Marker Text: The population center of the United States was in present West Virginia four times as it moved westward across the nation: near Wardensville in 1820; at Smoke Hole in 1830; west of Buckhannon in 1840; near Burning Springs in 1850.
Location of the Hardy County marker: On WV Route 55 in Wardensville next to the Wardensville Visitors Center. Grouped with marker titled Wardensville. Erected by the West Virginia Archives and History in 1999.
The results of the 2011 census are beginning to come to light as we see how the population of our specific areas of the country have changed in the past ten years. I recently heard that the population of the county where I live increased 18% in the last ten years. Sometime in April, the U.S. Census will announce the population center of the United States from the results of the 2010 census totals. Each decade, after it tabulates the decennial census, the Census Bureau calculates the center of population. The center is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly, if each resident were of identical weight represented as points of equal mass.
The mean center of United States population (using the centroid definition above) has been calculated for each U.S. Census since 1790. Following the 1990 census, this point was located in Texas County, Missouri, in the central part of the state.
However, when Washington, D.C. was chosen as the federal capital of the United States in 1790, the center of the U.S. population was in Kent County, Maryland, a mere 47 miles (76 km) east-northeast of the new capital. Over the last 220 years, the mean center of United States population has progressed westward and, since 1930, southwesterly, reflecting population drift.
Following the conclusion of the 2000 Census, the area around Edgar Springs, Phelps County, MO was determined the population center of the U.S. Edgar Springs shares an honor known only to 22 other U.S. communities. The center in Phelps County is approximately 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs, MO and is approximately 12.1 miles south and 32.5 miles west of the 1990 center of population, which was 9.7 miles southeast of Steelville, Mo.
Historically, the center of population has followed a trail that reflects the sweep of the nation's continuously shifting population related to a number of factors that influence where people are born or chose to live. The decades of population swings reflects the settling of the frontier, waves of immigration and the migration west and south. The 2000 center of population is now more than 1,000 miles from the first center in 1790, which was located near Chestertown, Md.
In 1980, the center of population was near DeSoto, MO., 39.5 miles northeast of the 1990 location. Following the 1950, 1960 and 1970 censuses, the center of population was situated in Illinois. Indiana had the distinction for the previous six decades, from 1890 to 1940. Covington, Ky., was the population center in 1880. Portsmouth and Hillsboro, Ohio, were the centerpieces in 1870 and 1860, respectively.
In what is now West Virginia, the population center resided in the state four times from 1820 to 1850. West Virginia chose to indicate the locations of these population centers by placing historical markers. I have taken photos of two of those markers, one in Wardensville, Hardy County (1820) and another in Lorentz, Upshur County (1840) 4.5 miles northwest of Buckhannon. According to West Virginia records the other two markers are missing. I attempted to find the one at Smoke Hole, but could not find it, occasionally they are re-erected again later. The population center markers are not precisely located where the population center is exactly. The census does come up with an exact and precise location and has placed an official marker to indicate the population center though the location could end up in the middle of a field somewhere.
In 1810, the population center was located in Loudoun County VA, just northwest of Waterford, 40 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. Following the second decennial census in 1800, Howard County, MD, 18 miles west of Baltimore, MD., was determined to be the center of population.