All Paid Up
Week 15 is all about taxes. I recently came across an 1895 entry for Walter Norman Mague in the transcription of the Plainfield [New Jersey] Tax Receipt Ledger. Walter paid the whopping sum of $1.00 in taxes in 1895. Walter was my great uncle and a young married man of 25 in 1895. He had been married to Lillie Young for two years and already had two baby daughters. Walter was a man’s man and seemed to be a favorite of his father, Norman Campbell Mague.
Walter and his dad owned a bicycle shop at 35 Somerset Street in Plainfield for a few years around 1895. They were poised for success as the bicycle was predicted to replace the horse. (The automobile was not on anyone’s radar at the time.) Walter was also manager of a local baseball team, the Young Men’s League of Hope Chapel, where he played left field. He spent over $9.00 of his own money for used uniforms (formerly worn by the famous Plainfield Crescents) for the team. When he gave up the manager role, Walter sued the new manager for the $9.00 he had promised to repay. I can’t help but imagine that $9.00 was a princely sum in 1895 and must have made quite a dent in the family budget; much more so than his $1.00 tax bill. Luckily, the judge was a friend of his father’s and he got his money back.
Sadly, Walter was to die of typhoid before 1895 was out. The disease was still a problem in crowded towns like Plainfield with poor sanitation. The very next year Plainfield installed a sanitary sewer system; and to think Walter’s $1.00 may have contributed to the sewer’s construction, but not in time to do him any good.
 "Plainfield Tax Receipt Ledger, 1895 to 1903 [bulk dates 1895 to 1897]," transcribed index, Plainfield Public Library (http://www.plainfieldlibrary.info: accessed 5 February 2016), p. 67, W. N. Mague; citing Tax Receipt Books for the City of Plainfield [New Jersey].
 “VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCES,” The Daily Press (Plainfield), 17 July 1895, front page, col. 3.
 Gavett, A. J. “The Plainfield N. J. Sewerage System,” 1896 NJ Dept of Health Annual Report, Water-Supplies and Sewerage, p. 309; NJ State Library (https://dspace.njstatelib.org/xmlui/handle/10929/26993 : accessed 11 April 2018).
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