Duval County taxed men and dogs

In the 21st century taxpayers complain about high taxes. There was a time during its history that Duval County had the distinction of having the highest tax rates in the state. But, in the early days of the county, the ad valorem tax rate adopted by the commissioners court totaled $1.25 cents per $100 of valuation.

In February 1877, commissioners adopted a half-cent state ad valorem tax, which today is unconstitutional. The commissioners approved a county ad valorem tax of one-quarter cent and a courthouse and jail tax of half-cent.

Men who would be between 21 and 60 years of age during 1877 were also required to pay a $2 poll tax. At that time, the poll tax was not a tax granting the right to vote; that would not come about until 1902. The 1876 Texas Constitution authorized the tax purely as a financial resource and it had nothing to do with the franchise. The court also adopted the occupation tax, as prescribed by the general laws of Texas.

Men were not the only ones taxed. The Commissioners Court also approved a $1 “dog tax.”

Taxes and dogs were not the only thing on the commissioners’ minds. The court appointed a committee consisting of J. W. Moses, E. G. Perez and B. N. Fletcher to visit the butcher stalls and slaughter pens in San Diego to determine if they were contributing to the public nuisance. The committee returned to the reconvened meeting of the court the following day and reported that the slaughter pens on the San Diego Creek owned by Ponciano Garza were a nuisance. The court gave Garza five days to remove the nuisance.

In order to collect ad valorem taxes properly, County Tax Collector Calixto Tovar needed to know which properties were within the county. The commissioners court directed County Surveyor John J. Dix to run a survey line for the eastern boundary of Duval County, bordering with Nueces County. The court further directed that Dix meet with his counterparts from Nueces, Live Oak and McMullen Counties to join him in running the line so that all parties would be in agreement.

The court instructed Dix to begin the work at the northeast corner of Duval County, which was also the northwest corner of Nueces County. He was to designate the northeast corner with a permanent stone monument. The surveyor was also to place similar permanent stone monuments at all the corners of the county. Dix was then to run the eastern line between Duval and Nueces counties. Dix was to proceed to the northwest corner of Duval County and lay the northern boundary line.

The work of the surveyor required that someone transcribe the survey notes of the Nueces County surveyor. Commissioners requested bids for the job.