Cheyenne, Wyoming

Photo courtesy of J.E. Stimson Collection, Wyoming State Archives

Cheyenne, Wyoming has been on our list of National Humane Alliance fountains for a long time, but we've never been able to find a picture or much information about it until now (May 5, 2021). Thanks to contributor Brittany Luna, we have newspaper accounts of the fountain being erected in Cheyenne and a rather disturbing report of damage to it a little more than a decade later. And now thanks to some suggestions from the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum and help from the Wyoming State Archives, we know a lot more!

Brittany found a report in the May 23, 1908 Cheyenne Daily Leader of the dedication of the fountain a day earlier at the intersection of Ferguson and Fifteenth streets. Abbie Brooks, the daughter of the governor of Wyoming, was given the honor of turning on the water to the fountain. It was reported that S. S. Stockwell represented the National Humane Alliance in presenting the fountain. Mayor P. S. Cook gave a short speech as did Richard Lovell who read a biography of Hermon Lee Ensign whose funds made it all possible. As with many other communities, school students were involved in singing patriotic songs.

So, how did things go with the fountain. Well, skipping ahead about 11 years, Brittany found another news account about "Maddened Horses" dashing full tilt into an immovable object and the immovable object was the fountain! By 1909, the stretch of road had been renamed Carey and Fifteenth but it was still doing fine until a fire truck went down the street and the sound startled the horses pulling a wagon occupied by Jerry O'Keefe and John Kilker. O'Keefe was thrown from the wagon and Kilker hung on for dear life as the horses hurtled towards the fountain. As the horses struggled to get around the fountain, the wagon hit the fountain and knocked the top off as Kilker was lucky to only have the breath knocked out of him from the collision and the horses were badly bruised and scratched. News accounts claimed that it was just good luck that no one was killed!

Was this the end of the fountain? No, it wasn't as you can see from this 1937 photo in the Wyoming Archives. The photo was taken by Frances E. Brammar and it shows Helen McCarthy and Katherine Schroeder flanking the fountain. McCarthy was "1937 Miss Frontier" and Schroeder was "Lady in Waiting". This appears to be part of the traditional Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration which is still held every year in July and August. You will note that the top of the fountain has been put back, but a closer examination will show the lions head spigots are missing and it's not hooked to a water supply - and it's no longer in its original location.

Suzi Taylor, Reference Archivisit at the archives, has been most helpful in explaining what may have happened. The fountain was in its original location as late as 1918 from pictures in the Archives, but it was removed some time after that. Suzi thinks this picture might show the fountain eventually moved to the Bar X Ranch just north of town where it came to be owned by Earl Vandehei who displayed it prominently on his property. It's not known how he acquired the fountain, but we know that in other communities the fountains were sold when the towns decided the the automobile had made them irrelevant and an obstacle to the smooth flow of traffic.

And now for the final chapter in the history of the Cheyenne fountain. When Mr. Vandehei passed away in 1964, his wife wasn't a big a fan of the fountain as he had been. So the fountain moved with Mr. Vandehei to its eternal resting place in Lakeview Cemetery as part of Mr. Vandehei's headstone for the family plot!

And so concludes the long and remarkable history of the Cheyenne fountain over more than 100 years of existence. We're not sure that the National Humane Alliance would approve, but they disappeared years ago!

Click here to read the press coverage uncovered by Brittany and we want to add special thanks to Brittany, Suzi and our friends at the Museum for helping to bring the story of another fountain to life.

For more on the National Humane Alliance Fountains click here.

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