By Old Uncle Gib
In the early 1900s there were still dirt streets and hogs running open on Main Street in Crossville. If you look close, you can see the “Restaurant” sign on the building. Doesn’t seem very appetizing to me to have the hogs waiting to greet you when you finished eating.
When automobiles first came to the community, drivers had to be careful on the roads because the livestock had the right of way. The railroad had to pay for any animals killed by the train.
Due to the number of livestock on open range it became necessary to establish a system of brands, including ear marks, brands, and labels to identify whose stock belonged to each family. This was serious business as well as requiring the honesty of all the involved parties. We know that one of the most famous of Kentucky family feuds, the Hatfields and McCoys, was supposed to have been started in a dispute over the branding of a hog. One family claimed that their brand had been changed so the other could claim their property.
The brands were some symbol or design burned into the hip of the animal. The ear marks were different shapes cut into the animal’s ear, and the labels were metal tags with the owner’s name stamped on it. These tags were fastened in the ear of the animal. Some stockmen used a combination of all three methods to mark their livestock.
Just a few of the many livestock brands registered with the Cumberland County Court Clerk include: Mark Tollett & Son, Burke: Horseshoe on right hip, corks down, mark, under-bit in each ear. Baxter Swicegood, Chestnut Hill: Split and underbit in right, swallowfork in left ear. R. E. Kemmer, Grassy Cove: “K” on left hip, Label in top of left ear. J. C. Brown, Hebbertsburg: Crop off left and crop and split in right ear. S. J. Horn, Crossville: Brand “H” on right hip, mark, crop off right and split and underbit in left ear. A.S., E.A., and Luther Watson, Watson: Crop off each ear. J. Philip Swicegood, Peavine: Split and underbit in left and swallowfork in right ear. Center Brothers, Centers: Under half crop in left and over half crop in right ear. Brand “7” on left hip. Dick Swafford, Vandever: “S” on left hip swallowfork and underhack in right and over bit and under hack in left ear. D. H. Tanner, Mayland: “T” in right hip, crop, split and underbit in right, swallowfork and underbit in left ear. This will give you a sampling from several different communities across the county.
The various brands and marks were registered with the office of the County Court Clerk to prevent repetition of animal markings. Neighbors would get familiar with the markings on each other’s animals for quick identification and separation. Anytime that a farmer found someone else’s livestock mixed with their own they were bound by unwritten code to let the owner know as quickly as possible.
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Old Uncle Gib is a weekly historical feature published each Friday. Old Uncle Gib is a pseudonym that was used by S.C. Bishop, who founded the Chronicle in 1886. Bishop actively published the Chronicle until 1948.