You’ve checked the tax records for your ancestor OR you found a deed confirming ownership—you’re done right?They lived there; it’s clear. Okay, asking the question and answering so unequivocally was a dead give away. Nope. You aren’t done. You need to check both taxes and deeds.
DON’T ASSUME YOUR ANCESTOR LIVED ON THE LAND DEEDED TO HIM OR OWNED THE LAND WHERE HE PAID TAXES.
Samuel Oswalt, the brother of my 3x’s great-grandmother, Susannah Oswalt Croy, established the little town of Morges, Ohio, in 1831. You’ll also notice by the sign above that Jacob Waggoner, Jr. is, likewise, a town founder.
I wanted to find the original deeded document for the formation of the town of Morges. I also hoped to find Andrew Croy’s original deed for his Morges property, and maybe those of other ancestors living on lots there. Previously, I had documented all those living in Morges using the only surviving early tax records, 1833-1838.(Some wise soul rescued these few records from the waste pile during a courthouse purge.) Andrew Croy, Susannah Oswalt’s husband, appeared on the tax records for Morges, lot #18, from 1833 through 1838. Jacob Croy, his son, was listed on lot #17, 1833-1835. Numerous Croys and Oswalts littered the list.
By using the on-line digitalized courthouse records available through familysearch.com, I had already found one deed in which Samuel Oswalt corrected an error of location for the town of Morges.I, likewise, located a deed transferring lot #18 from Andrew and Susan/Susannah to a John Zengler in 1848. But they weren’t the originals. I found no deed for Jacob Croy.
So who owned all of the thirty-seven Morges lots? The deeds, in Stark County (the town’s home county until 1832) and Carroll County (its home from 1832 forward), were not searchable. They required that I locate names in indexes—both alphabetized and not—then go to the indicated page. Let the treasure hunt begin.
Plat Map of Morges, Ohio 1874
As I searched for the deeds using the individuals named on the tax records, Inoticed something perplexing. The property tax records and ownership records did not coincide. Why not, I asked? Land ownership and property tax should match up, shouldn’t they? The answer? Well, not necessarily.
Early taxation did not always distinguish between personal (movable) and real (immovable) property.An example is my 5x great-grandfather, Jacob Oswalt’s 1779, Bedford County tax record which taxed real property like land, grist mills, saw mills, and distilleries, along with movable goods like servants, negroes, merchandise, horses, horned cows, and sheep.[i]
Even when property was taxed separately from movable goods, determining the owner of property wasn’t always easy.A tax assessor traveling the countryside did not have immediate access to deeds nor were they always recorded with the county.[ii]The assessor often relied on those living on the land for their information.
In Morges, though Samuel Oswalt often owned much of the property, the person living on it (most often a relative) often paid the tax.For those who have an interest in the little town of Morges, a compilation of my research by lot, with occupants and owners can be found here. Morges, OH Tax and deed Records. It’s a work in progress; I’ll update it regularly.Briefly, here are my bulleted discoveries. Eight lots are still a mystery.
- By the 1840’s (a timespan of about 10 years) Samuel Oswalt and John Waggoner, Jr. owned few of the lots.The Fetters (Casper, Joseph, and Jacob) owned 10 lots, Frederick Harple owned 5, John Zengler owned 4, Stephen Rennniar owned 4, and Abraham Fredrick owned 2. (25 of the lots)
- Samuel Oswalt originally owned (and/or sold) at least 22 of the 37 lots.
- John Waggoner bought two lots from Samuel Oswalt and likely owned 3 more.
- I found no evidence that the following individuals listed on the tax records owned lots.[iii]Mathias or Peter Waggoner, Thomas Simonton, Henry Casselman, Daniel Wymer, John Oswalt, Michael Croy, or Jacob Croy, all related in some way to Samuel.
Two WOWS!I found the transfer of land from Jacob Oswalt to Samuel and John Oswalt on November 17, 1827,[iv]along with the transfer of land from John Waggoner, Sr. to John, Jr. on February 25, 1826.[v]Thus the seeds for the town of Morges were sown.
I also discovered the transfer of land from John Waggoner, Jr. to the Bishop of Cincinnati.[vi]This deeded donation was the beginnings of St. Mary’s Catholic Church located in Morges and pictured below.
I never found the original Stark County record filed by Samuel Oswalt for the town of Morges, though I found many deeds in which he sold lots to others.The exact page of the entry—“which is recorded in deed book J, page 417, in the recorder’s office for the county of Stark”—was provided in a correction to the town location on August 21, 1832.[vii]But, look as I might on the exact page (and in books I in case I read it incorrectly, I couldn’t find it. Any help out there?Looks like I might need to go to Canton.
I also never located my 3x great-grandfather’s original lot 18 deed. A later deed in which he sells the property for $12 to a John Zengler, recorded on May 9, 1848, indicates it is housed at the Stark County Courthouse[viii], but I couldn’t find it in the on-line records for Stark County found at Familysearch.com. Another reason to go to Canton, I suppose.
I keep finding more and more reasons for that next trip to Ohio. Oh, darn!
[i]As time passed, Bedford County tried to track land ownership by indicating who had a warrant to the land or a deed and who was simply living on the land, a difficult business in the wilds of Pennsylvania in the 1700’s.
[ii]I found examples of deed transfers, sometimes as many as 4 separate transfers with dates from the 1830’s into the 1840’s listed page after page, to complete a transfer of ownership.
[iii]The original Morges deeded record may shed more light.
[iv]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 230-234; accessed on-line through familysearch.com
[v]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 368-369; accessed on-line through familysearch.com
[vi]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 537; accessed on-line through familysearch.com
[vii]Ohio Justice of the Peace, Stark County, Volume 51, page 503; Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2004; accessed on-line through familysearch.com.
[viii]Carroll County, Ohio, Courthouse Record of Deeds; Vol. 10, 1845-48, page 489; Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1964; accessed on-line through familysearch.com.