Has anyone heard of a guy renting a cow in Chicago to keep his property rights?

My property law professor told us a story (purported to be true) that some guy had gotten access rights to the Chicago River to water his cow in the 1800’s. The caveat was that he could only keep the property rights as long as he took his cow to the river to drink. Years later, some distant relative of the original property recipient was known to rent a cow once a year, and ceremoniously walk his cow to the edge of the river to keep his property rights. The river, in fact, was 30 feet below street level, so the man and cow would just walk to the edge of the concrete and look down into the river, but it was the act of taking a cow down there that mattered.

After having maintained his property rights this way, the owner finally sold his small piece of land next the the river for some large quantity of money (like million).

I am wondering if this story is true. Has anyone heard of it? If it is true, could you point me towards a newspaper article about him?


2 Responses to “Has anyone heard of a guy renting a cow in Chicago to keep his property rights?”

  1. Edwin M Says:

    I haven’t heard of a guy renting a cow, but I have heard that there is a cow path through buildings in the loop. I did see a show awhile back about this. There are metal doors at 100 W. Monroe that open to a hallway through the building. I have also heard that a cow is walked through this hallway occasionally.

  2. Cultural Insight Says:

    This sounds more like a "property easement" allowing the man to walk across someone else’s property for the purpose of watering his livestock. Laws like this are very real in rural areas. I haven’t heard of too many cows wandering in Chicago though. Great story.