Reviewing Quincy history: Obesity, rods, an angry butcher and plenty of cows

quincy map 1880

A map of downtown Quincy from the 1880s. | Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first Circuit Court of Adams County was held in 1825. Documents obtained from the Quincy Historical Society show the proceedings were run by Judge John York Sawyer, “who was of ample dimensions, probably about five feet in circumference, and it has been slanderously reported that he completely filled the Court House to the exclusion of all others.”  

Needless to say, that’s a big man.

One hundred and fifty-four acres were designated for the original plot of Quincy. Five streets were created, with Maine in the center. Hampshire and Vermont were located to the north. Jersey and York were to the south. The streets were named after the native states of the commissioners and county clerk.  

When plotting the city, the surveyors measured with rods (a rod measuring 5 ½ yards), not feet. City blocks were created 24 rods square, then divided into lots six rods by 12. Streets were four rods wide except for Maine, which measured five rods wide.

Block number 12 was reserved for a public square now known as Washington Park. However, many townsfolk believed this was not a productive use of the space. 

The city’s first butcher took matters into his own hands. He hung some of his wares on a tree in the park, and when that was consumed, he did it again. But to no avail. The space remained a park despite this and other challenges. Luckily, this was just the butcher … not the undertaker.

Another big challenge Quincy had early on were cows. There were no dairy farms. Everyone had a cow. Hotels had cows. The hospital had cows. 

Here’s a cow, there’s a cow, everywhere a cow cow.  

John Wood solved the problem by opening a pasture around 12th and State. This, many believe, is how the south side of Quincy obtained the nickname “Calftown.”  Every morning, citizens were expected to drive their cow(s) to this location. 

Ahhh, but not everyone followed the rules. 

Cows got into neighbor’s yards and gardens. You can imagine what happened in the streets. Many a citizen complained. The City Council passed an ordinance … no more cattle roaming free.  

This divided the growing population. The citizenry was either pro-cow freedom or anti-cow freedom. Council members against cows roaming freely lost their re-election bid. 

Today’s City Council has it easy.

Ron Kinscherf graduated from Quincy College with a degree in communications in 1985. Kinscherf spent five years at WTAD before spending 30 years as an IT sales consultant. Today he writes children’s books and also handles sales for Muddy River News. Kinscherf is a member of the IBCA Hall of Fame for radio play by play.

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