Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Covington's Early Years

Mrs. Amos Neff once addressed the Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary about the history of Covington, particularly the more interesting tidbits about taxes and civic obligations. 

Mrs. Amos Neff, president of St. Tammany Parish Historical Society, spoke on Covington history at a Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary meeting last week, and recalled little known vignettes about  Covington's early days.

Those governing the town in its infancy exhibited a concern, remarkable for that time, for their surroundings and the welfare of all the citizens.

The first Covington Board of Trustees was elected in 1817, four years after the town's founding. On June 18, 1819, that group passed an ordinance prohibiting bathing in the many springs of the area. A fine of from $2 to $10 was set for violation.

All men ages 16 through 45 had to work for the town six days each year, helping to repair and maintain streets and other property.  Another 1819 law stated that any new house chimneys must be built of brick; dirt chimneys were no longer legal.

Also that year, the Board of Trustees authorized construction of new ditches in the area of New Hampshire and Rutland Streets and declared they must be lined with lumber.

Taxes were a way of life, even then. In 1811, when the first tax roll was made up, there were only 160 people in the entire parish. Total amount of state and perish taxes paid that year was $981.11.

The first Covington real estate tax was levied in 1817: $1 per each $1000 property value. Also, there was a head tax on all men aged 16 or over. In 1810, saloons, or "grog shops" as they were called, were each taxed $10 per year.

In 1911, the town fathers levied a tax of 7 1/2 mils to build a school and develop a park which is now Bogue Falaya State Park.

Mrs. Neff related other interesting facts about the early English settlers. John Wharton Collins, Covington's founder, died in December, 1817, and he was buried somewhere in the old Covington cemetery. However, he had no marker on his grave and the exact spot was not known. Only in 1971 was a marker placed at the corner of the cemetery nearest City Hall in his honor.

The speaker informed the group about the organization and purposes of the St. Tammany Parish Historical Society which new has 40 members. Its aim is to study the parish and ultimately publish its history.

Mrs. Neff, who is an archivist for St. Tammany Parish, and also a charter member of the Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society, was introduced by Mrs. Norwood Thornton, Auxiliary program chairman.