This story is part of the Bendigo Advertiser's special feature to mark this weekend's 150th anniversary of Bendigo being declared a city and discover more about the people who called it home in 1871.
BENDIGO might have been one of Victoria's largest towns in 1871 but its population was just 20 per cent of what it would grow to 150 years later.
Nearly 22,000 people lived in Sandhurst (an early name for Bendigo) when Victoria conducted its colony-wide census back in the first days of April 1871.
Another 6590 people lived in the Borough of Eaglehawk.
The town was smaller than Ballarat and Ballarat East, which had a combined population of around 40,000 people.
It was also much smaller than the estimated 193,000 people massed around Melbourne. That city made up roughly a quarter of the colony's population.
"That is not a healthy circumstance in a country like this," one concerned member of Victoria's parliament said during a debate on protection for manufacturers soon after early census results were published.
He was among people worried that city-centric decisions could come to dominate state politics, much as some still do today.
But Bendigo and Eaglehawk had a population large enough to be the region's economic pillars.
Plus, both towns sat above one of history's richest goldfields, making it critical not only to the fledgling colony but to the wider British Empire.
It had long since shed the canvas and shanty feel that had come when 40,000 descended on Bendigo's valleys at the start of the gold rush.
Bendigo's urban footprint has ballooned since 1871.
The city's urban footprint has subsumed Eaglehawk and other nearby areas.
It today has more than 102,000 people living within city limits, according to planning consultants at ID.
Another 21,500 people live in the wider districts that Bendigo's council took over in the late 1990s during its process of amalgamation.
Statisticians at ID expect the population to surge higher in years to come - perhaps nearing 156,000 people by 2036.
Victoria itself has a population nine times larger than that of 1871 when it was a colony of 729,000.
The ABS believes Victoria had about 6.606 million people in December 2020.
This story is part of a special feature coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Bendigo being declared a city, which takes place on Sunday.
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