For centuries, fences have been erected to suit a variety of needs.
In ancient times people built fences of a sort. Most villages were surrounded by a wall with a gate or two for entry which would be closed at the end of the day. Therefore the village was “fenced in.”
The gates were open for visitors during the day and usually closed at night. The “eye of the camel” entry was such that the large gate was open during the day so the entry could accommodate a camel and rider, but at night, only a small opening was available through which one man could pass at a time, thus guarding the safety of the village.
Over the years, fences have changed in appearance. Each serves a particular purpose.
Some fences are very ornate, some very simple. They are constructed from all types of materials: wood, metal, stone, brick, and even hedges. Most have an entry such as a gate or a gap in the hedge.
Farmers rely on fences to keep their livestock contained. Farm fences often look different than city fences. Some are stretched across wooden poles while others are stretched between steel posts, but all serve the same purpose. Often barbed wire is attached to the top of the fence and sometimes the fence even holds an electric wire.
If the animal tries to go over the fence and gets a shock, chances are the animal learns from the experience and stays within the confines of the fence. There are laws which state that animals cannot run at large, and of course, the owner wants the animal to be safely confined.
City fences come in all sizes and shapes.
Picket fences have always been popular. Some are weathered wood, some painted, and even some are made with synthetic materials. Rounded tops or pyramid tops are common on picket fences which come in all heights.
Some fences are constructed to keep people from entering, particularly seen at industrial sites. Some of these fences are very high, made of chain link usually with a barbed wire border consisting of three or four wires fastened across the top making the fence a challenge to any prospective climber.
Others are more inviting such as neatly trimmed hedge fences.
Many residents choose chain link fences which serves well to keep the family dog within the bounds of the yard while others select “invisible” fences which serve the same purpose.
If the family owns a swimming pool, chances are that the fence surrounding it will be secure with a locked gate for additional security.
Split rail fences were often used around log structures, and remain a popular type of fence today. This wooden fence provides a nice barrier but is also inviting particularly if there is a bed of climbing roses growing along the fence.
On a drive around any community in the county you will see a wide variety of fences. Privacy fences are often constructed if the residential “back yard” can easily be viewed from a busy street. Neighbors often prefer to have the patio screened for additional privacy with a tall fence.
Fences can be tall or short, but each serves its purpose.
Fences were especially popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearly every home had a fence, often made of wrought iron. There would be an elegant gate providing an invitation to come to sit on the front porch for a visit or share a cup of tea.
The kids loved those fences because a stick could be held in one hand and gently banged against each of the upright iron posts. It made a nice sound as you went along and did no damage to the fence.
One of the best examples of this type of fence was erected around the 1843 Court House. The Court House lawn was quite large, as it is today, and it was appropriate to have a fence surrounding the structure.
There were several gates through which the residents could enter the grounds.
There is a story that many years ago a tame deer lived on the grounds of the old Court House. I believe he was called “Billie.” He was well fed and loved by the citizens who would bring treats from time to time. Although he no doubt could have jumped over the fence at any time, he seemed to enjoy his home there for many years.
After the roof caved in on the 1843 Court House, the voters finally decided that a new Court House should be constructed. The old building was razed to make way for the new one and county offices moved to nearby locations during the construction. The commissioners decided that the wrought iron fence was no longer needed at that location.
The fence was in excellent condition so portions were re-installed in other locations. Some of the fence was used at the Greene County Fairgrounds, but the majority was sent to the Greene County Children’s Home on Dayton Avenue.
When the Children’s Home was replaced, the fence was removed once again. A portion of the fence was rescued by The Greene County Historical Society and restored. If you visit the museum you will see the restored fence on the upper level of the Brantley Carriage House Museum building. This is a wonderful example of the fences which were so popular more than 100 years ago.
Perhaps the next time you are in your car, you will notice many different styles of fencing.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.