Last month I wrote about the 1860 census and broke down by number and percentage where Newton County residents at that time were born.

Last month I wrote about the 1860 census and broke down by number and percentage where Newton County residents at that time were born.
I know that may be boring reading fodder for some folks, but I enjoy statistics. Why 1860? It is my favorite census year because it shows the demographics of the local populace on the eve of the War Between the States.
In that last column I showed that 45.4 percent of all Newton County residents in 1860 were born in Missouri, yet those were mostly young people and children. A large majority of the rest - 20.5 percent - were born in Tennessee. The remaining results were as follows: 5.9 percent of Newton County residents in 1860 were born in Kentucky; 4.4 percent were born in North Carolina; 4.4 percent in Illinois; 3.8 percent in Indiana; 3.5 percent in Arkansas; 2.9 percent in Virginia; and 1.1 percent in Ohio. The remaining 8.1 percent are made up of all the other states combined, and a few countries, including England, Germany, and Ireland, among possible others.
When I wrote that column I said I would look into McDonald County next, and so I have. The McDonald County numbers aren't surprising, really. Forty-one percent of McDonald County residents in 1860 were born in Missouri, but like the Newton County results, when you look at the birth years, a majority of those are younger people, many of them just children. That said, and as I mentioned last time, many of those same young people later fought on one side or another in the coming bloody conflict.
Unsurprisingly, a full 27.1 percent of McDonald County residents in 1860 were born in Tennessee. This percentage is seven points higher than in Newton County. The rest of the results differ somewhat from Newton County as well.
For instance, 5.2 percent of McDonald Countians were born in Arkansas, compared to Newton County's 3.5 percent. Also, only 3.3 percent were born in Kentucky, as paired against Newton County's 5.9 percent. The two counties roughly swapped places when it came to Kentucky and Arkansas. I suppose since McDonald County borders Arkansas, this makes sense. I can also see where Kentuckians might find the rolling prairies of Newton County a little more like home, in contrast to much of rugged McDonald County, though McDonald County does have its share of prairies too, especially on the western edge and southwest corner.
Next up is North Carolina, with 3.9 percent of McDonald Countians in 1860 having been born there. Following that is Illinois with 3.1 percent; Indiana with 2.9 percent; Virginia with 2.2 percent; Georgia with 1.6 percent (in Newton County, Georgia didn't top one percent); Ohio with 1.3 percent; and Alabama with 1.1 percent. The remaining 7.3 percent is made up of all the other states combined, with each of those under one percent by themselves. Also, the percentage of foreign born residents wasn't as high in McDonald County as in Newton County, either, with England topping that list at six people (.15 percent).
I might add that there were 3,975 people living in McDonald County in 1860, compared to 8,895 in Newton County. As of the last census in 2010, those numbers are now 23,083 and 58,114, respectively.
I haven't done an actual study on it yet, but from what I have run across in passing, the demographics of the two counties shifted somewhat after the War Between the States, with a lot of the Southern-born – and probably Southern sympathizing - population relocating to Texas and other parts of the South and the West. They were replaced by newcomers from the North and foreign countries. I dare say land was probably cheap around here after the war, with so many abandoned farms and houses in this battle scarred area. One has to understand the unique experience that Missouri went through, unlike any other state, to fully realize why much of the pre-war Southern population decided to leave following four years of vicious and personal warfare amongst former friends and neighbors. The unconventional war here – away from the big battlefields - really demonstrates the dark side of human nature, in my opinion.
This change in demographics after the war is much of the reason, in my mind, we Missourians have a bit of an identity crisis today, but that's a topic for another day.






Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.