Yo, Hartville, Ready For Your Closeup?

by Kevin Burton

   Apologies right up front here, because Garrison Keillor would do this story better than I.

   The US Census Bureau announced Nov. 16 that Hartville, Missouri, population 594, is the “center of population” for the United States.

   Here is what that means, according to the Census Bureau release:

   “If the United States map was a scale and every person had equal weight, the center of population is the place where the scale would balance. In other words, the center of population is the average location of where people in the United States currently live.”

   “Based on data from the 2020 Census, the current center of the population is near Hartville, Missouri,” the release reads.

   The bureau plans to hold a ceremony to recognize Hartville, to include the unveiling of a commemorative survey monument. “More details will be available in the coming months,’ the bureau said.

   Much of the town of Hartville was destroyed in the Civil War. About a century later the Grovespring tornado torn down much of the business district. 

   Hartville is the county seat for Wright County, which is home to the Wright County Journal newspaper. The online version tells us what we need to know, including that “The leaves are falling at Wedgewood Country Club and the fairways are turning brown, but the course continues to be in good shape.” 

   It has headlines such as “Chicken Barn Bible Study being held in Macomb” and “Alabama Woman Hits Cow With Car.”

   Surely Shauna L. Ward, 47, of Hazlegreen, Alabama would pay much closer attention to her driving at around 3:30 a.m. if she knew her actions would be under media scrutiny in the center of population for the entire U S of A!

   In the Hartville School District, students are “Dreamers, Thinkers, Doers” according to the website, which features the William Butler Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

   But maybe people in Hartville are accustomed to keeping their dreaming, thinking and doing to themselves.

   Here Garrison Keillor would spin a story of how the Wright County Commission voted 2-1 to go along with the wishes of the townsfolk and decline politely the Census Bureau’s honor.

   It would tell how the one commissioner voted to accept the honor because his cousin Winifred had a job as a Census Worker although God knows she knew everybody’s business before she got paid her first dollar to know it.

   And could we please ask our retired school principal or maybe someone at the Senior Center to draft a letter to the Census Bureau explaining how there were some nearby towns which might like the attention more than Hartville?

   After all, the story said the center was “near’ Hartville, not actually in Hartville.

   But ask them, whoever is writing the letter, not to mention the usage error in the press release, how they wrote “if the United States map was a scale,” when that should have been “were a scale,” for proper use of the subjunctive.

   You might point out that it’s only 43 miles to Springfield and how they are much more used to a lot of fuss and commotion over there, what with having the big university and all.

   I guess we’ll have to wait for the population center to move to Minnesota to get Keillor involved. 

   The town’s Wikipedia page, where I learned about the civil war and tornado destruction, has not been updated to reflect the center of population designation. And the Journal had not mentioned it, at least in the online version. 

   The paper did say that it had won four statewide newspaper awards from the Missouri Press Association, so it must be doing a good job, although it wasn’t made clear who wins a 3:30 a.m. fight between a cow and a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado. 

   One wonders whether the school children are talking population center today over their Bosco Sticks at lunch, or something more relevant such as the 49-35 basketball win over Winona Friday. 

   Maybe the people of Hartville have been watching the population center creep closer to them with fear and trepidation since 1980 when it first appeared in Missouri.  Maybe they have watched it move west the way they watch severe storms go though from west to east. 

   Or maybe not. The Census Bureau

said Hartville Mayor Rob Tucker was excited to hear his town named as the 2020 Center of Population.

    “It’s a great feeling to live in Hartville. It has always been a town with a big heart and is now the heart of America,” Tucker said.

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