March 12, 2017

Prescott's 1st Ordinances Reveal the Charm of a Small Village

It was May 12th, 1873 when the Village of Prescott's Council met to pass its first two ordinances.

The two simple and quaint laws offer an interesting insight into the everyday life of the early, small settlement.

The first ordinance dealt with the job descriptions of the four primary city workers. The second dealt with criminal laws concerning "Breaches of the Peace."

ORDINANCE No. 1: (The duties of the four primary village employees.)

First was the Village Marshall. He was charged "to arrest and bring before the Recorder, all persons found violating any village ordinance or order and to hold such person in arrest..." The Marshall was also instructed that any prisoners in his charge "may be employed upon any public work under the charge of the Marshall."

When it came to funding his endeavors, things were kept simple. The Marshall was "to receive from time to time such sums for the keeping of prisoners as the Council may order."

That same meeting, the Council passed corresponding "Order No. 1" which instructed the Marshall to "appoint one or more deputies (and that) such deputies shall qualify before the Recorder before entering upon the duties of the office."

Second was the town's Recorder. Keeping the village records was hardly a full-time job back then, so he was also charged to serve as Judge at certain legal proceedings.

He was to hear the charges brought by the Marshall within 48 hours of arrest to determine if it was worthy of going to trial. He was also responsible for keeping track of fines paid and time served. It was decreed that those found guilty who could not pay their fine could work it off in prison at the rate of a dollar a day.

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The Assessor, of course, was to provide an assessment of "all property of whatever nature and kind within the corporate limits of the village of Prescott" except Federal, County and Territory property. Interestingly, the assessment roll of the village was to be "made up in manner as required by the Sheriff of the county of Yavapai." It was also stated that "there shall not be more than one assessment in any one year."

Lastly there was the Fire Commissioner. It was his duty "to examine all chimneys, flues, stove-pipes or other which fire is used in all buildings now standing, or that may hereafter be erected."

If defects were found, the owner was expected to fix it within five days. If he did not "such owner...upon conviction before the Recorder (would) be fined...any sum not exceeding $100."

The two most important public safety positions were Marshall and Fire Commissioner. A telling detail of just how small Prescott was in 1873 was the fact that in Order No. 1, "The Marshall is hereby appointed Fire Commissioner." He was to receive "$40 per month."

That would not be the only source of income for the Marshall. He was also to "receive 5% of all taxes collected by him and shall be entitled to all other fees allowed by statute." So in addition to the duties of Marshall and Fire Commissioner, he was also expected to collect the delinquent taxes!

Order No. 1 also set the wages for others.

"The Recorder as Clerk of the Council shall receive $5 for attendance at each sitting of the Council," Order No. 1 stated. For his court work, he was to receive the standard fees that were "allowed Justices of the Peace for similar services." He was also allowed to charge 50 cents for each copy requested, as well as 50 cents for his certification of that copy.

The village Treasurer's wages in whole consisted of a cut of "3% of all moneys paid into the Treasury."

The Assessor was to get $7 a day for his service--not to exceed $70 for the entire job. The fact that the entire assessment of the town was expected to take no more than ten days also speaks of Prescott's small size at that time.

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ORDINANCE No. 2 (Defined the first crimes.)

All the crimes detailed in Ordinance No. 2 were described as "Breaches of the Peace" and were punishable by up to a $100 fine.

It was unlawful to "draw or exhibit in a rude or threatening manner...any knife, pistol, gun or other deadly weapon except in necessary self-defense."

It was also deemed unlawful to discharge any firearm whatsoever within the inhabited limits of the village. Exemption was provided for law-officers and cases of self defense. (This effectively banned hunting within the village limits.)

You could be arrested for being "found drunk upon the streets;" using "loud, boisterous language;" or if you "incite or urge any affray or riot."

Finally, one needed to keep strict control of his riding animal! It was unlawful to ride hazardously "through the plazas, streets, lanes or alleys."

That was not all. The Council's lengthy list of where animals should NOT be allowed is entertaining: It was wrong to "willfully and maliciously ride or drive any horse, mule or other riding animal upon any porch, sidewalk or under any (home or business') awning."

It was also specifically prohibited to ride one's animal "into any dwelling, store, saloon or other business house thereby terrifying the occupants thereof and endangering life and property." (Considering just how specific this section of the ordinance is, one wonders just how often this previously happened!)

Eventually there would be hundreds of more ordinances to come. But the charm of the first two elicit a smile for a time when things were much simpler and the "village" was much smaller.

Tourist Tip:
Something a bit different this time: Why not consider starting a business in Prescott? 

CLICK HERE for the Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership
Here you will find all the information and economic data (including incentives) for starting your business in this popular, perfect climate.


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