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Milking history

Veterinarians pronounced these Center Township cows healthy on Dec. 14, 1908, after health officials said the herd had tuberculosis.

All I had was one clue, but it was an intriguing one. The photo simply said, “Post Mortem at H.J. Bullock’s Dec. 14 – 08.”

With a bit of skill and a lot of luck, I found the story in the Dec. 15, 1908, issue of The Lake County Times. It was right under a double coupons ad for E.C. Minas Co. in Hammond.

I’ll have to admit that finding the story took work, with other tantalizing headlines on that page grabbing my attention.

“Ground Broken for Line” told of work beginning for the construction of the Valparaiso, Gary and Hobart interurban.

“Poor Pennsylvania R.R. Begs for Mercy” was about the rail line not wanting to pay for road improvements. “In fact, the purse of the corporation is so depleted that were a strong wind to come along, it might blow away,” the story said.

“Coke Fiend Wants Dope for Sick Horse” told of a drug addict who asked an East Chicago dentist for a prescription but was turned away. “’Doctor,’ he began, ‘my horse fell and hurt its leg and I want to put it out of misery. Will you give me a prescription for some cocaine for this purpose?’” the story said. Dr. J. Goldman turned him away.

Another story told of how the Gary School Board had taken the first step toward segregating students.

Finally, though, I found the story I was looking for – “Cows Pronounced Sick Are Healthy.”

There was a lot at stake for Lake County farmers, and this was at a time when agriculture employed a much larger percentage of the county’s work force.

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State health authorities had decided some Lake County herds were infected with tuberculosis, a crippling blow to farmers. The farmers had to do something. That’s why the post-mortem referred to in the photo was so newsworthy.

“The tests made yesterday at the farm barns of Theodor Staff, living southwest of Crown Point, was upon two cows that have been recently examined and condemned by the experts have been operating in Lake county,” the story said.

The two “high priced milch cows” owned by Theodore Staff and Harry Collins “were in the pink of condition,” according to the story.

“Their being condemned, however, made them practically worthless for the purpose their owners purchased them for,” the story continued, “and it was decided to kill them and hold a minute examination over the carcasses for traces of the disease the experts said they were affected with.”

Veterinarians Woolridge and Williams were assisted by deputy coroner Will Houk. They even used microscopes, apparently, but could find no trace of the disease.

The large crowd in the photo was mentioned in the story.

“The examination was witnessed by many interested spectators, and the doctors’ verdict came and a surprise and only complicates the situation that has been a source of much annoyance and aggravation to the milk shippers of Lake county in general, and the question has now arisen as to whether the tests among the various herds have been thorough enough, or if the process used in discovering the presence or absence of traces of the disease is one that is infallible in all cases.”

So now I know more about the post-mortem at H.M. Bullock’s farm and why so many people showed up for a necropsy of two cows.

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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