The first book of regulations regarding farming in the area was published in 1895, with revisions as the law changed and reprinted from time to time as it was deemed necessary.
The Osborn Bank published a nice booklet in 1910 which covered the then-current Ohio farm laws.
The preface of the book states that if an individual is taken to court for violating a law and claims not to know the law, that the court will not accept that as an excuse. It was acknowledged that the average citizen would not know every law on the books; however the State of Ohio felt it wise for farmers to be knowledgeable about the laws governing their businesses. Therefore the information needed was provided in print for those individuals.
The first chapter covered animals in a general manner but most especially those which were allowed or not allowed to run at large. Fines were rather severe if the owner was found guilty of allowing a stallion, jack, bull, boar, or buck to be at large out of its own enclosure. For the first offense, the fine was $10, but the second would cost the owner $25. The fine was to be deposited in the common school fund of the township in which the incident occurred.
Other farm animals were not allowed to run at large on a pubic road, highway, street, lane, or alley, and the animal was not allowed to graze on premises other than the owner’s. If caught, the fine would range from $1 to $5. There was an exception to this rule which stated that the county commissioners could grant permission for such an animal to run at large. If the county commission did not allow this, the township trustees could grant special permits which could be revoked with three day written notice. If the township trustees did grant special permission, necessary forms had to be renewed each spring. Under no circumstances would swine be allowed to run at large. Even if the owner had a permit for an animal to run at large, said owner would be held responsible for any damage caused by the animal.
For those interested in racing their horses for prize money, the horse must be entered in the proper category and with the proper name. Any fraudulent entry would cost the owner one to three years in jail and once the horse had been entered under a particular name that name could not be changed in any future race.
Horses could be leased as this was a major source of transportation as well as farm use. If the horse was hired to pull a plow, the animal could not be used to pull a buggy. If the horse died while pulling a buggy instead of the agreed use of plowing, the person who used the horse wrongfully was subject to a fine.
In 1910, railroads were the principal means of transporting goods. If the railroad right of way passed across the property of a farmer with stock animals, the railroad company was required to build and maintain fences near the tracks to keep stock from wandering onto the track. Should the railroad not build the fence; the farmer could do so and bill the railroad company. The railroad company had 30 days to pay the cost of the fence and if the bill was not paid in a timely manner, the farmer could sue the company. The railroad would have to reimburse the farmer for the fence and any attorney fees.
The fence had to be kept in good repair. If the farmer determined that it needed repair, he contacted the railroad which had 24 hours to get the fence mended or pay the farmer to mend it.
The owner of a water-powered grist mill was allowed to charge one-tenth part of wheat, rye, or other grain, ground and bolted or one-twelfth part of rye, malt, or buckwheat ground or copped, and one-eighth part of corn ground in the mill in payment for his service. If the mil was operated by horse-power, and the miller provided the horses, he was allowed one-fourth of the grain which had been ground as a fee. If the mill owner did not provide the horses, he received only one-eighth of the product.
The miller was responsible to safely store the grain until the farmer came to pick up the finished product. Usually the farmer would leave bags or other containers properly labeled with his name so when the grinding was completed the miller would place the flour in the containers ready for pickup. In the event of a robbery, fire, or other accident, the miller was held harmless.
Laws regarding selling items on Sunday were carefully noted. Anyone who opened his building for the transaction of business could be fined $25. A second offense commanded a $50 to $100 fine and perhaps a short stay in jail. Work of necessity or charity was not included in this ruling and those who observed Sabbath on Saturday were also excluded.
The law permitted travel on Sunday including the use of toll bridges or ferries. A barber who opened his business on Sunday could be fined $15 for the first offense, but a druggist was allowed to sell intoxicating liquor for medicinal purposes only upon the written prescription of a practicing physician.
Many of the regulations of 110 years ago are obsolete in the 21st century but they are interesting.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.