the county treasurer in 1904 was $23,000. Under either
the salary or fee system the remuneration of the
county treasurer is generally larger than for any
other county office; and for this reason the position
is much sought after by political candidates.
It is the duty of county treasurers to receive and
receipt for all money coming to their respective
counties. The largest part of this is in the form of
taxes, which may be collected directly from the tax-
payers or turned over by county or township collect-
ors. The receipts include much more than county
revenues. The county treasurers act as agents of the
state treasury for the collection of state taxes; and
in some states taxes for townships and other local
districts pass through the county treasuries. In
some states the county treasurers also collect delin-
Money received by county treasurers must be dis-
bursed as provided by law. State taxes are for-
warded at stated intervals to the state treasury.
Taxes for local districts are paid over to their treas-
urers. And payments for county expenses are made
on the authority of the county board or county
r A legislative investigation in Hamilton County, Ohio, in 1906,
led to the payment of $200,000 to the county by former county
treasurers, for gratuities received by them from banks in which
county funds were deposited.
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
Statutes usually require treasurers to keep ac-
counts so as to show the amount in each fund, and to
hold their books subject to inspection by the county
board. Financial statements must be made annually.
In many states there is provision for an annual ex-
amination and audit of their books ; but this is often
superficial, while in most states the accounting meth-
ods are inadequate.
County auditors have been established as regular
county officers in one-third of the states ; and in a few
other states they are provided in some counties. They
are most common and of most importance in the
North-Central states; but are found also in some
states in each of the other geographical groups. In
states where auditors are not established the county
clerks act in some respects as auditing officers.
Three New England states have county auditors,
but the office is of less significance there than in other
sections. The auditors are appointed in New Hamp-
shire by the Supreme Court, in Vermont by the judges
of the county court, and in Connecticut by the con-
vention of members of the legislature. Their duties
are confined to a brief examination of the accounts
and financial reports of other county officers at the
close of the fiscal year; and there is no systematic
audit of current expenditures. In Massachusetts, the
city auditor of Boston audits also the Suffolk county
accounts, and for other counties the accounts are
examined by the state controller of county accounts.
In New York most of the counties have no auditors
and the only examination of claims is that made by
the board of supervisors, but the comptroller of the
City of New York acts as auditor for the four coun-
ties within the city, and there is a county auditor for
Erie county. In New Jersey each county has an
auditor appointed by the board of freeholders. In
Pennsylvania each county has a board of three elected
auditors, who make an annual examination and audit
of the accounts of the county officers. Philadelphia
and Allegheny counties each have a controller.
In the North-Central states, elective county auditors
are provided in most of the states having small county
boards, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, and South
Dakota, and it is in these states that the office is most
important. The county auditors keep the accounts
of the county receipts and expenditures ; they prepare
the tax lists and issue warrants for payments author-
ized by the county boards; and they are also the
secretaries of the county boards. In Ohio and Indiana
they are also sealers of weights and measures ; and in
Ohio they assess certain property for taxation.
A few counties in Michigan have boards of auditors.
That in Wayne county practically determines appro-
priations as well as audits claims, and thus has for
most purposes the powers of a county board. In the
other counties auditors have been established only
within the past few years. In Kansas, auditors are
appointed by the district court in counties with over
45,000 population. In other North-Central states the
county clerks act to some extent as auditors; and
in Cook county, Illinois, the county clerk is ex
officio comptroller, appointing a special deputy, who
has charge of the examination of claims.
In the Southern and Western states the office of
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
county auditor is seldom found. It is provided
in South Carolina, Mississippi, Nevada, Washing-
ton, and California, and for some counties in Utah
and Montana. In Wyoming there is an audit of
county accounts by the state examiner.
County auditors are paid sometimes at a per diem
rate, sometimes by fees, and sometimes a fixed salary.
In the important counties of the North- Central states
it is a well-paid office. In Miami county, Indiana, the
auditor receives a salary of $17,500 a year. 1 In
Cuyahoga county, Ohio, under the fee system the net
compensation for 1903 was over $50,000. 2
With the increasing importance of county finances
there is a growing need for more efficient methods of
accounting, and it is probable that auditing officers
will be provided before long in many of the states
that now lack them. A competent official of this kind,
giving all of his time to public business, is essential
to a thorough audit of current accounts, and should
give better results than the examination by a board
acting at intervals. It may be pointed out, however,
that in counties of small population, it is hardly
necessary to employ an official for this purpose alone.
The combination of auditor and clerk to the county
board in such cases seems a satisfactory one.
