If you drive around the back roads of many Maine small towns, you may have noticed these stone structures that look a little out of place. They have no roof but, they do have a door opening, almost as if they were building some sort of ouse that never was completed...way back in the day. Hmmm,  no, they are not Maine's version of stone hedge and they were not built for religious purposes. They are in fact....cattle pounds.

Buzz Bradley/TSM
Buzz Bradley/TSM

I drive by a couple of these structures on a weekly basis, which led me to wonder just why were they built. It’s obvious when you stop and take a closer look that they were to fence in cattle but, why and how? The answer I found, was rather surprising.

According to a elder friend of mine, that also happens to be a Maine historian, it all began in the colonial times, and even into the early 1900's, cattle pounds were built and meant to container wayward cows but, they were also used for wandering horses, donkeys, geese and various other farm animals.

In colonial times, they were very few fences up so the livestock tended to wander freely about what was called the town commons. This worked well until some animals got into trouble by wandering into someone’s garden. If an animal destroyed a garden, it could have grave consequences. What if the family no longer had food for the winter?

Once the animal was caught, it was taken to the pound. Typically the owner would have three days to pay restitution for damages and a fine. If they did not retrieve their wayward animal after three days, it would be sold at auction. Think of them as the predecessor to the car impound lots.

The Waldoboro Town Pound was built in 1819 and still remains as a reminder of day’s gone by. It is located beside the Waldoboro Historical Society museum. The Jefferson Cattle Pound is located on the Gardiner Road. It was built in 1829 and remains in excellent condition. There are others located in Turner, Pownal and Orringtone too.

I'm sure there are many that I am not aware of but if you see one, stop and take a closer look, it's a glimpse into the past, that still remains to remind us of a simpler time.

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