drama outside the Gillespie County Tax Office wasn't a quarrel over
assessed values, exemptions or tax rates. It wasn't a political
dispute between Democrats and Tea Party Republicans. It wasn't followed
by a fistfight, a duel, a letter to the editor or a tweet.
The citizens who gathered on that cool October morning weren't upset
about paying taxes. It may be hard to believe, but they were arguing
about who would be the first in line to PAY taxes.
Bill Petmecky, Gillespie County Tax Assessor-Collector, wasn't sure
what to expect when he got to the office bright and early on Monday,
October 2, 1950 - the first day of the year to pay state, county
and poll taxes.
Petmecky, along with just about everyone else in Gillespie
County, was curious to see who would show up that morning to
take the place of Carl Feuge, local rancher, renowned gunsmith and
the county's first tax payer for as long as anyone could remember.
Carl Theodore Feuge was a patriot. He took pride in paying taxes.
He had been first in line at the tax office every year since at
But Carl Feuge died of a heart attack in his workshop in October
1949, and everyone wondered who would step up and take his place.
The morning was only a warm glow in the eastern sky when Bill Petmecky
arrived at the Gillespie
County Courthouse in Fredericksburg
just before 6am. Darkness had not lifted. There was a chill in the
Already 3 men waited at the front door and another man at a side
door. Each of them had gotten up before the chickens hoping to be
the county's first taxpayer.
Bill Petmecky assumed the men would pay their taxes in order of
arrival, but there was a problem. When he asked who was first in
line, 2 men stepped forward.
Arthur O. C. Rabke, Crabapple
stock farmer, said he was the first to arrive at the courthouse
that morning but after waiting at the door for a while in the cool
weather went back to his car to get warm.
James Evers, Fredericksburg
livestock dealer, did not deny that Rabke was first to arrive but
claimed Rabke gave up his no. 1 spot to go back to his car.
Gilbert Kaderli, Humble Oil Agent, admitted he was third to appear
and humbly stepped aside.
Felix Jacoby, Fredericksburg
merchant, made no claim to be first in line but with Gilbert Kaderli
left the question to be settled between Rabke and Evers.
But neither party would budge. The situation seemed at an impasse.
Then Kaderli, in his usual genial fashion, offered to settle the
dispute by flipping a coin. Rabke and Evers agreed.
Rabke won the toss and stepped to the front of the line. Evers fell
in behind Rabke.
Kaderli asked Jacoby to be third in line and then took the fourth
Rabke, exempt by age from paying a poll tax, paid his property tax.
Evers was happy to receive the no. 1 poll tax receipt.
Soon the tax office was a busy place for just after 6 in the morning.
Emil Weber, retired stonemason, came in to pay taxes for himself
and his son, Werner.
Felix Heep, Fredericksburg
Barber, paid property taxes on his home and his business. Felix
owned City Barber Shop at 228 E. Main Street where Vaudeville Restaurant
An additional 49 citizens paid property taxes the first day, taking
advantage of the 3 percent discount for paying in October. Thirty-eight
citizens paid their poll taxes.
Tax payments that first day were unusually high even though the
tax office closed from 2 to 4 that afternoon so county employees
could attend the funeral of Bill Heimann, courthouse custodian.
Even with a shortened work day, taxes collected totaled $3,365.54,
which wouldn't pay the yearly taxes on a modest house in Fredericksburg
I think I'll write a letter to the editor. I don't know how to tweet.