Monday, December 27, 2010

Something missing from Old Salem?

Ginny Hens Running Loose in Old Salem
My spouse was fascinated at the first sighting of Ginny Hens running free in Old Salem. I believe that this is the only part of town where this is allowed by special decree! Are they an indication of something missing from Old Salem?

Spending a little time in public records you will discover that much is missing from the historically accurate presentation of Salem in the intended time frame. As I walk through the streets of Salem I have been attempting to garner a better understanding of what this place was really like prior to the Civil War. I find this very difficult. The first problem is that much of what was present then is gone. The details are mind boggling! Many buildings, especially farm type buildings, and the surrounding forest are no longer here. The streets are now all paved; there are no more cobblestone, brick, wood, dirt or mud streets. The grade of the streets has also drastically changed over the years to better accommodate travel, drainage and street cars. There are no people in the distance working in their fields. There is no sound of the turning potters wheel or the banging of hammer to anvil. There is no clip, clop, clip, clop of horses hoofs or turning of wood wheels rolling down the streets. What of the swish of long skirts and petticoats or the sound of clean wash blowing in the wind. The smell of straw, hay and manure are gone not to mention the smell of the many privies (a posting coming about that later!). You can walk safely through the streets and yards with no thought for what you might step in next. You can take a deep breath without fear of what you might smell. Do you begin to get the feeling that the historically adequate presentation of Salem based on the era prior to the Civil Was has some serious flaws?

In an attempt to understand and imagine life in pre Civil War Salem I have been conducting a little research and think I may have stumbled on a major missing ingredient to historical accuracy we fail to consider in today's sterile society. Share in my delight following with me studying these public record entries and see if you get the picture.

Care to meet this in the street or your yard?
A book could be written about the trials and tribulations of the Town Commissioners of both Salem and Winston relative to the problem of hogs, cows and other animals running at large within both towns. It is hard to conceive that during these early years, hogs roamed freely over the town streets. This is a public issue beginning in 1772 when Salem is barely starting out and it will remain an issue into the 1900’s.

June 12, 1772 - "There is complaint from the Brethren and Sisters in the town that so many cattle roam the streets that it is dangerous for the children. Answer was made that each should fence in his own yard, and keep the children there or in the house, and not let them run about on the streets."

Are you paying attention? Fence in the yard to keep the children safe from animals freely roaming throughout the town! Don't be concerned about the farm animals, don't let the children run about in the street. How long could this possibly continue? Watch your step or you may be cleaning your shoes!

April 8, 1816 -"For some time it has been customary to let cows that belong in town stand in front of the houses instead of being let immediately into the barnyards. This is disorderly, and bad for the streets, and should be remedied as soon as possible. It would be avoided if the cows were let into the barnyard or stable as soon as they come home."

Did you get it, “come home”, where had they been all day? Where is the historical depiction of the "barnyard or stable" at the homes of Old Salem?

April 22, 1838 -"Complaints were reported about the hogs rambling through the community, about the nightly noise of too many dogs, the bulls and cows in the streets and the great number of doves causing damage in gardens. We wish that all this which harms the love and harmony in the community could be removed."

In the 1850’s Mrs. Webb’s short-tailed cow is reported as a nuisance. The Mayor was directed to inform Mrs. Webb that unless she put up her cow it would be dealt with according to the Ordinance.”

May 26, 1858 The Mayor was requested to notify Mr. Linebach that his cow, because of its vicious habits, not be allowed to run at large.

August 20, 1859- “Ebert was allowed to turn his cow out again-provided he can secure her in such a manner as to prevent her from doing any mischief.” 

June 30, 1873- A petition was received from 53 citizens requested that an ordinance be enacted prohibiting hogs from running at large”…as we are satisfied they are a nuisance to our citizens.” The petition was referred to a committee. By 1874 ordinances were in place to “arrest” hogs running at large. The laws were repealed on January 15, 1875. At the January 25th meeting, a new hog law was enacted.

June 19, 1874- Mayor Vogler suggested to the Board the necessity of building a pound (fenced lot) for hogs and cattle. The Board resolved to build a pound ten feet square and six feet high. It appears that this Pound was used mainly for impounding hogs running at large within the town limits. The charge against the impounded hog was 40 cents for picking up by the Town Constable, and 10 cents per day for feeding each hog weighing over 100 pounds and 5 cents for pigs under 100 pounds. The owner could redeem his property by paying the costs. If not redeemed, these animals were sold at public auction, after notices posted at designated places for ten days.

You would think after the Civil War they might have these issues under control. NOT!


At the November 1, 1895 meeting an ordinance was passed on the keeping of hogs. It stated “No owner or occupant of any Lot within the Town of Salem, with a frontage of not more than 50 feet on any street, shall keep more than two Hogs; with more than 50 feet and less than 100 feet frontage more than four Hogs; and with more frontage than 100 feet more than 6 hogs, and in all cases where it is desired to keep Hogs on lots having no street frontage or on lots have no house thereon, no Hogs shall be kept. In all cases, the Hog pens shall be kept clean and shall be constructed with floors not less than 10 inches above the surface of the ground.”

Multiply these allowed hogs by the number of homes and what is the potential for hogs in town? 


After several unsuccessful attempts at banning hog lots from Salem, a petition was presented by property owners on Cherry Street calling for an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of hogs in a district bounded by West, First, New Shallowford and Elm St. This was immediately followed by a petition by another group of citizens asking that the law not be changed in that area. At the November 6, 1903 meeting an ordinance was passed favoring the banning of hog keeping in the area. On November 10, two petitions from another section of Salem regarding hog keeping, one for, one against were presented. The Sanitary Committee noted that the majority of property owners in the area actually favored keeping hogs and in this section would not recommend the banning of hog pens.


