DAYS GONE BY: Henry's Bad Day

By Bruce Micinski

Lake County Historical Society

A rooster began to crow to announce a new day on the farm. Henry Stanley Elliott came out of his warm feather tick bed ready to take on his new chores. The year is 1908 and 8 year old Henry will take over a task which has long been the job of his brother, William, Jr. William will spend more of his time taking the wagon into the village of Baldwin to pick up supplies at Matthew’s General Store or Messenger Feed and Grain. Henry’s parents William and Elizabeth Elliott own an 80 acre farm just east of Baldwin. Their sister, Evelyn, 19, has a job at the Lake County Star Newspaper as a type setter. Younger sibling Thelma is only 10 and will help mom with many household task.

Henry is excited and nervous as he enters their large barn. Today, Henry will be responsible for the dairy cows and cattle. His job is to let the cows graze and make sure that by the end of the day they are back. The adjacent photograph done by a traveling photographer shows little Henry on the right with his favorite cow, Maude. Next to him is William with a rope around Sarah and Ellen the two top milk producers.

It is a warm April day and the cows have been wandering farther from home. As evening sets in, Henry is shocked as nowhere can be found old Maude. Meanwhile in Baldwin, Pound Master Emmet Coon counts 20 cows in the stockyard. You see, the village of Baldwin had an ordinance enacted in the late 1890’s that makes it unlawful for cattle to run at large within the village of Baldwin from 7:30 in the evening to 6:00 in the morning. It was the duty of the Marshall and Pound Master or their deputies to take any animals found running at large and impound them in the village pound. It was also the law that any person may seize and take possession of any such animal trespassing on their property.

Saloon owner Hank Rudd had a charming home, and found a cow in his yard which broke a picket fence and was eating a shrub. Hank noticed that the bell on the cow may belong to farmer William Elliott an occasional patron of his saloon. The damage to his yard is reported to justice of the peace Andrew Bradford. Old Brad accessed the damage and filed a report with the pound master for $3.25. By law the pound master shall receive $ .25 a day for any animal under 1 year old and $ .50 for an animal over 1 year old. If an animal is not claimed within three days, the pound master shall post a notice in three public places in the village describing the animal. If not claimed within six days, the animal will be sold at auction to the highest bidder.

The next day William Elliott retrieved his cow and Henry was relieved! Although this story is made up, the Elliotts did live near Baldwin and the ordinance was one of some rather interesting laws in Baldwin. Not only did cattle have a curfew, but it was also unlawful for horses, mules and swine to run at large. As for those pesky geese and chickens, well, they too were banned from the roads. If by chance old Nellie Bell the mule dropped dead on Michigan Avenue in Baldwin, you had to bury the animal in a hole at least two feet deep.

I don’t know if these laws are still on the books but if you see a cow downtown wandering do not hesitate to call the sheriff!