REGISTERS OF DEEDS
In all of the states a public record is kept of docu-
ments affecting titles to real estate, and in about half
of them this record is in charge of a special elective
! Eawles, '* Civil Government of Indiana," p. 78.
2 Report of the Auditor of State, 1903.
county official, known as the register or recorder of
deeds. In other states the land records are kept by
county clerks or county auditors, except in Connecti-
cut and Rhode Island, where the town clerks act as
This system of public land records has developed
in America. At common law in England there was no
obligation to record publicly conveyances affecting
title to land. After the Statute of Uses, 1 which author-
ized the transfer of estates by deed without actual
delivery of possession, there was passed the Statute
of Enrollments,* for the registry of bargains and sales.
But this measure was evaded; and while several
recording acts were passed for local districts in Eng-
land early in the eighteenth century 3 no general sys-
tem was established in that country until 1875. The
ownership of land so generally in large estates and the
infrequency of transfers renders public records less
necessary, while the land owners oppose a registration
system from a dislike to publishing the details of fam-
ily settlements and domestic arrangements. 5
In America, however, land registration was intro-
duced in New England with the early settlements; 5
and the system was well established in many colonies
before the first of the English local acts. 6 Before the
1 27 Henry VII, C. 10.
3 27 Henry VIII, C. 16.
8 Yorkshire Acts, 5 Anne, C. 18 ; 6 Anne, C. 35 ; 8 George II,
C. 6. The Middlesex Registry Act, 7 Anne, C. 20.
4 Webb, " Record of Title," pp. 17-20.
6 C. D. Wright, ' ' Public Records of Massachusetts, ' ' p. 370.
Plymouth, 1636; Massachusetts, 1640; Connecticut, 1639;
New Jersey, 1676, and Virginia.
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
Revolution public land registers were almost universal
in all of the colonies. 1 Such a system was more neces-
sary in this country on account of the mobility of
population and the frequent transfers of land, so as
to safeguard purchasers against previous alienation or
encumbrances. Everywhere in the United States
these public records are now the basis for land titles
and conveyancing, and the old "livery of seisin" has
As the practice of recording is regulated entirely
by statute, there is some variety in the instruments
required to be recorded in different states. An early
Massachusetts act provided that "no mortgage, bar-
gain, sale, or grant made of any houses, lands, rents,
or other hereditaments, shall be of force against any
other person except the grantor and his heirs, unless
the same be recorded. " 2 It is now the definite policy
in most states that the title to all interests in land
shall be apparent on the records; and practically all
documents affecting title to real estate must be re-
corded to be valid against an innocent third party.
This includes warranty and quit-claim deeds of sale,
mortgages and satisfaction of mortgages, notices of
liens, easements, and other instruments.
Some documents of importance in determining land
titles are recorded in other places than the county
recorders' offices. The record in a United States land
office of the original patent to land in the public land
states is sufficient to establish title. The record of un-
1 Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maryland, 1715 ; Georgia,
2 Massachusetts Eecords, I, 306, 307 (1640).
paid taxes, judgments and legacies are to be found in
the treasurers', court and probate offices.
Instruments recorded take effect from the time of
filing in the recorder's office and the date and hour of
filing are noted in case of conflict between different
documents. The records are exact copies of the docu-
ments entered in large bound volumes, which form a
bulky collection, especially in counties containing
cities where there are many transfers of small parcels
of land. 1 The records are made in ink, and are
usually written in long hand, but sometimes blank
forms for documents of the same character are printed
in the record books. In many states separate books of
record are required for different classes of instruments.
Usually recorders are required to prepare indexes
of the land records, but the statutes vary as to the
details prescribed. In Michigan indexes show only the
parties to the instruments. In Illinois abstract books
are prepared summarizing the records for tracts of
land. But at best the task of searching the records
to verify the title to any parcel of land is a tedious
and expensive process. Moreover as the re-
corded documents only establish a presumptive title
and are not conclusive evidence, those relying on them
take the risk of defects being disclosed at a later time.
To avoid the expense and delay of repeated examin-
ations of the records for each purchase or mortgage
and to escape the uncertainty of the results, there
have developed abstract and title guaranty companies.
! In Suffolk County, Mass., there were nearly 2,000 volumes
in 1890, and 60 volumes were added each year. Cook County,
Ills., had 4,200 volumes from 1871 to 1894.
