(KXAN) – When you think of the heart of Texas, you may think of its political center, Austin. Or maybe it’s the state’s largest city, Houston. Or maybe a more central location like Brady or Abilene. Surprisingly, the center of Texas’ population isn’t exactly close to any of these.
Since the first census in 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has been calculating the “center of population” in the country. This is a point where an imaginary, flat, weightless, and rigid map of the U.S. would balance perfectly if everyone were of identical weight. It is the average location of where people in the U.S. live, according to the Census Bureau.
Data from the 2020 census found Hartville, Missouri, is the “heart” of America. Since 1980, Missouri towns have been the population centers but the first-ever center in 1790 was in Maryland, just east of Baltimore.
In addition to calculating the center of population for the U.S., the Census Bureau is also able to calculate the “heart” of each state, including Texas.
Based on the latest census, Texas’ center of population is located at 30°54’34″N 97°19’43″W. That lands in what appears to be a residential yard along Sullivan Road in Sparks, about six miles northeast of Holland and 16 miles south of Temple.
You can see it on the interactive map below:
According to the Texas State Historical Association, Sparks’ history dates back to the 19th century and its growth is attributed to the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad. It is believed a local family, the Sparks family, inspired the town’s name.
Roughly 40 people live in the town, which reportedly hasn’t had a post office since the early 1900s. Sparks is even listed as a ghost town/community by Bell County.
This town of Sparks isn’t to be confused with the El Paso suburb of Sparks.
Unlike the national centers of population, which have gradually moved west in a relatively straight line, Texas’ centers of population haven’t followed much of a pattern.
The interactive map below shows all of the Lone Star State’s centers of population using Census data dating back to 1880.
The first was roughly 40 miles east of Waco, with the next four even closer to Waco. Then over the next two decades, the population center shifted south before moving south and east.