It is interesting to know that the first tract of land upon which our town was built contained six hundred and forty acres and was incorporated under the same rules, regulations, restrictions and privileges as the town of Murfreesboro in this state. None of the five commissioners appointed by the Legislature in 1809 to lay off the town lived within its limits. The one most frequently mentioned in early records was Tyree Rhodes. He built Clifton Place there and was buried nearby.
On Saturday, August 19, 1820, the sheriff of Giles County, James Perry, held the first election in Pulaski and the first Board of Aldermen was named. They were Dr. Elisha Eldridge, Dr. Shadrack Nye, J. W. McCracken, Thomas Smith, German Lester, Wm. Rose and John Keeman. In November of the same year Thomas Smith moved away and Aaron V. Brown who later became governor of Tennessee, was elected to fill his place. On the following Saturday the board met at the courthouse and elected Dr. Eldridge, mayor, and Dr. Nye, recorder. This method of electing a mayor and recorder continued until 1877 when the law was amended and gave the citizens of the town the choice of electing their mayor and recorder.
Very soon these first leaders took up the serious work of making the laws to control this town of about five hundred people. Quoting from the minutes of the first board meeting, “the following ordinance was immediately proposed and passed into law: It is hereby ordained that from and after the date thereof, that if any person shall shoot at a mark, at bat or any bird on the wing or otherwise or wantonly or unnecessarily discharge firearms in any part of the town of Pulaski shall pay the fine of five dollars for every offense, to be collected by the town constable.” And that was the first law made in Pulaski. The board held monthly meetings and to this band of faithful citizens we owe a big debt of gratitude for the early development of our city.
It was the duty of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to elect the town constable and at their first meeting this place was given to James Lynch. It was the constable’s duty to enforce the laws. protect the people, collect the taxes and fines and report to the board. He also administered the lashings, a common form of punishment at that time. For this he received twenty-five cents for each offense. His salary was fifty dollars a year. An early law decreed that every white male citizen between the ages of eighteen and forty-five was subject either personally or by substitution to discharge the duties of patroller. The selection was made by the mayor in routine order, and they served thirty days. Other laws prohibited felling or injuring trees on the town commons, allowing swine to run at large or promoting horse and mule races on the town square.
An early ordinance was headed “Tinning Dogs” and made it unlawful to tie tin or anything of a like character to the tails of dogs or any other animal within the limits of the corporation and the fine for this offense was from five to twenty-five dollars not only for the offender but anyone who aided and encouraged the deed.
The tax rate set by the board was twenty-five cents per hundred for town property, fifty cents on each free poll and twenty-five cents on each slave. Any merchant doing business within the town limits paid five dollars for a license.
Water was supplied from natural springs located in different sections of the town and from wells that were dug at the expense of the town. One was dug on the town square and the board minutes state that a twenty-five dollar reward was offered by the town for the culprit who threw a bale of cotton in it during 1853. The town constable found the offender and collected the reward.
German Lester was the second mayor of Pulaski. His name appears a number of times in the early records as he served five terms as mayor and six as recorder. He built the first comfortable house in the town. His brother Fount Lester was recorder several terms. Neil S. Brown who was later elected governor of Tennessee was town recorder in 1837.
Time and progress made many changes in our town, but the strong foundation laid by theses early leaders was the means for the building of the wonderful city we live in today.
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