The overall age and sex adjusted incidence of Crohn's disease among Olmsted County, Minnesota, residents was 4.0 per 100,000 person-year in the period 1943-1982. Ileitis, ileocolitis, and colitis each accounted for about one third of the 103 incidence cases. Incidence rates were greater in woman than men, were higher in the urban portions of the county, and rose over time. Overall, the natural history of Crohn's disease in the community may be milder than that reported for patients at referral centres, as over half of all patients had no complications and only a third required surgery for Crohn's disease. Only one developed adenocarcinoma of the colon (relative risk = 2.0, NS). Survival was relatively unimpaired for the cohort, but Crohn's disease may have played a role in half of the deaths. The prevalence of Crohn's disease was 90.5/100,000 population on 1 January 1980.