Small town Greene County


By Joan Baxter



The Village of Spring Valley came into being when the railroad company decided to by-pass the Village of Transylvania, and move the proposed rail line to the other side of the road.

In order to be able to ship their goods easily, the villagers of Transylvania relocated and named their new village, Spring Valley. In 1901, the village published a booklet containing the ordinances governing the village.

One ordinance which had been in effect since 1882 required that no person could place shavings, ashes, mud, dirt, nauseous liquid of any kind on ay grounds, commons, street lanes or alleys in the village. Each office had a fine of at least $1 but no more than $10.

Offensive behavior, including bawdy or obscene language in the presence of others was strictly prohibited, and carried a find of $1 to $10. It was also considered a crime for anyone over the age of 14 to use profanity or swear “by the name of God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost.” Such action brought a fine of $1 for each offence plus the cost of prosecution.

Many transportation rules applied to animals. When riding or driving a horse, mule of ox, or a team of animals on the village streets, speeding which would endanger pedestrians was prohibited. In addition, driving or riding an animal on the sidewalk was not allowed with the exception of proceeding to and from the street onto one’s property.

Cutting or splitting firewood on the sidewalks was not allowed, and during strong winds, burning of boxes, stray or hay was not allowed because adjacent buildings might be affected. On calm days, burning was allowed, but the ashes were to be removed “in a reasonable time.”

In order to keep the streets clean, every able-bodied male between the ages of 21 and 55 who resided in or near the village was to provide two days of labor. The exception to the rule was for those who joined the fire department. During each year of serving in that capacity, the individual was except from working on the streets.

The fire department consisted of three directors, one each selected annually as the chief. It was their responsibility to see that the fire-fighting apparatus was taken to the scene of the fire as quickly as possible. Any citizen watching the fire could be enlisted to help with the apparatus. If he refused, he could be fined. Each fireman was expected to enlist for a period of at least one year.

The mayor was the chief executive officer and conservator of the peace. He was responsible to be sure that the ordinances and regulations were obeyed, supervise the conduct of the officers of the village, issue licenses and represent the village. He was to issue a proclamation three days prior to any election forbidding selling intoxicating liquors on the day of election, and of course, it was the mayor’s responsibility to see that the proclamation was obeyed. The mayor received an annual salary of $30 annually. He was allowed to accept additional fees for other duties which pertained to the office.

The marshal was the principal police officer of the corporation. The Marshal had deputies, but could enlist the aid of any citizen in apprehending a criminal, or conducting a criminal to jail. If the resident refused to help in these tasks, he himself could be fined between $5 and $50.

After the prisoner was in jail, the Marshal was responsible to see that light, fuel and food was adequate for each prisoner. A maximum of 50 cents per prisoner per day was allowed.

The marshal was to notify the council of upcoming meetings. On the nights the council met, he was to “light and fire up” the meeting room, keep the chamber properly swept and prepare the mayor’s office for trials or other business. He could select to receive a salary or compensation for these duties, but not both. He also attended the council meetings. If he refused to attend, he was not paid for that month. The marshal and constables received a salary of $50 per annum.

The clerk kept a record of receipts and expenditures and had charge of the records and papers while the treasurer kept account of all the funds, and paid necessary expenses.

The clerk received salary based on duties performed. For recording the proceedings of meetings, he received 15 cents for each 100 words, for each order issued and recorded, 25 cents. The annual report sent to the auditor of state demanded a one dollar fee. For posting a condensed version of the expenditures on the day of election, the amount was $1. When certifying the election of a justice of the peace of other village officers, he received 25 cents. He was paid $6 per year for other duties of the office.

Standing committees appointed by the village council included the street light committee, composed of three members who were to audit the bills for oil, amps repairs and lighting the lamps, as well as ensuring that lamps were placed adequately. The hired someone to be in charge of lighting the lamps just before dark and extinguishing the lights at daylight.

This is just a glimpse at small town Greene County in the 1880s.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and long-time historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and long-time historical columnist.

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