Part of the USA Today Network

Taxing Window Glass in 1798

Part of ‘Form A’ showing the information recorded for property owner Michael [Dosch] of [Lower] Windsor Township, York County, PA to access his taxes for the United States Direct Tax of 1798 (Microfilm, York County Heritage Trust)
The United States needed to raise some money in the years after gaining their independence.  The Direct Tax of 1798, also known as the ‘Window’ or ‘Glass’ Tax was a taxation initiative that affected a wide populace and therefore was considered a more evenhanded tax.  This followed the hugely unpopular distilled spirits tax enacted in 1791; primarily affected only the farmers and distillers, resulting in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.


The 1798 U.S. Direct Tax was repealed the following year, however the volumes of information recorded for this one-time tax are a gold-mine for family historians and anyone determining if their home dates to the 1798 time period.  Information from this tax is what I intend to use to get a better handle on the year the Hermit House of Springettsbury Township was built.

This post examines a small sample of the type of information collected on the various forms.  Up to ten forms, filled with information, were recorded for each property owner.  In 1798, window glass was generally the most costly item in a house; therefore great care was taken to record every pane of window glass.  The size and material used to construct a house also had a bearing on the taxes levied.

At the beginning of this post, part of ‘Form A’ shows a small part of the information recorded for property owner Michael [Dosch] of [Lower] Windsor Township, York County, PA to access his ‘Glass’ taxes of 1798.  One has to think of how people pronounced their names in the Eighteenth Century, because that is how they were oftentimes recorded.  Dosch likely was pronounced Tush.  Dritt likely was pronounced Tritt.

The rows of information show that there are four houses owned by Michael [Dosch]; three log houses and one stone house.  The information related to the stone house owned by Michael [Dosch] is as follows (the third row, boxed in orange for easy identification):

  • Number (Sequential) . . . 137
  • Name of Occupant (blank if owner is the sole occupant) . . . John Gilbert
  • Name of Property Owner . . . Tush [Dosch], Michael
  • Number of Dwelling Structures . . . 1
  • Type of Dwelling Structure . . . House
  • Dimensions of Structure in feet . . . 28 x 25
  • Material Used to Construct Structure . . . Stone
  • Number of Stories of the Structure . . . 2
  • Number of Windows . . . 18
  • Number of Panes of Glass (in windows & in storage) . . . 178

I have also included the first line of the next entry in ‘Form A;’ the primary dwelling of Jacob Tritt [Dritt].  Remember that the leading Numbers are Sequential, i.e. for Jacob Dritt this is 138.  One can use these leading sequential numbers as a guide to interpret the strange ways the numbers are sometime recorded; in this case the number 8 which tends to be written leaning over.  The other 1798 Tax Forms include such details as barns, stables, mills, blacksmith shops, neighbors, etc.; a real gold-mine of information.

One might ask, why does Michael Dosch own four houses.  Records of Land Deeds indicate that Michael Dosch owned four parcels totaling 711.5 acres.  These land deeds were key to determine which parcel contained the stone house.  Next Friday I’ll post more on these Land Deeds and the stone house built by Michael Dosch in 1782.

Occupants of the four Michael Dosch houses include two son-in-laws; John Gilbert and Adam Shenberger.  Adam Shenberger became the owner of the property containing the stone house following the death of Michael Dosch.  John Gilbert is my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather and Michael Dosch is my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.

Restored Stone House once owned by Jacob Dritt (2011 Photo, S. H. Smith)

Jacob Dritt was a neighbor of Michael Dosch.  Jacob Dritt was a Captain in the Revolutionary War and later a Brigadier General in the State Militia.  General Dritt’s house has been restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as having been constructed in 1758.  The Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area currently uses this house along the Susquehanna River as their headquarters.

The 1782 Michael Dosch stone house may have been just as impressive as General Dritt’s stone house.  Unfortunately we’ll never know, the Dosch stone house was torn down roughly in the late 1930s by S. Forry Laucks.  Laucks owned the property at that time and re-used the hand shaped stone from the Dosch house in one of his last Lauxmont Farms building projects.

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts