1887 Memphis Taxing District Ordinances

The following is the introduction to the 1887 Memphis Taxing District Ordinances which came onto existence following the loss of Memphis’ Municipal Charter due to the Yellow Fever Plague of the late 1870’s.  My great grandfather James Lee Jr served on the Memphis Legislative Council which was composed to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners and the Supervisors of Public Works.   This Digest of 1887 contained 261 pages of municipal ordinances in addition to contracts between the Taxing District and 11 railroads, the Memphis Grain and Package Elevator Co., Memphis Water Co. and other entities.

Introduction to First Digest

It may not be inappropriate, as introduction to this Digest to state some of the causes that gave birth to that government whose laws and ordinances it contains.

After the scourge of 1878 had done its work of death, those who survived found many deserted hearth-stones and desolate homes.  Pestilence, more pitiless than war, had robbed Memphis of thousands of her truest and most enterprising citizens, and of millions of money, in paralyzed industry and diminished values; and the future, which once promised so fair, was beclouded with doubt and fear.  For interest on debts made no pause, though the “pestilence walked in darkness,” and taxation in the devoted city vastly increased on greatly diminished resources; and our accumulated misfortunes did not appease the thirst for payment of a vast and insupportable debt.  Friend met friend, and, as they looked each other in the face and remembered the past, wept for themselves and for their beloved city.  What was to be done?  Memphis has tried to settle her debt, and failed.  Where the fault lay, it is not necessary to inquire.  The fact is, the attempt failed.  Besides, profoundly grateful for the beneficent charity that poured in upon her from the civilized world with unabated benefaction, through the yellow fever, it was felt that something ought to be done in the way of thorough sanitation, in order that the plague never return; and that it was essential to the life of trade that our dilapidated streets be repaired and paved.  Added to all this was the realization of the fact that municipal government in the United States were a failure.  It is curious, not to say sad reflection, that so enlightened and progressive a people as ours should have so lamentably failed in their management of municipal affairs.

So it was, these accumulated ills bought Memphis to the verge of destruction and despair, and these weighty considerations moved her to seek relief.  It was a question of life or death.  For what booted it that her position was the most commanding on the continent, and that she was the natural entrepot for all the varied production of the largest,  most fertile and rapidly developing valley in the world, if all her earnings and income were only to fill the coffers of her creditors?  What booted it that her muscle, brain and enterprise promise gave of prosperity and greatness, if all she had, and hoped for, was only held in trust for the payment of debts that were accumulated without permanent benefit to her, and that, like a millstone around her neck, dragged he down to bankruptcy and death?  From these ills, and others worse to come, her citizens united to find a release; and believed that when governments fail of their purpose (the good of the governed), and that communities, like individuals, can invoke the protection of the maxim “self-preservation is the supreme Law,” they asked the sovereign State to take back their ancient privileges and franchises, and give them a new and better form of government .

To this end, mass meetings were held, committees appointed, and bills drawn and passed by the Legislature.  These laws have been ratified by our Supreme Court, and the Taxing
District of Shelby County, Tennessee, is an accomplished fact.  And it is fondly hoped that its organic law embodies the solution of that hitherto unsolved problem-how to govern, cheaply and well, a municipal corporation.

This government is simply an agent of the State government, without the power of credit or taxation, and the evils thereon.  It owns no property, except for governmental purposes alone.  It can issue no bonds, and has no power to pay them if they are issued.  It contracts no debts, except as against particular taxes levied by the State itself, to pay them, year by year.  It therefore pays as it goes-the only true policy for individuals and States.  What improvements it makes, it pays for; and if it has no money to pay, it waits till it has.  Launched under such auspices, it is hoped that it will prove a lasting blessing, and that economy, honesty and enterprise, cleanliness and thorough sanitation, good streets, and an efficient fire and police protection, will close its gates to pestilence forever, and open wide the doors to health and lasting prosperity.

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Capt. Stacker Lee

When cotton shipping season began in September and rouster crews were difficult to recruit, Capt. Stacker would take his walnut cane and walk from the Beale Street landing where Lee Line boats were moored and walk up Beale Street and into the dive bars and brothels and loudly announce “indeter is coming and bellies will be empty and there will be no food for those who do not work.”  Rousters who worked on Lee Line boats knew they could find a meal on board Lee Line boats during the cold slow winter months.

