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Town Elected Officials

election results

Election results:

The Overseer of the Poor was elected annually by a vote of the town's freeholders and inhabitants. This document displayed is the election tally for the year of 1765 in New Paltz. The elected positions of that year were constables, a supervisor, assessors, overseers of the highway, overseers of the poor, collectors and fence viewers.

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Town Elected Officials

Overseer of the Poor: When an individual applied for relief, the Overseer of the Poor would take this request and send it to a Justice of the Peace. Once the Justice determined what relief the person needed, the Overseer would give the pauper the monetary amount that the Justice ordered. Lodging, clothing, and medical services were also provided when necessary. The Overseer also had to maintain a ledger with the names of each person receiving assistance as well as the amount of relief they received.



Justice of the Peace: One of the responsibilies of the Justice of the Peace was to determine the type and duration of relief a pauper received. He could decide on a weekly allowance or chose the pauper to be bound out. In 1809, an order was put in place that stated a Justice of the Peace could determine it was improper to remove an unsettled person from the town they were applying for relief in based on their condition. This order would be sent to the Overseer of the Poor. The accompanying document is an example of the New Paltz Justice of the Peace writing to the Overseer of the Poor in December of 1822 explaining that Elizabeth Murfey could not be removed and needed care.

Constables: A Constable was part of the town’s law enforcement. He could make arrests and worked under the justices of the peace. “Every constable is by common law a conservator of the peace in his district, for which purpose he is armed, as well by common as statute law, with the power of arresting and imprisoning his fellow subjects, and forcibly to enter their dwelling houses, and with other extensive authorities. The constable is the proper officer to the justices of the peace, and bound to execute their warrants.”

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Supervisor: A Supervisor was,“annually on the first Tuesday in April chosen by ballot, for one year, and until another is appointed in his place, by the freeholders and inhabitants of every such town qualified by law to vote at town meetings.”  The Supervisor was to appoint a clerk and treasurer, audit the town’s expenses, have the town’s boundaries surveyed, organize board meetings, review the assessor’s tax roll, and meet with the other town’s Supervisors in the county.  

Town Clerk: “The office of town clerk is of secondary importance to that of the supervisor, and it will be seen that although it is not of such high responsibility, yet that his duties are more numerous than those of any other town officer.” The Town Clerk did various jobs during town elections. They had to prepare a collection box for ballots, tally up the votes, and declare who was elected for each position. “After the close of the town election, it is usual for the freeholders and inhabitants assembled to contemplate their town concerns and regulations – such as to provide for raising monies for the support of the poor of their town.” The Town Clerk's duty was to record the events and decisions of this meeting on paper and then deliver a copy of the monies agreed upon for the support of the poor to the supervisor. The Town Clerk also recorded all the rules and regulations made during a town meeting into a book. After July 4th 1799, any child born to a slave needed to be registered with the Town Clerk within nine months of their birth. There was a 12 cent fee for each child to be registered. If they were not registered within the nine month time-frame, a fine of five dollars plus one dollar for each month late was to be paid. Half of the money paid for fines would go to the use of the poor in the town. The Clerk also recorded certificates of freedom for former slaves.  

Pound Master: Each town or city was to have at least one pound.  An animal could be impounded if a Fence-Viewer determined it had done damage to a fence and the owner of the said animal did not pay to fix the fence. The Pound Master could feed and care for the animals in the pound and would charge a fee if the owner came back to pick up his animal. The following fees, to wit, for taking in and discharging every horse, gelding, mare or colt, and all neat cattle, twelve and a half cents each; and for every sheep or lamb, three cents; and for every hog, shoat or pig, six cents; which fees shall be paid to the said keeper or pound master, by the owner of the beasts expounded, or some person for him, before the said beasts shall be released from such pound.If no one came to pick the animals up within six days, the pound master could sell them in a public auction. The Pound Master would keep the monies from the sale that covered the costs of feeding and taking care of the animal. Any surplus money would be returned to the owner of the animal. “If no such owner shall appear and claim such overplus within six calendar months after such sale, the same shall be paid to the overseers of the poor of the city or town where such beast was empounded, for the use of the poor of such city or town.”

Assessor: As of 1813, at least three Assessors were to be elected in each town. The Assessors could split up the town into districts. Each Assessor would be responsible for one district. It was their duty to determine the value of houses and property so a tax could be levied. “The assessors in every town or ward, shall in every year, between the first day of May and July, ascertain according to the best evidence in their power, and set down in their assessment roll the value of houses and lands in such town or ward, owned or possessed by any person residing in such town or ward, opposite to the name of such person, and also, in like manner the value of personal estate of every such person, over and above all debts and demands against such person.”

The Overseers of the Highway: The Overseers were to make a list of all of the people responsible to work on the highways in their road districts. The meeting place and time was to be sent out at least 24 hours in advance to the inhabitants who were chosen to work on the road. The duties of the Overseers of the Highway also state, “It is expressly enjoined on the overseer, that he shall repair and keep in order the highways in the district for which he shall be elected ; to warn all persons assessed to work on the highways in his district, to come and work when required so to do by the commissioners, or any of them, to collect all fines and commutation money ; and to execute all such orders of the commissioners of the town, as shall be given in conformity to law.”

The Collector: "It is the duty of the collector out of the first monies he shall collect, to pay to the overseers of the poor such money as shall be raised for the maintenance of the poor of such town, and the residue of the money by him collected, to pay to the treasurer of the county, on or before the first day of February next thereafter.”

Fence Viewers: The Fence-Viewer’s job was to settle disputes of the location of partition fences between neighbors. The Fence-Viewer also inspected fences and could order the landowner to fix his or her fence if was inadequate. If any animal caused harm to a fence, it was the Fence-Viewer’s duty to assess the damage and determine who should pay to have it fixed. The neighbor who complained about the animal or “beast” could have it held by the pound master until the fence repair payment was made. “The person making the distress shall, as soon as he shall think proper, and within 48 hours after making such distress, unless the damage shall be sooner paid, cause the beasts so distrained to be put in the nearest pound in the same county, where they shall remain until the sum so certified by the fence viewers, with the fees of the pound master shall be paid, or the beasts so empounded be replevied.”