History Parkes

stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past

The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Population of the Parkes Shire Part 1 1865-1945

In August the latest census was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and HistoryParkes thought it would be interesting to look at how the population of the Parkes Shire has changed over the years. This was an undertaking that became larger than first appeared. Our aim was to cover not just the town population of Parkes but also Alectown, Bogan Gate, Peak Hill, Trundle and Tullamore to see the fluctuations within all the towns over the years. Our first obstacle was the labyrinth that is the Australian Bureau of Statistics, where most of our information was to be found. Navigating the sea of data was not the only issue. The history of census recording in Australia is relatively new. The modern day census – conducted nationwide on the second Tuesday night in August every fifth year – only came into being in 1961 (P. Martin 2015). The first Australian census was conducted in 1911 on the night of April 2nd; with further national censuses occurring in 1921, 1933, 1947 and 1954. Prior to 1911 there were individual censuses carried out by the colonies – Parkes Library’s Family & Local History room has several of these early censuses. The Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Cth) led to the 1906 establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS). The Bureau was renamed the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1975 (Source: ABS website).

It is HistoryParkes’ aim that this post be an interesting read, and a resource for those needing accurate statistics that are easy to find.

Gold Boom – The Early Days

Prior to 1873, the area known as Parkes was called Currajong and also Bushmans. Billabong (sometimes spelled Billybong) was also another place name with records for Billabong Post Office stating it commenced services in April 1863 (Cook and Garvey, 1999 page 253). The height of the gold boom had the population at 30,000 (Source: PARKES ILLUSTRATED. (1905, October 18). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), p. 7. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113289831) According to Ron Tindall, the population by 1875 had dropped to 10,000 (Tindall, 1982 page 150). Tindall has the population dropping to 3000 by 1882 and in 1892 it was 2959 (Tindal, 1982 pages 24 & 175).

Early memories of Parkes (prior to 1873 it was known as Currajong) where the gold boom had the population up around 30,000. Source: PARKES ILLUSTRATED. (1905, October 18). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 7. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113289831

Early memories of Parkes (prior to 1873 it was known as Currajong) where the gold boom had the population up around 30,000. Source: PARKES ILLUSTRATED. (1905, October 18). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), p. 7. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113289831

The Western Champion records show that slow increase in the population of Parkes:

Population of Parkes

1891            2,781

1901            3,181

The census returns, completed by each colony in pre-Federation days shows the population of Parkes at 3,181. There were more males 1,623 with 1,558 females. Also listed is the population of Forbes 4,312. Source: Brief Mention. (1901, May 10). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112368362

The census returns, completed by each colony in pre-Federation days shows the population of Parkes at 3,181. There were more males 1,623 with 1,558 females. Also listed is the population of Forbes 4,312. Source: Brief Mention. (1901, May 10). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 5, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112368362

Ten years of incremental growth. Source: Brief Mention. (1901, May 17). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 5, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112368437

Ten years of incremental growth. Source: Brief Mention. (1901, May 17). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 5, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112368437

While the 1901 census results came out comparatively quickly – the census took place in New South Wales on March 31st – there were still disputes regarding the accuracy. By 1911, the year of the first official Australian census, the population figures were being questioned.

The very first nationwide Australian census was not without controversy, as highlighted by this newspaper report disputing the figures of 2,935. The belief was that Parkes had grown since 1901 when the NSW census had Parkes with a population of 3,181. Source: WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? (1912, August 29). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 19. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112298440

The very first nationwide Australian census was not without controversy, as highlighted by this newspaper report disputing the figures of 2,935. The belief was that Parkes had grown since 1901 when the NSW census had Parkes with a population of 3,181. Source: WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? (1912, August 29). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 19. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112298440

It was ten years before the second Australian census took place, largely due to the First World War. The impact was felt across the nation, with residents from the Parkes Shire contributing to the war effort, many making the ultimate sacrifice:

For Australia, the First World War remains the costliest conflict in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

Source: Australian War Memorial. (n.d.). First World War 1914-18. Retrieved October 26, 2016, from https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1/

The 1921 census revealed some interesting statistics from nearly a century ago. This table takes in a larger area than Parkes town, possibly including Peak Hill and Alectown when compared with other reports.

The original table was sourced from The Western Champion Thursday July 21, 1921 page 17. It details a number of places within what is now Parkes Shire as well as a few other locations. The reason was because the census was conducted by electorates, with Parkes falling in the Calare electorate.

The original table was sourced from The Western Champion Thursday July 21, 1921 page 17. It details a number of places within what is now Parkes Shire as well as a few other locations. The reason was because the census was conducted by electorates, with Parkes falling in the Calare electorate.

