EARLY GRANTSVILLE ORDINANCES PROHIBITED RIVER BATHING AND CURSING - Men Paid $1 Head Tax, $50 Adultry Fine

(10/05/2017)

By Bob Weaver

Over one hundred years ago the Town of Grantsville approved an ordinance book to maintain order in the town, which then was just over 20 years in existence.

The 1903 ordinances covered about every problem which could surface from taxation and property crimes to personal behavior.

Bathing in the Little Kanawha River was prohibited between sunrise and one hour after sunset unless bathing attire was used, implying "skinny dipping" after dark was permitted.

"If anyone committing adultery or fornication within said town, he shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $50," a rather expensive crime for the time.

An ordinance against people who are not married who "lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together...be guilty of open and gross lewdness...shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $50, and may be imprisoned not exceeding 30 days."

"It shall be unlawful for any person to commit an indecent, immodest, lewd or filthy act by words or actions on any street or public place," including "filthy or profane words."

Not only was it illegal to make "indecent or immoral exposure of a person," it was illegal to exhibit any indecent painting, drawing, sculpture or book.

It was unlawful for any person to assemble on any street, alley or public place for the purpose of prostitution, but the ordinance extends the act to outhouses, sheds, stables and yards.

Just to make sure prostitution is a crime - "It is unlawful for any prostitute to be in any such place between sundown and sunup."

The operation of a house of "ill-fame or bawdy house" where persons are lounging for the purpose of prostitution is illegal.

Fines were not less than $20. The culprit could be held in jail for 30 days.

Caught cursing on a public street, the fine was $1.

The ordinance book declares that no warrant or arrest shall be issued by the Mayor of Grantsville except upon probable cause, supported by oath and affirmation.

If such summons is issued, the Mayor (serving as judge) would hear the case.

The ordinances say that a person who does not pay their fine can be incarcerated up to 30 days in the Calhoun jail, being fed with "bread and water."

The mayor had the option to waive the fine and put the person to work on the town's streets.

An ordinance was in force for "contentious or insolent behavior" toward the mayor or the town Sergent, in addition to "violence, threats of violence, disobedience, resistance, misbehavior, breech of the peace, or indecent conduct."

In times of riot or disorder, the Mayor had the power to organize a special police force.

The town's Recorder, among several duties was required to list the dogs and their owners within the town.

Besides enforcing the town's laws, the town Sergeant was charged with collecting "taxes, fines and levies."

A provision allowed the Town Sergeant to deputize any town male between the ages of 21 and 50 to assist him.

A town license was required to keep a hotel, eatery, bowling alley, billiard parlor, shooting gallery, skating rink, circus, theatrical performance, hawker, peddler, person selling stocks and securities, pawn broker, lightning rod salesman, stoves, pianos, or barbering.

Taxes were levied against every town male between the ages of 21 and 50 at the rate of $1 annually.

Women were not taxed.

Dog taxes were levied, $3 for every female dog and $1 for every male dog.

A tax was required to hold an auction, and if you happened to be a druggist, you paid $10 for the privilege.

Circuses paid $20 for the first performance and $10 for the second performance.

The Town Sergeant was charged with arresting intoxicated persons, putting them in jail until they were sober, then fined not less than $2 nor more than $20.

Cruelly treating domestic animals called for a $10 fine and jail time.

Disturbing a religious worship service, the person "shall be imprisoned not exceeding 30 days and fined not less than $10 nor more than $50," with the option of the mayor putting the person under restraint during worship services, "binding them for not more than one year to be of good behavior."

Disrupting a Literary Society meeting carried a penalty.

Disfiguring a shade tree was an offense, to which no horse was allowed to be hitched, for fear of injuring the tree.

The town disallowed the posting of notices on poles.

There was a fine for ringing a door bell to annoy the occupant.

There was a law against selling any kind of "diseased or corrupted food," and slaughter houses were not allowed in the corporation.

Owners of a dead animal are required to move the animal outside the town limits within five hours of the animals demise.

All private property owners were charged with maintaining their own sewage pipe or ditch.

The Mayor was instructed to issue warnings against homeowners who allow garbage to pile up.

Within Grantsville a privy, hog pen, or stable can be declared a nuisance.

The driving of cattle and other livestock through the town's streets was allowed, if properly maintained, but allowing ones own chickens or turkeys to wander on a neighbor's property was illegal.


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