JULY 15, 1814
200 years ago today in Washington County, Indiana Territory, word was circulating throughout its 5 townships that the Washington Circuit Court had imposed a new tax of 18 2/3 cents for each horse, mare, mule or ass over 3 years of age. Indeed, such action was taken by the provisional court on July 13, 1814. The Territorial Legislature had granted authority to its counties to levy certain taxes to raise revenue for the funding of county government. The amounts of these taxes authorized had been adjusted often in recent years. These authorized local taxes included:
Each horse, mare, mule or ass of three years and upwards, a sum not exceeding 50 cents.
Each head of neat cattle, of three years and upwards, a sum not exceeding 10 cents.
Every stud horse of three years and upwards, a sum not exceeding the rate for which he stands for the season.
Each bond-servant or slave between the age of 16 to 40 a sum not exceeding 1 $.
A poll tax of no more than 1 $ and no less than 50 cents on every able bodied man at least 21 years of age with less than taxable property of $200.
A tax on town lots, out lots, houses in town, and mansion houses in the country which shall be valued at $200 and upwards, a sum not exceeding 30 cents on each 100$ of their appraised value.
Each ferry $10 per year.
Each tavern $20 per year.
Each billiard table $50 per year.
These local taxes were in addition to the territory land tax which was levied as follow:
First class land levy was $1 per 100 acres
Second class land levy was 75 cents per 100 acres
Third class land levy was 37 ½ cents per 100 acres
There was undoubtedly local discussion that the Washington Circuit Court must have been under public influence to keep the tax low as the rate established was less than half of what it could have been. However, with at least 7 new roads being declared by the court in 1814, the money to clear and maintain them had to be raised. The Washington Circuit Court had just determined that each road established was to be 2 rods [33 feet] wide. Apparently, the Territorial Legislature had decided that as horses would be the main burden on these 2 rod wide local roads then it should be a tax on the horse that paid for them. The labor to clear and maintain the roads was to be provided by able bodied men between the ages of 21 to 50 who had lived in the township for at least 30 days. Each male of this description was work up to 12 days a year on local roads under the supervision of overseers appointed by the circuit court.
Sheriff William Hoggatt was charged with the duty of collecting these taxes after Lister Alexander Little had documented the items present in the county that were subject to these various taxes. Little wondered how he was going to determine the age of each horse, mare, mule and ass. He also had decided that he was not going to climb the hills and hollows looking for unbarned horses. He figured that each horse owner would rather be subject to the tax than take a chance of losing a hidden horse to a wolf, bear or panther lurking in the woods. Little also assumed that a billiard table would be hard to hide. No record remains to indicate how many billiard tables were actually found and taxed in the County in its early days.