They Could Have Debated Until the Cows Came Home

Monday, February 17, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley
Cattle grazed opposite Moccasin Bend, and were thankful to be outside the jurisdiction of the anti-cattle ordinance.
Cattle grazed opposite Moccasin Bend, and were thankful to be outside the jurisdiction of the anti-cattle ordinance.

Civil War-era photographs of Chattanooga have scenes which look like towns in the Old West.   Most buildings were wood frame.  Unpaved streets were dusty in droughts and muddy after monsoons.  Few citizens may have minded if there were livestock being kept.  The occupying Federal army had several corrals in the city.

The city grew in population and became more urban after the Civil War ended.  The developed area pushed outward into formerly agricultural areas.  Citizen complaints about livestock started to increase.  The cattle were lowing (mooing), and disturbing the peace of the rising metropolis.

By the March 10, 1888 meeting of Chattanooga’s aldermen (an earlier form of government similar to today’s City Council) voices were demanding that the cattle be driven out of town.   The Chattanooga Times covered the debate in its March 11, 1888 morning edition under the heading, “THE COW MUST GO.”  The local governing body, comprised of representatives from the five wards plus one at-large alderman, weighed an ordinance proposed recently by representative C.H. Dyer.

Mr. Dyer served dual roles as alderman of the Second Ward and Justice of the Peace.  He had observed that Chattanooga had grown in size to the point that cows should no longer be permitted to roam freely. A check of statistics from the 1888 city directory shows a population of 40,972 residents within the city limits, which was an increase of 4,069 since the previous year. 

Alderman C.C. Howard of the Fifth Ward countered that passage of the ordinance would be unfair to lower income citizens who kept dairy cows to supply milk to their families.  He felt that some owners would have to sell their cows if the ordinance against free range farming passed.

Countering Mr. Howard’s opinion were W.W. Sylvester, who rose to his feet and stated in “VERY EMPHATIC LANGUAGE” (fiery enough that The Times put this in all capital letters), that Chattanooga had risen above village status, and needed restrictions on cattle.   Alderman J.T. Lynn said that the negatives of cows outweighed the positives.  C.H. Dyer again defended his proposed ordinance by saying that many citizens had improved the landscaping of their properties, but roaming cows had destroyed the work.

A final vote was heard about the herd.  The ordinance passed by a vote of five in favor, and one who had stated some discouraging words.

Keeping livestock within the city limits has continued as an issue to the present day.  I recall that as some areas were annexed by Chattanooga, existing farmers were given an option of continuing their practices.   As the popularity of natural, close-to-home, agriculture has been increasing, some have favored raising chickens within the city.  So far, however, the ordinance enacted by the 1888 city alderman appears still to be the law.

Please contact me at jolleyh@bellsouth.net if you have information to add to this history.

 

 

 

Civil War-era buildings on Poplar Street resemble the Old West.  Chattanooga's view changed quickly after the war.
Civil War-era buildings on Poplar Street resemble the Old West. Chattanooga's view changed quickly after the war.

New TSLA Exhibit Explores the Civil War in Tennessee in 1864

1864 would prove to be the decisive year of the Civil War. Despite Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga the previous year, northern citizens were growing war-weary. The mounting lists of dead and wounded made many wonder if the South should finally be allowed its independence. Geographically situated between the midwestern states and the deep South, ... (click for more)

Tennessee and the War of 1812 Program is September 29

The Chattanooga Area Historical Association and the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library invite you to attend "Tennessee and the War of 1812."  The event is free and open to the public, and will be held on Monday, September 29 at 6:00 pm at the downtown library. The speaker will be Linda Mines, Chairperson of the History and Social Sciences Departments ... (click for more)

Linear Park Planned As Extension Of Walnut Street Bridge In Front Of Planned Boutique Hotel

A linear park that will be an extension of the Walnut Street Bridge public space is planned in front of a new boutique hotel at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way (Second Street). Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality on Tuesday night told nearby residents that "the city pushed this idea of a linear park, and we agree that it is a great idea." He said the current situation in which ... (click for more)

Sharply-Divided City Council Approves Office Reorganization; Councilman Freeman Calls Move "Evil, Hellish"

A sharply-divided City Council on Tuesday voted 5-4 to completely reorganize the council office, leaving current staffers without a job down the road but with the option to reapply. Councilman Moses Freeman called the move "evil" and "hellish." He said, "We are punishing somebody on a personal level," though he said the office has been running smoothly. Saying the majority ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)