A Book of Records of the Ear Marks and Brands of Cattle &c. Belonging to the Inhabitants of the Township of Cortsville County of Trumbull [Ohio]. [manuscript caption title].
Unusually early, nineteenth-century manuscript cattle earmark record from Ohio. The manuscript describes and illustrates 40 earmarks, notches or slits cut into the ears of farm animals to mark ownership, used in Cortsville Township, Trumbull County, Ohio. With only two outlying exceptions, the earmarks date from 1807 to 1824. Despite the manuscript’s title, no brands or branding marks are shown or described.
The records and likely the earmarking were typically accomplished in March, April, and May. All, with one exception described below, are accompanied by a stylized cattle head illustration depicting the individual ear marks for each farmer. These are typical entries:
May 29  Joseph Beggs Half Crop under Side of the Right Ear
May 6 1816 Sam’l McBride A Square crop of the left Ear and a slit in the right with a halfpenny out of the under side
April 7th 1817 Jas. Stewart a swallow fork in the left Ear
Jan 20 1823 J. L. Allerton A square crop off the end of each ear and two half pennys under side of the the [sic] right
The manuscript likely served as a quasi-official township record to prevent disputes between neighbors or to identify ownership of wandering cattle or cattle driven to a public market or sale. A nineteenth century history of early Trumbull County describes cattle and other livestock being pastured in fenceless woods.¹ In those early years, the settlers’ cattle are reported sometimes to have been kept together to protect them from predation by wolves and bears.² Earmarking had a very practical purpose.
The handwriting in the manuscript suggests that only a few people wrote the entries and drew the illustrations depicting the particular ear marks used by these Ohioans. Perhaps it was these persons (likely men), the ones who maintained and passed along the earmark record, were the ones who actually cut or “marked” the animals’ ears. It might be more likely that they only served as official witnesses for the township, going from farm to farm to record and document the cattle ear marks. The present manuscript leaves may well have been bound or stitched together at some time; small pinholes on the final leaves suggest the possibility of a binder’s stab holes.
One record entry, for October 1, 1823, and the only entry without an earmark illustration shows that the record keepers had to be familiar with the local cattle and careful about not recording wrong information:
George Capada A square crop off the end of the left Ear and a slit in the same / this wrong because David Jackson’s was the same
There are two outlying entries, both from the first half of 1844. One is at the conclusion of the final page and was made twenty years after the previous entry. The final entry was made on the back of the title page leaving room for possible subsequent entries. The manuscript, therefore, appears to be complete. Was the practice of ear marking abandoned for 20 years? If so, why re-start the practice in 1844?
An unusual cattle earmark record “book” started in 1807, from the then new Western frontier state of Ohio and showing regular use into the 1820s.
Description: A Book of Records of the Ear Marks and Brands of Cattle &c. Belonging to the Inhabitants of the Township of Cortsville County of Trumbull [Ohio]. [manuscript caption title].
Cortsville, Trumbull County, Ohio, 1807–1824 and 1844. pp. 6 x 7¼ inches. Five loose leaves; wove paper. Illustrations. Loss at lower corner of first leaf, not affecting text; though there is no evidence of any stitching or binding, there are some minor losses (not affecting sense) along spine edge suggesting leaves may have been bound. Good.
1. History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties…Vol. I (Cleveland, 1882), p60. 2. Ibid., p246.