire; but, Mason was not the place they raised their families. Until just after 2000. With the 911 attacks in 2001, people began seeking safe and secure places to raise their children. Increasing access to technology, and the ability to actually make a decent living in Mason, began bringing folks "back home," some for the very first time.
We're up by almost 300 folks since 2000, and it appears that we're either holding steady or continuing a slow increase. The place we call home has changed multiple times since our founding. The reasons for living here, and the reasons for either staying or leaving, keep changing. But, we're here now, and it's up to us how we move forward.
Let's see if we can be the large community we were in 1910, and this time, find a way to safely, securely and comfortably maintain or grow those numbers. We've been there before, so we know we can do it again.
It’s all just my opinion.