By Toni C. Collins
Levy County Historian
The Federal government has conducted a census or account of its population every year since 1790. In that year the census takers, who were U.S. Marshals on horseback, counted 3.9 million inhabitants.
Why did the government undertake such a huge project? As America expanded, the nation’s interests grew more complex and the government needed to plan for that new growth.
The Territory of Florida was interested in the number of people who lived within its borders because a minimum population was required for statehood. The first federal census of the Territory of Florida was taken in 1830. The total population of the territory was 34,730 or 0.6 inhabitants per square mile. By 1840, the population of the 20 counties formed to date had grown to 54,477.
In 1845, the minimum population requirements must have been met as Florida was admitted to the Union on March 3 and Levy County was formed one week later on March 10.
Although Levy County has experienced moderate increases and decreases in population over the years, since the first official Federal census was conducted in Florida in 1850, the number of inhabitants in Levy County has totaled:
1850 - 465; 1860 - 1,781; 1870 - 2,018; 1880 - 5,767; 1890 - 6,586; 1900 - 8,603; 1910 - 10,361; 1920 - 9,921; 1930 - 12,456; 1940 - 12,550; 1950 - 10,637; 1960 - 10,364; 1970 - 12,756; 1980 - 19,870; 1990 - 25,923; 2000 - 34,450.
For local governments, the U.S. Census that takes place every 10 years is as much about counting money as about counting people. The Federal government uses census figures as the basis for handing out billions in aid. The figures also are used in drawing congressional district lines. In 2010, the 23rd decennial census of the United States was conducted throughout the country.
On April 2, 2012, the information gathered when the 1940 Federal Census was conducted on April 1, 1940, will be released to the public. Because of confidentiality concerns, access to personally identifiable information from census records is restricted for 72 years.