Monday, November 9, 2009

marriage benefits...

James Cabot relates the following about Ralph Waldo Emerson shortly following his marriage and the establishment of his home in Concord.
"Emerson got his study arranged and settled down to the manner of life from which he never departed. There was a small flower garden already laid out in which Mrs. Emerson established her favorite plants from Plymouth: and there was also a vegetable garden, where Emerson began his husbandry, leaving his study to do a little work there every day. While thus engaged one day in the following spring, one of his townsmen came to warn him that a stray pig was doing mischief in the neighboring grounds. He then learned that he had been appointed one the the hog-reeves for the year, according to the town custom, which pointed out newly married men as particularly eligible for that office."

(this description of the position of Hog-reeve found at

"New England towns appointed hog reeves (officers charted with the prevention or appraising of damages by stray swine). Hogs were usually supposed to be yoked (wear collars) and have rings in their noses, which reduced the amount of damage they could do to gardens and crops by rooting. This was not a minor concern, because this food was necessary for human survival. There were punishments established for failure to control animals. The fine in Chelsea was "10 shillings for each swine for every time it is found without a keeper." But, the damaged party had to have an adequate fence, as in 1643 Virginia where "if he be deficient therein, what damage he shall systeyne by hoggs, goats or cattle whatsoever shall be to his own losse and detriment." Wandering livestock were called "estrays," they were "taken up," and they often were taken to the "pound." Notice of such actions are found in town records and county court minutes.
If the owner of a hog had not 'rung' and 'yoked' their hogs, and they got loose and became a nuisance in the community, one or more of the men assigned as Hog Reeve would be responsible for capturing the animal and performing the necessary chore for the owner; who could legally be charged a small fee for the service.
Reeve" derives from the same root as the "riff" in sheriff, and a hog reeve rounded up stray hogs. He turned them over to the pound keeper, who fed them until claimed by the owner, who paid set fees."


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