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LEE LINE ad circa 1895 1896

The Lee Line extended service onto the Ohio River following the bankruptcy of the St. Louis and New Orleans Anchor Line, which occurred in 1894.  The St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Co. resulted from the merger of several smaller Packet Lines following the demise of the Anchor Line.  Previous to the Anchor Line bankruptcy, the Lee Line stopped at Cairo IL.  Following the Anchor Line ceasing operation, the Lee Line placed a wharf-boat near the Eads Bridge in St. Louis.  In 1904, the Lee Line advertised excursions to the St. Louis Worlds Fair.



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Rouster song

This rousterabout song was taken from Capt. William Tippitt’s History of the Lee Line

De rousters in da cabin,
Eatin from de plate
De Captain on the levee
totin in de freight
De Stewart and de pilot
De cook and de clerk
Is humpin on de gang plank
Doin rousters work.

Wages on the Memphis River front in 1890 were $100\month for pilots
and $60\month for rousters.

These pictures are from my brother George’s collection and depict rousters moving coal from a barge onto the boiler deck storage bins.  The boat is unknown but the location is probably on the Mississippi River.

031 ROUSTERS 2_1 030 ROUSTERS_4_1

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KATE ADAMS caught out



Kate Adams pictures 2  The bottom picture shows the KATE with model T run-about which she carried frequently.  Both pictures are from my friend Ed Provine’s collection.  The top picture I believe is the KATE ADAMS (2nd) and the bottom picture KATE ADAMS (3rd).

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Capt. James Lee Sr. also known as Sunrise Jim

In the 1840’s and 1850’s steamboats did not furnish breakfast to the passengers or crew members if the boat arrived in port before sunrise.  Capt. Jim had a reputation for making sure that his boat always arrived in port before dawn.   Years later he also had the reputation for having the “best table” on the river.  Farmers and planters brought him their best produce knowing that he would purchase whatever they brought to the river for him to examine.  In the 1870’s and 1880’s he had disagreements with his sons James Lee Jr. and Stacker Lee about how the table should be set.  Capt. Jim’s food bill doubled the cost of the stewards pantry whenever he was aboard a Lee Line boat.  Later the Anchor Line of St. Louis put into place what was called the “restaurant plan” where passengers paid for their meals ala carte.   His son Capt. James Lee Jr. tried to enact this change but was overruled by Sunrise Jim.  Other Memphis steamboat men also rejected the restaurant plan as well.



CAPT JAMES LEE cleaned up image

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Lee Line Excursion brochure circa 1911-12

Lee Line guide front pageLL brochure p2

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Pacific Mail Steam Packet Co.

Interesting spoon circa late 1880’s early 1900’s.  A person definitely knew where they stood when dining on a PMSP steamer.PMST full view PMST 2nd class

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1900 Lee Line Annual Pass

This 1900 Lee Line pass is a new addition to my collection of passes.  The other passes are quite interesting as well.

1900 Lee Line pass D A Loomis 1897 Canadian RR D A Loomis 1900 D A Loomis 1895 D A Loomis 1897 D A Loomis and wife 1910

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James Lee 3rd

James Lee 3rd had a brief career working for the C H Karr Company a river and industrial supply company.   His father Capt. James Lee Jr. took over the business sometime in 1887 or 1888 following the companies financial difficulties and renamed the business Lee Brothers Co. which became the sole supplier to the Lee Line for all repair and maintenance items.  James Lee 3rd worked for Lee Bros. for a brief time before engaging in a number of business ventures and occupations prior to his passing in 1919.  He married his fathers law partners daughter Bodine Warinner.  Together they had one daughter Sadie Ardinger Lee.  They are buried in the H C Warinner family plot at Elmwood Cemetery.

Warinner Elmwood plot

James Lee 3rd son of James Lee Jr. and Capt. James Lee Sr.

James Lee 3rd son of James Lee Jr. and Capt. James Lee Sr.

Bodine Warinner wife of James Lee 3rd Elmwood Cemetery Memphis, TN

Bodine Warinner wife of James Lee 3rd Elmwood Cemetery Memphis, TN

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