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
And as a result of much discussion there has recently
been established in a few states a system of public
registration of land titles, known as the ' ' Torrens sys-
tem. ' ' * This provides for an official examination of
the recorded instruments and an investigation of titles
by the recorders, and the issuance of certificates of
title by a court, while subsequent transactions affect-
ing land so certified must be duly entered on the new
registry of titles. This important extension of the
recording system has been introduced in Massachu-
setts, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon and Cali-
fornia; but it will take many years before it covers
most of the real estate even in these states. 2
In some states the recorders keep other records than
those in reference to land titles. Thus in Indiana they
record certificates of incorporation, articles of associa-
tion, articles of apprenticeship, certificates of dentists,
descriptions of fence-marks and of ear-marks and
brands of live stock; and they also preserve a file of
county newspapers. In Wisconsin they keep a record
of vital statistics, and in Minnesota a record of trade-
marks and brands.
The office of recorder is clearly an important one.
The protection of property rights is in large measure
dependent on the accuracy and honesty of the records,
but the duties can hardly be considered political or
1 From Robert Torrens, who secured the adoption of a system
of land registration in Australia, from where the idea has
spread to England, Canada, and the United States. In parts of
Continental Europe a similar system has been in use for cen-
2 J. H. Brewster, * * Conveyancing, ' ch. 29 ; American Law Re-
view, 36, p. 321.
such as to make necessary the present system of popu-
lar election to the position. Indeed, the elective
method by promoting frequent changes in the per-
sonnel, prevents the development of the most efficient
All of the states except the six in New England have
county officials with some powers of educational ad-
ministration. In about half of the Southern states
such county authorities have full control over the
local management of schools. In the remaining states
the powers of the county authorities are those of
supervision over officers elected in the minor districts.
The county system of school administration still
prevails in the states bordering on the Atlantic from
Maryland to Florida, and in Louisiana and Missis-
sippi. Even in these states there have been estab-
lished school-districts within the counties, but the dis-
trict trustees are appointed by the county author-
ities and are thus their agents rather than officials of
the local districts.
In this group of states the county school manage-
ment is in the hands of two classes of officers : boards
of education and school-superintendents. The boards
usually control the school property, appoint district
trustees and sometimes the teachers, and make appro-
priations. The superintendents, who generally have
had experience in teaching, act as executive agents of
the boards, visit schools, and exercise general super-
vision over the courses of study and methods of
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
There is no uniformity in the methods of constitut-
ing these county boards of education. Some states
show a strong centralizing tendency. In Maryland
the county school-boards are appointed by the gov-
ernor of the state. In Virginia they are composed of a
division superintendent appointed by the state board
of education, and appointed district trustees. In
Louisiana the parish school-boards are appointed by
the state board of education. In other states the
county school-boards are appointed by other county
authorities: in North Carolina, by the county courts,
in South Carolina and Mississippi, by the county
superintendents, and in Georgia, by the grand juries.
In Florida they are elected by popular vote.
County school-superintendents are elected in South
Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. They are ap-
pointed by the county board of education in Mary-
land, North Carolina and Louisiana.
In the remaining Southern states, and in all the
Middle-Atlantic, North-Central and Western states,
rural school administration is in the immediate con-
trol of trustees or directors elected in school-districts
within the counties; but there is also in all of these
states county superintendents or commissioners of
education and in come states other county school
authorities. In most of these states the county super-
intendents are elected by popular vote; but in some
states they are appointed, in New Jersey and Dela-
ware by the governor, in Pennsylvania and Indiana,
by the trustees of the local school-districts, in Ohio
by the judges, and in Tennessee and Arkansas by the
county court. In New York school commissioners
are elected by legislative districts, which often include
only part of a county. An unusual feature in con-
nection with these offices is the general requirement of
educational qualifications, even where the position is
The duties of county superintendents vary to some
extent according to the statutes of the different states.
In most states they examine candidates for appoint-
ment as teachers, and issue licenses authorizing them
to teach ; and in Ohio this seems to be the only func-
tion of the county school officers. But in some states 1
county examiners are provided for this work in addi-
tion to the county superintendents. They visit the
schools in their jurisdiction, to inquire into educational
methods and standards, and to inspect the material
condition of school-houses and grounds. They advise
the teachers and district trustees ; in some states have
power to decide appeals on questions of school law;
and sometimes can require the district authorities to
take action for the improvement of the schools. They
organize teachers' institutes. In many states they act
as agents for the state department of education in the
distribution of state funds to the schools, and in gen-
eral are the means of communication between the state
superintendent and the local authorities. They collect
information as to the schools and make reports to the
These county superintendents seldom exercise any
supervision over schools in large cities. But in the
rural sections their authority and influence is often
1 New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Wash-
ington, Oregon and California.
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
an important factor in school management, and taken
in connection with the state supervision over educa-
tional administration, to be examined later, this county
superintendence limits to no little extent the auton-
omy of the local districts, and it seems no longer
open to question that these tendencies work for the
more efficient administration of the schools than the
extreme decentralization of earlier times.
