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A LOOK BACK: Cows in the Village

A001-Cows-Main-Street-Springville.--1880s.-Concord-House-in-background

Two calves hitched outside businesses near the intersection of Main and Buffalo Streets around 1880.  The American Hotel and later Concord House can be seen in background.  The calves are hitched to a hitching  post, in those days it was a two dollar offense to tie or hitch cattle or horses to any shade or ornamental tree in the Village of Springville.

By Derek M. Otto

Last week, I wrote about Fiddler’s Green Park and noted that in the picture from about 1860, the fence and turnstiles around the park were there to keep animals out of the common green space.  One of my readers posted on Facebook about picket fences and how they were designed to keep animals in rather than keep animals out.

Recently, there have been issues relating to animals and livestock in the village.  My neighbors had chickens and roosters in the village when I was a toddler (not that long ago), and every so often, we find a loose animal from the auction wandering among us.  It is one of the unique things about Springville.  I became interested to see what laws were in place in the 1860s to better understand the relationship between the village and livestock.

   The May 18, 1858 by-laws of the village of Springville was the law of the village at the time.  The document, which is a single sheet, has 20 by-laws that prescribe the local policy on everything from public nudity to fire prevention.   

It is by-law number 11 that deals with livestock.  It states: “No horses, cattle, sheep, swine, or geese shall be permitted to run at large in the village of Springville, under the penalty of fifty cents for each horse or horned cattle, twenty five cents for each sheep or swine and twelve and a half cents for each goose, for each offense. But this shall not prohibit any cows or cows belonging to any inhabitant of the village from running at large in the daytime from the first day of April to the first day of December in each year, subject to the provisions of the Revised Statues in relation to unruly cattle.”

Geese and sheep could not run at large, but cows could. So it was pretty clear that most animals were kept in their owners’ yards by the picket fences.

The fence around the village green was a good idea. You also had to be careful of where you tied or hitched your pony. By-law number twenty made it a two dollar offense to hitch or tie any horse, cow or any other animal to any shade or ornamental tree in the village.   That was two dollars for every offense.  The fence around the park kept the temptation away of tying up your horse to a shade tree in the park.

Burt Spaulding, who wrote in the 1930s of his growing up in Springville in the 1880s, recalled a goat eating someone’s rose bushes and everyone in the village cramming into the offices of C.C. Severance.  Mr. Severance was the Justice of the Peace and his office was above the old Simon Bros Store. In the days before the Internet, this spectacle was the village entertainment. Spaulding never spoke of the outcome or whatever happened to the goat.

In the stories and laws I researched, I never came across any laws regarding chickens.  Did they freely roam around the village?  It seems that they may have.    Laws about chickens and other small animals came about in the village in 1974.   The small animals probably were not a major issue until we no longer had cows walking around the village in the daytime.   Ironically, one law is still on the books as it was in 1858— it is unlawful to ride a horse, cow or any other animal on village sidewalks. So even if the cows roamed freely, they couldn’t have used the village sidewalks.    

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