Blog post by Randi Richardson
In 1877 a large number of Bloomington residents raised hogs as a supplemental means of livelihood and/or to provide meat for the family. Hogs roaming at large were a familiar sight in the city making themselves a nuisance even about the public square. Sometimes an errant porker, finding a door open, would venture inside a store. Once three porkers entered the courthouse and the sheriff was summoned to evict them.
Most of the people who raised hogs maintained a smoke house. Now and then one’s smokehouse would catch fire putting adjacent buildings at peril. During butchering season, volunteer firemen could expect a rash of calls to put out a smokehouse fire. Eventually the town marshal was given responsibility for inspecting smokehouses. This was added to his already existing duties as inspector of stove pipes.
Before long there was so much public sentiment against keeping hogs in town that citizens petitioned for an ordinance that would forbid the practice. Hog-raising became a bitterly fought, public issue that sometimes strained friendships to the breaking point.
Ultimately, the matter was put to a vote in a town election. Ballots were simple and to the point, “Hogs” and “No Hogs.” Tabulation showed that the hog-raising campaigners won a victory by a comfortable margin. However, to appease the feelings of the losers, an ordinance was put in place making it illegal for a citizen not to provide a fence in the back of one’s home to keep the hogs secure.
In spite of the ordinance, hogs running loose about town continued to be a nuisance. Another ordinance was passed making it unlawful for hogs to run loose without a ring in their nose to prevent rooting. Infractions of the ordinance encouraged a $1.00 fine and costs. Additionally, the city marshal was given authority to seize stray hogs and impound them. In order to reclaim one’s property, the owner had to pay all expenses for keeping the hog plus the marshal’s fee of fifty cents. If the property was not claimed within 30 days, the marshal could sell the hog at auction.
It was a number of years after 1877 that health authorities and citizen leaders stepped in to stamp out hog raising hazards in the growing City of Bloomington by virtue of ironclad laws and strict enforcement.
This blog is based on an article written by Bennet P. Reed and published in the Bloomington Daily Herald Telephone on October 11, 1955.