Primary Source: Town Tax Assessment Manuscripts
(Image courtesy of Cary Memorial Library)
Colonial New England was made up of farm communities. Tax valuations and assessments can be helpful in determining types of land and livestock in use, and how they affected and formed the cycle of daily life. These records can also provide aggregate data and a nice way to get a picture of the entire community at a certain point in time. Towns routinely assessed their residents for many types of tax, including poll tax, town tax, and/or ministerial tax. Information was provided by the residents; if a resident failed to provide information his property was "doomed" and the assessor did his own valuation.
At the left is a copy from microfilm of the original manuscript from part of the 1774 Lexington tax assessment. The headings, from left to right are: Poll in shillings and pence, Personal in pounds, shillings and pence, Real in pounds-shillings-pence, Sum Total in pounds-shillings-pence, Town Rate, and Minister's Rate. One name on this list is that of Deacon Joseph Loring, appearing tenth from the top. At age 61 he was among the wealthiest- top 20%- of the population in Lexington in 1774. Joseph and his family help to tell the story of the American Revolution in the exhibit Sowing the Seeds of Liberty.
Joseph's father purchased the 90-acre farm near the center of Lexington village and became one of the original subscribers to the purchase of the town common. Joseph was the only surviving son, making him the sole heir to the farm and mansion house on the road to Concord. By 1775, there were nine people occupying the Loring residence: Joseph and his wife Keziah, both in their sixties; son Joseph, his wife Betty, and their baby; Lydia, age 30; Jonathan, age 25; Sarah, age 20; and Keziah, only 15. The brothers Joseph and Jonathan both joined the Lexington militia company of John Parker, and would play key roles in the events of April 19, 1775.
Here is a related lesson from our third-grade curriculum for use in classroom instruction: Lesson 19d
To see our third- and fifth-grade curricula in their entirety, visit the educator resources page of our website.