Page County, Virginia 1840 Census


Page County, Virginia 1840 Census. John Vogt. 2007.

The Sixth Census of the United States in 1840 is the first glimpse we have of the population and its distribution, both geographically and demographically for Page County. Although a publication of this census was made nearly two decades ago (1990), it omitted the free colored and slave sections, as well as the occupational and educational portions of the census. These can be extremely valuable in discerning the area and social status of a family, as well as giving an insight into the occupations. In addition, this researcher uncovered more than 125 mis-transcriptions of names, as well as five families simply omitted in the earlier publication. Hence this new census transcription. William M. Keyes, an Assistant to the Marshall of the Western District of Virginia, conducted the census to reflect the households of the county as they existed on June 1, 1840. The census was taken over the summer and early fall of that year, and he had his work certified by a justice of the peace on October 30, 1840. In all, the total population of the county consisted of 6,184 souls, made up from 898 households. A total of 741 slaves were held by 170 families, or about one in five families. Only a relative few held more than ten slaves. The only town in the county and the county seat, Luray, consisted of 375 persons, including 96 slaves, distributed among forty families. The only other large settlements were located at the foundaries of Blackford and Forrer’s, the two primary manufacturing centers. By and large, the remainder of the county was a rural, agricultural area. Mills were scattered throughout the county, as later references show, but none of the were reflected in the census documentation. One important area overlooked in the census data for 1840 is that of education. The presence of at least ten organized primary or common schools attest to the emphasis placed upon education by most families. Of all the adults over 21 in the county, about 330 listed themselves as unable to read and write. This information is contained at the far right margin of the second folio in each entry. Research in the location of these schools would probably reveal a great deal about the growth of small hamlets and later urban settlements in the county. While Luray was the only community singled out in the census, smaller hamlets such as Stanley, Marksville, Rileyville, Stony Man, and others were beginning to emerge by this time. And as they grew, the need for basic education facilities became important.