Fun with Demographics

The top of a page from the 1860 Federal Census for Chico Twp, Butte Co., California.

The top of a page from the 1860 Federal Census for Chico Twp, Butte Co., California.

I have been looking at the 1860 Federal Census for Butte County. I accessed it at a website called, a division of Fold3 focuses on military records, but for some reason it is the only place I found for the 1860 census. This is a subscription website, but you can get a 7-day free trial. You can look at, print out, or download a lot in seven days.

In 1860 the census was taken in eleven townships in Butte County: Bidwell, Cascade, Chico, Eureka, Hamilton, Kimshew, Mountain Springs, Ophir, Oregon, Oro, and Wyandotte. The Chico township was not just the newly-founded city of Chico; it stretched from Pine Creek and Rock Creek on the north, to Durham on the south. Anyone familiar with Butte County history will recognize names on the list. The last name listed is W. Northgrave [sic], 60 years old, who was living with P. C. Munn and Jas. M. Maxey, hotel keepers, and Sing, a cook.

The census was taken by J.S. Henning and Joseph Pierce, and neither of them totaled their counts when they reached the end of a township. But according to Mansfield, in 1860, Chico Township. had 1482 residents, out of a county population of 12,106. The largest township was Ophir (Oroville) with 3064 people.

Many pages are just long lists of miners, but mining was giving way to agriculture. In Chico, farmer and farm laborer are the most common occupations. Women are still out-numbered by men; pages list anywhere from 1 to 10 females. Probably two-thirds of those females are children, because families are beginning to appear.

The census includes Chinese men (I haven’t spotted any women) and “tame” Indians (those who were working for settlers). One column on the census sheet is for “Color: White, black, or mulatto.” Once in a long while a black miner or cook is listed, and then a “B” is noted in the column. The census sheet doesn’t take into account Asians or Native Americans, so the census taker wrote in either “Ind” for Indian, or “mon” for Mongolian. At the bottom of the page, where he was supposed to total “no. white males” “no. white females” “no. colored males”, and “no. colored females,” all the Asians and Indians go into the white column, since they don’t have a column of their own. Anyone wanting to total these groups would have to go through the census one name at a time.

Here is a representative family, one who still has their name on the map. I won’t list all the names, but summarize some of the list:

J.A. Keefer, 26, farmer and P.M. (postmaster) Rock Creek (should be J.L.)

Rebecca Keefer, 28

5 children, ages 6 years to 4 months

Latham Odell, 37, farm laborer

Jno. Odell, 29, farm laborer (these two were Mrs. Keefer’s brothers)

Tho. Allen, 26, farm laborer

9 male Indians named Sam, Bill, Slick, Pete, Tom, Dick, John, Aleck, and Tim, and two female Indians, Polly and Judah, all designated as farm laborers

2 female Indians, Jenny and Clemmie, house servants. All the Indians are between the ages of 16 and 27.

In addition there is a note written sideways in the margin: “16 Indians in Rancheria uninployed [sic].” These may be older Indians, or children. The census didn’t bother to count Indian children.

I’ll have more from the census next time.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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