The Bullitt County History Museum

Foot and [or in the] Mouth Disease a Hundred Years Ago

The following article by Charles Hartley originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 4 Jan 2015. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.

Clem and Sophie Moening worked a farm in northern Bullitt County along Cedar Creek. Immigrants from Germany in 1881, they were proud when they became naturalized citizens in 1908. As law-abiding citizens, they were certainly shocked and confused when state inspectors demanded that their small herd of 18 cows be destroyed just before Thanksgiving in 1914.

The cause was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease among cattle that had first been noticed in southwestern Michigan, just north of South Bend, Indiana. It soon reached the Chicago stockyards from where it rapidly spread. Despite quarantines and the best efforts of federal inspectors, infected cattle reached the Bourbon Stockyard in Louisville. It was from there that Mr. Moening had the misfortune to purchase 14 head in late September.

J. W. Newman
Commissioner of Agriculture

Steer with foot-and-mouth disease
salivating excessively

When J. W. Newman, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, ordered all of Mr. Moening's cattle destroyed, there was considerable local anger, with many believing that it was uncalled for since, in the opinion of the local county inspector, David Smith, there was no clear evidence as yet that the cattle were diseased. Mr. Newman, who had just announced his intention to run for governor, became a very unpopular man in the county.

Financially, the problem was that the farmer would have to depend on Federal and State sources to be reimbursed for his loses, and that would take time, during which he suffered lose of income.

It soon became evident that the disease was indeed in the county. In mid February, Richard Wathen bought 18 cattle from a dealer who represented them to be sound and as not having been in the Bourbon yards since November. Shortly after they were turned out in his pasture, he discovered them to be diseased; and by then his other cattle and hogs had become infected. In all he lost 22 cows and 5 hogs.

Lem Swearingen had also received cattle from Louisville in the same herd driven out to Wathen, and he lost 23 cattle plus 19 hogs. A neighbor, Charles Crenshaw also lost 2 cows and 5 hogs.

The county was placed under Federal quarantine at this time, making it impossible for anyone to buy or sell livestock. A month later the quarantine was eased to just the parts of the county where the disease had been located. However, it would be several months before the state was considered free of the disease.

A report in November indicated that overall, the disease had cost Kentucky over $133,000. Of that, Bullitt County lost $4,255. Of course that did not include the revenue lost by farmers from fatted hogs and cattle, nor the loss of milk revenue for dairy farmers.

There was one rather unique instance where it seems that the disease mutated aboard a local passenger train. It seems that not long after Mr. Moening lost his herd, and while tempers were running pretty high, several gentlemen were aboard the local train out of Louisville, seated in the smoker car, when one asked another if he was going to vote for Mr. Newman for governor.

The answer was an emphatic "NO!" and that's when things got interesting.

Also aboard that car was an avid Newman supporter, a man named Reed who was a veterinarian working for Newman. He arose from his seat, stared at the other man, and let lose with a series of cuss words. Once started, he couldn't seem to stop. He stormed up and down the aisle, venting his anger with repeated profane language toward anyone who would caution him that he had said enough.

Finally, as the train approached the Shepherdsville depot, two local men, Jim Croan, recently jailor of Bullitt County, Curran Troutwine, and several others, took the young man into custody and when the train reached town, had him put in jail. That evening, he pleaded guilty to a charge of breaking the peace, and was assessed one hundred dollars and court costs.

You might say, that old disease mutated into "Foot-in-the-Mouth" for him.

Copyright 2015 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: