Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 5
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
The white community was also profoundly angered by the loss of the slaves,
which seemed to them a dastardly theft of property. However, the new system and the end
of the war did have, if nothing else, tax advantages for the plantation owners. In 1864, the
last year that Colorado County's tax roll listed them, slaves comprised 38.5% of all taxable
property in the county. In 1865, with the slaves removed from the rolls and the tax assessor
severely reducing the value of the land in the county, the county's tax base was reduced by
about 65%. Incredibly, the commissioners court reduced the tax rate by 75%, meaning that
citizens paid far less in taxes in 1865 than they had in 1864. People who had owned slaves,
of course, had their tax bills reduced even more sharply than those who had not. On aver-
age, persons who paid taxes on 1000 acres of land would have paid $36.45 in 1864 and
$6.25 in 1865, and persons who owned 50 slaves would have paid about $137.50 in 1864
and nothing in 1865. In 1860, the last year for which such figures are available, what might
be thought of as productive field hands, males between the ages of 13 and 65, comprised
31% (1101 of 3559) of the slave population in the county. Assuming that the rate stayed the
same through 1864, then about 16 of every 50 slaves in the county were productive field
hands. Conservatively then, it seems likely that a plantation owner who had owned 50
slaves could replace the labor he lost when his slaves were freed by hiring 25 freedmen, and
it seems likely that he could hire 25 freedmen for little more than it had cost him to house,
clothe, feed, and otherwise attend to the needs of 50 slaves, plus the amount he had paid in
However, over and above the loss of the slaves, the end of the war had severe
economic consequences for the county's richest men. Few people, it must be imagined,
were prudent enough to invest their wealth in gold, silver, or foreign currencies. Those who
relied on their own nation's money, that is, Confederate currency and bonds, found them-
selves without capital when the nation was dissolved. One such, Needham Eason, Jr., re-
turned to Colorado County in 1865 to find that his widowed step-mother, Clarissa Ann
December 22, 1865, Barry A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Colum-
bus; Norma Shaw, "The Early History of Colorado County Organized as a Model for Teaching a Local History
Unit" (Master's thesis, Southwest Texas State Teachers College, 1939), p. 44. The 23rd Iowa was mustered out
on July 26 and the 30th Missouri on August 21, 1865.
4 Colorado County Tax Rolls, 1864, 1865. Total valuations in 1864 were $5,972,552. That year, the
slaves in the county were valued at $2,299,455, and the taxable land in the county at $2,196,696. In 1865, total
valuations were $2,100,568, with the bulk of that, $1,433,145, in land. The tax rate in 1864 was 50 cents per
$100, that in 1865, 12.5 cents per $100. The average value of an acre of land was set at $7.29 in 1864 and $5.00
in 1865. The county collected $30,626.96 in taxes in 1864 but only $3442.71 in 1865. Of course, 1864 taxes
were collected in Confederate dollars and 1865 taxes in United States dollars. Comparing the valuations as-
signed to horses, cattle, sheep, and rural land by the Colorado County tax assessor in 1861 and 1862 to those
assigned in 1865 and 1866 leads to the conclusion that the assessor valued a Confederate dollar at about 70
United States cents, meaning that the 1864 tax collections were equivalent to more than 20,000 United States
dollars (see Colorado County Tax Rolls, 1861-1866). It may be assumed that most of the additional tax money
the county collected in 1864 went to pay expenses caused by the war.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/5/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed May 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.