POWNAL (AP) – In 19th century Maine, cows and other livestock that wandered away from their owners’ property were rounded up and taken to cattle pounds.

“It’s probably safe to say that most towns in the early 19th century had (cattle pounds),” said Christi Mitchell, an architectural historian with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. “It was like putting your cow in jail.”

Wooden pounds have all disappeared, but 21 stone pounds have been identified at various locations. Some are almost unrecognizable but others are in good condition.

Two of the better preserved pounds – a unique round one in Jefferson and a square one in Pownal – have made it onto the National Register of Historic Places, a listing that recognizes the important role that cattle pounds played in Maine’s agricultural past.

The pounds stemmed from a court order from Massachusetts in the early 1600s that said towns must impound wandering animals until their owners could claim them. Maine was then part of Massachusetts, so towns eventually built cattle pounds and designated poundkeepers to run them.

The invention of barbed wire around 1870 led to better fencing and fewer strays, said Donna Boyles, president of the Pownal Scenic & Historical Society. The last use of the Pownal pound is believed to have been as a feeding station for cattle being driven to market in Massachusetts.

AP-ES-08-21-04 1242EDT

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