1783 Personal Property Tax List

Shenandoah County, Virginia

Transcribed and compiled by - and introduction written by Tom Pierce - THANKS Tom!

Beginning in 1782, Virginia county governments collected taxes on personal property and on each grown, white, resident male (the age varied from 16 to 21) and on each slave. The taxed persons were known as titheables (from the old parish tax system) and the tax on a person was known as the poll (head) tax. The taxable personal property varied from year to year, but usually gave a good indication of the wealth of the taxpayer.

The 1783 tax is a good one to study because it was taken in 13 local lists which can largely be deciphered. Further, a census was taken that year, apparently using the same localities for 13 lists. Cross correlation allows the reader to determine location and neighbors with a good deal of accuracy.

This is what it appears the Clerk, Thomas Marshall, Jr., did. He made a master copy from a stack of 13 lists. He copied, for example, all the "P" names from list 1, then made a small horizontal line, then copied all the "P" names from the 2nd list, and so on. For common letters, all 13 lists can be seen; for others "J", only a few can be seen. Since the 1783 Head of Household Census apparently used the same localities for it's 13 lists, it can be used for "calibrating" the personal property tax lists for letters where fewer than 13 lists are represented. For example, the first list in the 1783 Head of Household Census comprises names from Strasburg and along Toms Brook. If you then look at the third list in the C's, you find Captain George Cooper, George Cooper the Saddler, Jacob Conrad, etc. which identifies that as the same list.

Marshall made some mistakes. Probably, he made the marks only so that he could recheck his work. So, once he had caught a mistake, there was no need to move or amend the mark. You will find a few people in the wrong area and you will find a bunch of left-over people listed at the end. In addition, the first page seems to have not been completely marked.

As Clerk, Marshall was bound to copy what he saw on the lists, so misspellings on the lists would have been copied over. Further, Marshall may have misread some of the handwriting or may have made errors in his own writing. You are urged to question and check anything you find in these lists.

If you do not see a line at the end of a page, assume that list was carried over to the next page. A line was not used between letters of the alphabet Any marks, etc are indicated by [LINE] or [CROSSED OUT] and so on. Idented lines indicate a grouping with unindented line above.

On the images, the columns after the names are:
White tithes above 21 years
Slaves over 16 years
Slaves under 16 years
Covering horses (another name for stud horses)
Prices for season (stud fee or fees)
Pleasure wheels (tax was assessed per wheel)
Ordinary license (An ordinary was a tavern or inn)
The last three columns are the assessed tax in Pounds, Shillings, Pence.

For background, there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. The symbol for pound is a capital L with a line through (the Sterling mark). The symbol for pence is a d (denarius). To give you some reference, a day laborer earned 5 or 6 shillings in those days and a horse sold for 12 to 15 pounds. The tax was assessed at 10s per tithe or slave, 2 s per horse, and 3d per cow. An ordinary license was taxed at 5 pounds, a pleasure wheel at 6s. Covering horses were taxed at a rate proportional to the stud fees.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Alley Blackford and Joe Baker for their assistance in getting this information out on the web.

The 1783 Personal Property Tax List for Shenandoah County, Virginia

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Contributed by Tom Pierce

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Created February 1 2002
Updated August 11 2010
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