In August 1890, fifteen years after the town of Youngsville was incorporated, its commissioners adopted a set of local ordinances. Similar to those used in Franklinton and Louisburg, the ordinances reflect varied aspects of life in a simpler era, when animals pulled wagons and motor vehicles were rare.
The first few rules demonstrate the importance of animals to the local economy. It was unlawful “for any live stock to run at large within the corporate limits of the town, to be ridden, driven or fed upon the sidewalks, nor hitched to the trees, pailings [sic] or fences on the sidewalks under penalty of one dollar for each offence.” Persons who rode horses or mules at an “unusual speed” could expect to pay a fine of two dollars. Pigs or hogs who died of cholera or other diseases had to be burned or buried at a depth of at least two feet within six hours. Commissioners reserved the right to remove pig pens if they became a nuisance.
Fire was an ever-present threat, because most businesses and homes were of frame construction and wooden shingles covered many roofs. The commissioners were empowered to require property owners to replace badly deteriorated roofs within a reasonable amount of time. Chimneys or stove pipes deemed unsafe could be condemned. Property owners could be fined five dollars for using them prior to making necessary repairs.
Quite a few of the ordinances attempted to regulate personal behavior. Dog owners could not let their female dogs run loose in town while they were “in heat.” If their owners could not be found, the constable was empowered to “kill the bitch.”
Youngsville was a stop on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. In response to the behavior of some passengers, the commissioners decreed that it was “unlawful for any person to jump on or off the train in the corporate limits, while in motion, under a penalty of one dollar.”
Children were not allowed to roll hoops or play games in the streets or public squares, and adults caught playing cards or any game of chance in such areas were subject to a fine of ten dollars. A five-dollar fine awaited anyone “found drunk and down upon the streets of the town . . . .” One rule prohibited “lewd” women or those of suspicious character from being on the streets after 10 p.m. Men or women who publicly exposed themselves faced a fine of a dollar for the first offence. The amount increased to five dollars for subsequent incidents.
Business activity was subject to several regulations. The town collected license taxes from those who wished to engage in business of varying kinds. Gypsies or other persons “pretending to tell fortunes” paid ten dollars per year, while itinerant dentists, doctors, opticians or photographers were subject to a tax of three dollars. Nothing except ice, milk, and “articles necessary for burial purposes” could be sold within the corporate limits on Sundays. Doctors and druggists, however, were exempt from this rule “in case of necessity.”
In this and many other ways, life in this rural community is radically different today.
Published in The Franklin Times on November 22, 2016.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The ordinances were published in the September 5, 1890, edition of The Franklin Times.