County surveyors are provided in nearly all of the
states. Exceptions are the six New England states,
New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The office is
usually elective, but in Virginia, Tennessee and Ala-
bama it is filled by the county boards. Surveyors are
usually paid by fees, including states where other
county officers are given fixed salaries.
As the name indicates, the duties of these officers are
to make surveys of lands. In the public land states
original surveys are made by United States officers.
The local surveyors act only in special cases on the
order of a court or the application of a private owner.
They appoint deputies and employ chainmen and
markers to assist in their work. Records are kept of
the surveys made, including maps, plats and field
notes ; and these are indexed and open for inspection
at any time. Copies of surveys are furnished on pay-
ment of fees.
In some states other duties have been placed on
county surveyors. In Pennsylvania they are ex officio
commissioners of county roads and bridges, and in sev-
eral other states (including Ohio, Indiana, Oregon and
California) they lay out county roads and sometimes
have charge of their construction and maintenance.
In New York the county boards may appoint county
engineers to have charge of county roads. In Indiana
the county surveyors also have charge of the construc-
tion of drainage ditches, while in Michigan the boards
of supervisors appoint county drain commissioners.
In the Southern states the county boards appoint
both county and district overseers or superintendents
of roads, who have charge of all the public highways
in their counties.
For the administration of county poor relief special
officials are provided, in many states, under the finan-
cial control of the county boards. These officials are
variously known in different states as superintendents,
directors, overseers, or commissioners of the poor.
Usually they are appointed by the county boards, but
in Pennsylvania and New York they are elected, and in
Ohio each county has three elected infirmary directors,
who appoint a superintendent.
The duties of these officers are to superintend the
county almshouse and poor farm. In many counties
the aged poor and young children are still kept in the
same institution with insane, diseased, and even vicious
paupers. In some cases, however, there are separate
hospitals and homes for the aged, while dependent
children are placed with private families or in separ-
ate institutions. 1 Usually the inmates of county asy-
lums are required to assist so far as they are able in
the house or farm.
1 Fifty of the eighty-eight counties in Ohio maintain chil-
dren 's homes.
OTHER COUNTY OFFICERS
In Ohio and Indiana there are unpaid county boards
of visitors, appointed by the judges, who examine the
local charitable and correctional institutions and
report to the board of state charities. In Michigan,
the governor appoints for each county an agent of the
state board of charities and correction, who looks after
juvenile offenders and dependent children.
Many counties in the South and some in other parts
of the country still lease out paupers on contract to the
highest bidder. In Alabama the governor appoints a
board of examiners in each county, to investigate
applications for state aid from Confederate soldiers
or their widows.
County health officers or boards of health are estab-
lished in many states, or the county boards are author-
ized to act in this capacity. These arrangements are
established for the most part in the Southern and
Western groups of states, 1 but also in Minnesota,
Nebraska, and North and South Dakota in the North-
Central group, and in Connecticut. In the last named
state, the county health officers are appointed by the
judges of the superior court, and they appoint and
supervise the town health officers. In Mississippi they
are appointed by the state board of health, and in
Florida county boards of health are appointed by the
governor. In other states appointments are made by
the county boards. The powers of these county health
authorities are most important in the Southern states.
1 Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, Geor-
gia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ken-
tucky, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Wash-
ington and California. Cf. Chapin, " Municipal Sanitation,"
NEW ENGLAND TOWNS
In all of the states there are smaller areas within the
counties for various political and administrative pur-
poses. Each county is usually divided into towns,
townships, or districts, which together make up the
county, while the more densely populated districts are
separately organized as villages, incorporated towns,
boroughs or cities.
This chapter and those immediately succeeding will
deal with these minor civil divisions, except the cities
which are described in another volume of this series. 1
These districts in the first named group differ so much
from each other in various parts of the country that
they cannot well be considered as a single subject,
and separate chapters will, therefore, be given to the
New England towns, to townships in the Central
states, and to county districts in the South and West.
Villages, incorporated towns and boroughs, as well
as the small cities in some states, are essentially sim-
ilar institutions, and all will be considered together in
In New England, the towns still remain the prin-
cipal units of local government. Their importance is
due in part to their exercise of functions elsewhere
1 F. J. Goodnow, ' ' City Government in the United States. ' '
performed by county officers, but at least as much to
the complete combination of the functions of rural
townships and semi-urban villages in the same organ-
ization, while interest in the institution is increased
by the continued active exercise of the purely demo-
cratic form of government.
The powers and influence of the towns reach their
maximum in Connecticut and Rhode Island. This is