“Any slave found intoxicated in said Village,”

While flipping through Clark’s History in Catoosa County I found an interesting passage about the city of Ringgold’s early laws and ordinances. The General Assembly of Georgia incorporated Ringgold, which was in Walker County at that time, in 1847. This is a few years before the Western and Atlantic Railroad came through so the town had not seen any of the prosperity that the railroad would bring. Regardless, slavery seemed to be prevalent enough in the community that early commissioners found it necessary to pass black codes. Here are a few examples.

Sec. 15th. The alarm shall be given at the hour of 8 1/2 o’clock P.M. to give notice to all slaves who are absent from their places of residence and any slave found in said village, absent from his or her place of residence over one half hour after notice is given, or in any tippling shop or place where in spirituous liquors are retailed, without a permit in writing from his or her master, overseer or employer, or about such places on the Sabbath day shall, by the Marshal, be whipped any number of strips not exceeding 39 lashes, or be imprisoned in the calaboose, whence he or she can only be liberated by the payment of $1 and all costs at his discretion.

Sec. 16th. Any slave found intoxicated in said Village, absent from his or her place of residence, or any number of slaves collected together unlawfully, or any slave or slaves guilty of disorderly conduct of any description, shall receive at the hands of the Marshall any number of stripes, not exceeding 30, or be imprisoned in the calaboose to be released therefrom only upon the payment of one dollar and all costs, by the master, overseer or employer, and in case of intoxication, not until said slave or slaves shall become sober.

Sec. 17th. No licensed retailer of spirituous liquor shall permit any slave or free person of color, not owned or hired by him or her or lawfully under his or her control, care, or charge, to enter his or her retail shop, remain in it or on the lot adjacent and belonging thereto, at any time on the Sabbath day, or between the hours of nine o’clock at night and sunrise, without a special ticket of permission from his or her master, overseer, or employer, and all persons offending against this ordinance shall, upon conviction before the Board, be fined a sum not exceeding $20 for each offense.

Sec. 35th. No person shall sell, give, or furnish any slave or slaves or free person of color any quantity or distilled or spirituous liquor, within the corporate limits of said Village, without written permission from the master, overseer, or employer of such slave, or the like consent of the guardian of such free person of color, shall be fined in a sum not exceeding 25 dollars at the discretion of the Board.

Sec. 50th. No slave or free person of color shall sell or be employed in a retail shop, under a penalty upon conviction before the Board, of not less than $50 for each offense to be collected of the owner of said retail shop. [1]

These laws speak volumes as to the status of slaves in the community as well as the responsibilities of their owners.

William H. H. Clark, History in Catoosa County, (1972), 112-115.

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