Newspaper reports indicate that Parkes’ population was 2935, a steady growth as opposed to many other country towns whose population boomed and then left not long afterwards (Source: Town and District. (1925, December 24). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 15. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113546346)

This newspaper report details the steady rise of Parkes growth. It contains figures of population for 1911 (2,935) and 1921 (3,947) which were from the census. In addition it lists the population in 1925 as being 4,813 which was taken from the electoral roll. This last figure is the closest on record of gender equality within Parkes - only 30 more men than women recorded. Source: Town and District. (1925, December 24). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 15. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113546346

This newspaper report details the steady rise of Parkes growth. It contains figures of population for 1911 (2,935) and 1921 (3,947) which were from the census. In addition it lists the population in 1925 as being 4,813 which was taken from the electoral roll. This last figure is the closest on record of gender equality within Parkes – only 30 more men than women recorded. Source: Town and District. (1925, December 24). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 15. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113546346

Other interesting reports from Western Champion can be found here and here

By 1927 the population was over 5,000 with municipal inspector, Mr Bullock, finding 5,329 residents (Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 20 August 1927, page 16) with the same newspaper including Parkes in a list of municipalities with estimated populations over 5,000 (Sydney Morning Herald Friday 11 May 1928, page 12)

The Roaring Twenties led to population growth in New South Wales. Parkes is listed with an estimated population of 5,400 in 1928. It is estimated that the last time Parkes had a population of similar size would have been late 1870s. Source: POPULATION. (1928, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16463678

The Roaring Twenties led to population growth in New South Wales. Parkes is listed with an estimated population of 5,400 in 1928. It is estimated that the last time Parkes had a population of similar size would have been late 1870s. Source: POPULATION. (1928, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16463678

Heading into the 1930s and 1940s

As an unsuspecting world headed out of the Roaring Twenties, Great Depression and on towards the Second World War, Parkes was continuing to grow. A Parkes Heritage Study document lists the population in 1933 as 5,846 and in 1947 as 6,897 (Kass, 2003 page 107). Debate still surrounds when Parkes hit the seven thousand mark, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that Parkes had a population of 7,000 in 1941. This conflicts information researched for the Parkes Heritage Study and Parkes Municipal Council minutes on 11th October 1946 (which states the population being 6,854). The influenza epidemic that hit the Central West in 1953 brought Parkes’ population to the attention of Hobart newspaper The Mercury.

A Central West influenza outbreak brought the population of Parkes to Hobart's newspapers. Source: SPREAD IN N.S.W. (1953, October 30). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27175449

A Central West influenza outbreak brought the population of Parkes to Hobart’s newspapers. Source: SPREAD IN N.S.W. (1953, October 30). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27175449

Graph of the high and low periods of Parkes, from 1865 up until 1953. The gold boom caused Currajong and Bushmans (earlier names for the town called Parkes) to have populations of 30,000. Chart made using ChartGo http://www.chartgo.com/home.html using information found in the reference list

Graph of the high and low periods of Parkes, from 1865 up until 1953. The gold boom caused Currajong and Bushmans (earlier names for the town called Parkes) to have populations of 30,000. Chart made using ChartGo  using information found in the reference list

The Parkes Migrant Centre, situated on the site of Parkes Regional Airport, added to the population of the Parkes Shire. Council Minutes detail that 2,000 persons were accommodated here thus requiring additional infrastructure support. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes January 24th 1950 Number 86

The Parkes Migrant Centre, situated on the site of Parkes Regional Airport, added to the population of the Parkes Shire. Council Minutes detail that 2,000 persons were accommodated here thus requiring additional infrastructure support. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes January 24th 1950 Number 86

Census – source of humour?!?!

While census and statistics may seem like an unlikely source for humour, scouring the newspapers of yesteryear can reveal some amusing anecdotes.

Humour and the census. This anecdote appeared in the Western Champion Friday 30 June 1933, page 9

Humour and the census. This anecdote appeared in Western Champion Friday 30 June 1933, page 9

When filling up the census schedule a householder got a bit confused, and under the column headed “Where Born” described one of his children as being born “in the parlor”[sic] and  the other “up stairs”.

Source: SCRAPS. (1906, March 2). The Peak Hill Express (NSW : 1902 – 1952), p. 18. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107194703

The census was used to settle local media disputes between The Western Champion and the Molong Argus. Source: Brief Mention. (1903, May 15). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112278358

The census was used to settle local media disputes between The Western Champion and the Molong Argus. Source: Brief Mention. (1903, May 15). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 8. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112278358

Census statistics help fuel the feud between Parkes and Forbes. Editor of Western Champion took exception to some comments by The Forbes Gazette. Source: THE BUILDING BOOM. (1922, January 5). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 13. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116878965

Census statistics help fuel the feud between Parkes and Forbes. Editor of Western Champion took exception to some comments by The Forbes Gazette. Source: THE BUILDING BOOM. (1922, January 5). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 13. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116878965

Follow up to the initial editorial tussle between Western Champion of Parkes and The Forbes Gazette. The rivalry exemplified in the two local newspapers mirrored the feelings of the two towns' residents. Source: THOSE BUILDING BOOMS. (1922, January 12). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 - 1934), p. 11. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116879057

Follow up to the initial editorial tussle between Western Champion of Parkes and The Forbes Gazette. The rivalry exemplified in the two local newspapers mirrored the feelings of the two towns’ residents. Source: THOSE BUILDING BOOMS. (1922, January 12). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 11. Retrieved October 6, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116879057

TO BE CONTINUED….. Next post The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Population of the Parkes Shire Part 2 1947 – 1971

REFERENCE LIST

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This entry was posted on October 29, 2016 by in 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, Alectown, ANZAC, Cookamidgera, General history, Gold Boom, Humour, local historical articles, Parkes, Peak Hill, Settlement in Parkes, Trundle, Tullamore, Tullamore 1850-1890s, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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