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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



david k petersen

Ludington Michigan

Every once in awhile we see an article or a filler in a newspaper about laws that once were enforced and eventually repealed, usually they bring a good chuckle or sometimes even a gasp of disbelief that something like that could ever have been passed. Then again sometimes the laws that our current legislature passes bring the same sense of disbelief or laughter.

Not too long ago I picked up a copy of the 1909 Compiled Ordinances of the City of Ludington on ebay for a few dollars. It covers the laws that were in effect from 1873 when the city was incorporated to 1909 and there are a few good ones, and some good historical accounting of when significant changes brought about the need for ordinances to address the problems that were created or anticipated.

The first 5 ordinances passed by the new city council in 1873 dealt with the licensing of saloons, of Drays Carts and Hacks, of Circuses, auctioneers, pawnbrokers and peddlers, and trading boats and hookers. A hooker in this sense was a type of boat, but the other type were addressed in later ordinances.

Ordinance number nine prohibited swine from running at large, and another ordinance in 1900 prohibited the placing of a bell on your cow within the city limits of Ludington.

On the issue of the Fire Marshall who was granted very liberal rights to inspection we see that he could enter your home or other property in May and November of each year, [or any other time] to inspect your stove, pipes, ash piles etc. The fear of fire was evident in the granting of powers and in the $50.00 fine and additional 5.00 per day if you did not comply. Just a few short years after this ordinance was passed Ludington suffered it's great fire.

City Improvements were reflected in the 1874 ordinance to organize a Fire Department, and in 1887 to grant Brush Electric Company permission to lay their wires in the city. John Stram received his licenses to operate a ferry in 1889, and also an ordinance was passed to allow a streetcar. In 1896 McClurg Gas Company was given license to lay pipes, and in 1898 permission was granted to Mason and Oceana Telephone company to construct a telephone system. By 1899 though the sand burr was becoming such a problem that if it grew on your property it had to be eradicated or face the fine.

Health was a top concern as well as number ten dealt with the handling of smallpox and other contagious disease. In ordinance number 27 "When any dumb animal shall die within the limits of the city" you have 12 hours to haul the carcass at least one mile out of town. Livery owners could only allow 2 cartloads of manure to accumulate at a time. By 1888 the Poundmaster could impound any swine, horses, sheep, cattle, goats, and geese that were running loose on city streets, charge you a fee and you would pay a five dollar fine. [No. 63]

You were required to have a privy for every business and home, but this is the sticky part, you could not empty it between the months of June and September without permission and then you had to do the work between 10PM and 3AM. In 1876 a barber in the city limits was not permitted to cut hair on Sunday, you could spend up to 30 days in jail.

Those convicted of being a vagrant or disorderly could find themselves in the city prison and doing 10 hours a day of hard labor [except Sunday] to improve the city streets. Refusal to comply meant that the Marshall could have you fitted for a ball and chain to insure you didn't escape and that the work would be done.

In 1884 a Director of the poor was appointed who had the authority to direct the captain of any vessel to return any person unable to support themselves back to the port they came from.

1891, no snowball throwing, 1896 an 8:30 PM curfew for minors, and in 1897 the need to protect bicyclists was so great that an ordinance was passed to protect them from people throwing down glass, tacks, wire, briars, thorns metal or any other item that would puncture their tires and injure the cyclist.

The first 98 pages covers 29 years from 1873 to 1902 and the last 98 pages covers roughly 6 full years reflecting the many changes that Ludington was seeing from automobiles to picture shows.

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