As Salem became more urban, the issue of animals in the back yard became more of a problem. By 1911, hog pens were still allowed in the south east section of the town. There was no general ordinance regarding the keeping of cows or chickens.

June 2, 1911-A petition was received requesting that Mr. Jones cow lot on Poplar St. be declared a nuisance. This was referred to the Sanitary Committee. The Board of Health took up the issue on July 24 with Mr. Jones and his attorney. The questioning takes up two pages of Minutes Books. The lot was 200 ft square and contained 35 or 40 head of cattle. The Board of Health recommended that Jones have until April 1912 to move the lot. April 5, 1912- An Ordinance was approved prohibiting the keeping of more than 4 cows within the corporate limits and making it illegal to operate a dairy within the corporate limits.


One of the first taxes imposed by the Commissioners of Salem in 1857 was a tax on hogs. These animals had to be provided with a collar and tag or some other means of identification to show that the owner had paid this tax.

The minutes of the Salem Board of Commissioners are replete with recordings of complaints and requests made to the Board about the problems created by hogs running at large. There were instances where one group of citizens would present a petition asking that the Board pass an ordinance prohibiting this freedom of the hogs. However, before the Board took action on such a petition, another group of citizens would submit a petition opposing any restrictions on the hogs. In one case, at the request of citizens concerned, the Board prohibited the keeping of hogs within the designated area. However, this was not very effective since the hogs running at large in adjoining territory did not observe this imaginary restricting boundary line.
Hogs ranging in their natural habitat are not necessarily unclean animals, and they become offensive only when confined in close quarters and are forced to wallow in their own filth. They instinctively wallow in mud to get relief from insects, and perhaps they consider this a kind of beauty treatment.

These animals eat most anything with impunity, and are subject to few diseases. When ranging at large they devour almost everything in reach above ground and when this source of food supply is exhausted they root down into the ground in search of further nourishment. These activities can soon devastate the landscape.
The citizens apparently placed a high value on their hogs and they were not very receptive to restrictive town ordinances. The minutes of the Board of Commissioners of Winston, dated August 7, 1868, record: "On motion Section Nineteen of the former ordinance in relation to the taxation of hogs is hereby repealed and the following Ordinance is adopted and ordered to be posted up.

A note follows "See ordinance placed on next page marked Exhibit A." The next page of the minutes indicates that the attached ordinance had been removed. Perhaps this ordinance was later rescinded. The Board minutes of June 21, 1873 records: "On motion the Mayor was directed to confer with the Salem authorities as to the property of a Hog Law, and arranged to act consistently."

It is obvious that as the town expanded and the population density increased, it would be necessary for the town authorities to adopt ordinances and regulations to control the hog problem, just as it became necessary to collect and dispose of night soil from surface privies (another story to tell?) and ultimately to install a sanitary sewerage system.

On June 10, 1876, the Board of Commissioners of Winston adopted this ordinance:
  1. That if any hog or hogs belonging to a citizen of Winston shall be found at large upon the streets of Winston, it shall be the duty of the town officer to have the same taken up and impounded, and after advertising the same for three days at the Court house door, if the owner thereof fail within that time to redeem them by paying a fine of fifty cents for each hog, unless there be more than two hogs belonging to the same owner, and in that case ten cents each over the excess of two, and twenty cents per day for feeding each hog, to sell the same to the highest bidder, and out of the proceeds arising from such sale to pay off all forfeitures, costs and expenses, and pay the overplus to owner on demand; and in case no owner shall redeem within the time specified, nor make application for the said overplus within thirty days after sale, the same shall be forfeited to the use of the corporation.

  2. That each and every hog found rooting up any street or sidewalk of the Town, or otherwise injuring the same, or breaking into any garden or other enclosure, or which shall, in anyway, become troublesome or mischievous, every such hog is hereby declared to be a nuisance, and the owner of every such hog, on notice thereof by the Town Constable, shall immediately remove said hog beyond the Corporate limits of the town, and keep same out of said town, and on the failure thereof shall forfeit and pay one dollar for each day that such person shall suffer said hog to run at large in the town after such notice.

June 21,1875-"A certain Spotted Sow, four Shoats and four Pigs, said to be the property of Mrs. Fishel, was declared to be a public nuisance, said hogs having been habitually on the public streets and sidewalks of Winston; running at large, rooting and damaging same for more than twenty days. The Town Officer was ordered to notify the said owner that from and after three days the same would be abated.” This was the only business conducted at this meeting.


July, 1876-"It is ordered that any person who shall put a hitching rack or other place for hitching stock, every such person shall so provide said rack or hitching place as to prevent any horse or other stock so hitched from getting upon the sidewalk. And no person shall put up any trough upon the street for feeding stock, and each and every person who has heretofore erected any such trough upon the street shall remove the same on five days notice from the Mayor, and no person shall erect any such rack or hitching place on the side of the streets next to and around the Court House Square, and each and every person who shall violate any of the provisions of this ordinance shall for each offense forfeit and pay Twenty Five Dollars."


June 20, 1879-“On motion it was ordered that owners of hogs be allowed to turn them out from this date till the first day of October 1879.”


March 6, 1914-“A petition was presented to the board asking that the citizens of the Salem Ward be allowed to keep and raise hogs. The petitioners were informed that the Board had decided not to allow any hogs to be raised in any section of the city.”

On Feb 5, 1915, a similar request was presented “ colored citizens asking that they be allowed to raise hogs on Columbian Heights. The Board took no action on the petition.”

Do you smell it yet? Lets add some fragrance, fence in Old Salem, leave the cars out and turn the animals loose in the streets and yards! Now, that would be historical accuracy, don't you think?

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