Mo’ land, mo’ taxes

I found another few interesting tidbits about my third-great-grandfather and everyone’s favorite Minnesota Askew family patriarch, Joseph Askew (1840–1911). I was scouring a new Wadena newspaper title I ran across recently, and I discovered that Joseph Askew owned two additional parcels of land I hadn’t previously known about. Each of the two parcels was 40 acres, so this was a total of 80 additional acres of land.

Below I present a portion of a supplement included in the Thursday, July 24th, 1884, edition of The Northern Pacific Farmer, a short-lived paper that was published in Wadena, Minnesota, between 1878 and 1885. The supplement was entitled “Delinquent Tax List.” Uh oh.

A digitized version of this historical weekly newspaper was scanned by the Minnesota Historical Society and is available online through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site.

Here’s the portion of the supplement that mentions Joseph Askew (I’ve highlighted his mention in yellow):

The supplement uses the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) notation to describe the location of Joseph’s parcels of land:

  1. Township 135 [North], Range 34 [West], Section 30, NE ¼ of SE ¼ (40 acres)
  2. Township 135 [North], Range 34 [West], Section 30, SE ¼ of NE ¼ (40 acres)

While such PLSS notation has been used for the better part of the 232 years since it was invented by Thomas Jefferson, precisely identifying such coordinates in a digital world is becoming increasingly difficult. Thanks to the fine folks at Earth Point, PLSS datasets are georeferenced and available for browsing in Google Earth Pro. I’ve highlighted the new Askew parcels in red on the maps below.

First, the boundaries of the two parcels on their own:

Next, the two parcels relative to the Askew homestead (owned by Joseph Askew since 1875 until sometime in the 1890s:

Next, all of Joseph Askew’s known land holdings relative to the town of Wadena:
The southeasternmost parcel is mostly flat and apparently well suited to agriculture, while the northwesternmost parcel is surprisingly hilly and was almost certainly not used for agriculture. It may have been purchased for its timber value, as land for horses or other livestock, or perhaps just as an investment. The two photos below give an indication of the topography of the two new parcels:

Of course, the whole reason these two parcels came to my attention was the County Auditor determined that Joseph hadn’t paid his 1883 property taxes on these two parcels.

According to figures published in the supplement, Joseph Askew was delinquent by these amounts:

Parcel Unpaid Tax PenalTy/Interest Total Due
SE-most (flat) $ 5.74 $ 0.57 $ 6.31
NW-most (hilly) $ 11.24 $ 1.12 $ 12.36

So Joseph needed to pay $18.67 ($447.55 in 2017 dollars) to get back out of delinquency. This should have been a relatively easy amount for Joseph Askew to pay, given his success in his multiple business ventures, but perhaps he was just having a temporary cash flow problem in 1883–1884? As always, more research is needed.

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