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Stamford Grand Lists

Physical Description of Tax Records
List of Records
Support for the Church
Support for the Schools

Taxation in Stamford, CT from 1641 to the Code of 1821

Physical Description of Tax Records

The Stamford tax lists for the period 1714-1819 were all hand written with quill pen in booklets of hand-made white paper, often watermarked. Most were sadddlestitched with linen thread in covers of coarse heavy paper or paperboard, Some covers are lost. Lines and columns of the pages were hand-ruled.

Tax listers used books with more pages than needed. Excess pages were often cut out. On some blank pages, and covers too, the listers have scribbled notes. The early booklets were merely summaries listing the names and totals declared by each taxpayer. Where a man had a profession, trade, or mill, the listers often inserted a second sum at his name labeled: “Add to above for faculty (or assessment).” This sometimes was done for “four-fold” penalties too.

In 1781 the books were expanded to itemize polls, the various classes of property, “assessments” and school society of each person in multi-column tables across two-page spreads. These were then summarized by type of property on a separate page which became the official town list.

Many of these later books had separate pages detailing: (1) “Assessments,” the values ascribed to professions and trades; (2) “Four-folds,” the penalties for a man's not listing all his property (many were later crossed out); (3) Lists of carriages; (4) Summaries of taxable property in each school (society) district.

Through 1795, the monetary units were pounds and shillings rated variously as “old tenor,” “new tenor,” or “lawful” money, all of which were worth less than Sterling. Stamford changed to dollars in 1796. The exchange rate was 3-1/3 dollars for one pound. The adult poll, for example, went from £18 to $60.

In 1819, with adoption of Connecticut's new Constitution, major changes were made. The master table was simplified by giving buildings and land overall assessments. In the following year the size of Stamford's grand list was drastically reduced as the entire Middlesex Parish, home to over a thousand residents, was separated to form the town of Darien.

On three occasions these tax records were endangered. On February 4, 1904, fire broke out in the town hall. Town clerk Wm. F. Waterbury and probate judge Frederick C. Taylor arrived quickly. With the help of volunteers who formed a “bucket line” most of the town records were removed to nearby Atlantic St. buildings while the raging fire was creeping down from the upper stories. The records were moved to the Arcade Building on upper Atlantic St. Later that same year the Opera House next door to the Arcade burned. For the second time a hasty evacuation of the grand lists was organized by the town clerk. The third occasion, in 1989, was the bursting of a water pipe in the basement vault of the bank where the records were stored. Great damage was done. Many severely damaged records were professionally restored in 1991. Most restored books are housed in dropspine boxes, buckram covered and gold-stamped to simulate hard- bound books.

Though the Stamford Historical Society has Grand Lists for later years, this Registration Group RG-13 stops with 1819. Xerographic or typescript copies of early tax lists are in our Library's Vertical Files, available to researchers.

Most of the collection was acquired from six donors over several years. They are:

Donor Lists for Years of
Estate of Louis D. Ruscoe, 1954 1714, 1736, 1738, 1739, 1744, 1779, and 1780
John Connolly, Collector of Taxes, of Stamford, 1964 1801-04 and 1814-19
The Ferguson Library
(originally from Estate of Louis D. Ruscoe)
1728, 1735, 1754, 1760, 1765, 1766, 1769, 1771, 1773, 1775, 1777, and 1778
Mrs. Thomas F. Hogan, 1966 1785, 1786, 1811, and 1812
Mrs. Fred W. Dawless, 1970 1781 and 1782
Mr. Louis Clapes, Town Clerk City of Stamford, 1975 1784, 1787-1800, 1805-10, and 1813