American County, City or Town

The Bureau of the Census defines a place as a concentration of population; a place may or may not have legally prescribed limits, powers, or functions. This concentration of population must have a name, be locally recognized, and not be part of any other place. A place either is legally incorporated under the laws of its respective State, or a statistical equivalent that the Census Bureau treats as a census designated place (CDP). Each State enacts laws and regulations for establishing incorporated places. The Census Bureau designates criteria of total population size, population density, and geographic configuration for delineating CDPs. Not everyone resides in a place; in 1990, approximately 66 million people (26 percent) in the United States lived outside of any place, either in small settlements, in the open countryside, or in the densely settled fringe of large cities in areas that were built-up, but not identifiable as places.

A "town" is a human settlement or urban area that has a name, defined boundaries and a local government. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than cities. A "small town" is a place whose population is in three digits. A "medium" town has a population between 1,000 and 10,000. A "large" town has a population between 10,000 and 100,000. Common population definitions for an urban area (city or town) range between 1,500 and 50,000 people, but some states follow different guidelines. A "metropolis" is the capital or chief city of a country or region, or: a very large and densely populated industrial and commercial city. A county is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority.

Of the nation's 328.2 million people, an estimated 206.9 million (about 63%) lived in an incorporated place as of July 1, 2019. About 76% of the approximately 19,500 incorporated places had fewer than 5,000 people. Of those, almost 42% had fewer than 500 people. On the other hand, only 4.0% (780) of all cities had a population of 50,000 or more in 2019, yet nearly 39% of the U.S. population (127.8 million) live in those cities. 48 out of the 50 states use counties. Louisiana calls its counties parishes while Alaska got rid of counties and only uses boroughs.

Legacy Stories from the Americans All Heritage Honor Roll

We are pleased to host and share these legacy stories created by honorees’ family, friends and associates. They, like us, appreciate that heritage and culture are an integral part of our nation's social fabric and want to help students participate effectively in our nation's economy, workforce and democracy.

Last Name of Individual
First Name of Individual
Group name

Fredericksburg, Texas Texas (c.1845 - ?) German Settlers, American Town, Gillespie County, Civil War, American History, Nimitz

Fredericksburg, the county seat of Gillespie County, is seventy miles west of Austin in the central part of the county. The town was one of a projected series of German settlements from the Texas coast to the land north of the Llano River, originally the ultimate destination of the German immigrants sent to Texas by the Adelsverein. In August 1845 John O. Meusebach left New Braunfels . . . 

Smithville, Texas Texas (c.1827 - ?) American Town, Bastrop County, Railroad

Smithville, just off State Highway 71 and ten miles a of Bastrop in southeastern Bastrop County, was established by Thomas Gazeley, who in 1827 settled near the present site. Gazeley operated a store there until his death in 1853, and the community that sprang up around the store was named Smithville, after William Smith and his family. J. P. Jones and Frank Smith opened a store in the community in 1867 . . .  

Angel Island Immigration Station California (January 21, 1910 - November 5, 1940) Chinese, Immigration Station, American History

Angel Island in San Francisco Bay was the location of a large and imposing government compound where immigrants seeking entry into the United States via Pacific routes were processed. Often referred to as the Ellis Island of the West, this one-mile-square state park is the largest island in San Francisco Bay. See the video, Island of Secret Memories.

Cox-Hyson Home, Smithville, TX Texas (c.1908 - ?) Historic Building, Smithville, Heritage Society, American Town

As a Bicentennial gift and through the generosity of Floyd R. "Skip" Hyson and his wife, Lucille, the newly-organized Smithville Heritage Society received the Cox-Hyson house as a permanent home for the Society in 1976. Built in 1908 for John Cox and his wife, Irene Wilkes Cox, the house was the family home of the John Cox family.