History: A five-ton fountain for animals | PostIndependent.com

History: A five-ton fountain for animals

Garry Brewer
GJ History Columnist

One hundred and three years ago on March 29, 1911, more than a thousand people of Grand Junction came together at the intersection of Fifth and Rood streets to dedicate a magnificent granite animal fountain given to the city by the National Humane Alliance of New York. A gift made possible by a man from New York named Hermon Lee Ensign, who left his fortune for the betterment of animals.

How did this wonderful piece of artwork come to Grand Junction and who put the idea into action? Only 125 cities in the United States between 1906 and 1921 are known to have received this $5,000 gift. (In today's money it would be approximately $125,000).

In Grand Junction there was a wonderful young lady who had a love for animals, named Emma Keene. She met and married a young attorney named Walter S. Sullivan on Aug. 6, 1884. They were the 29th couple to marry in Mesa County. They had two children — a daughter, Elsie M. Sullivan, in 1888 and a son, Philip Keene Sullivan, in 1889.

Life was good for the young family, and in 1893 Walter became a county judge. Unfortunately in the same year their young 4-year-old son, Philip (Little Keene), died of Scarlet fever. Little Keene was buried in the Orchard Mesa Cemetery.

While this was a tremendous shock to their family, life went on for Walter, Emma and daughter Elsie. Elise graduated from Boulder College and shortly after she and her mother took a long trip to Europe in 1909/1910. In Paris, Emma became interested in the National Humane Alliance effort to place drinking fountains for horses in the United States and France. She contacted Lewis Sevier, the secretary of the Humane Alliance in New York, about placing a granite fountain in Grand Junction.

Hermon Lee Ensign founded the National Humane Alliance in 1897, and when he died in 1899 he left the fortune he had made from advertising and as an inventor to the Alliance. The purpose of the Alliance was to educate and instill in people, especially the young, ideas of humanity both to animals and each other. He believed that "if a man or boy is educated on this line, so that he feels a pleasure in being considerate of animals as well as of his fellow beings, he cannot be other that a good citizen."

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Based on this premise the one stipulation for the gift was the Humane Alliance chose the site to place the fountain, and in 1910 Lewis Sevier came to Grand Junction and walked the city with Mayor Todd to determine the best location. The center of the intersection of Fifth and Rood next to the new YMCA was chosen as the YMCA stood for the betterment of young men and women.

The fountain weighed five tons and stood seven feet tall with a massive six-foot bowl hewn from one piece of granite. It stood on a square pier and small basins around the base captured water provided for dogs. It was also wired for a globe street light placed upon the top. Three sides had brass lion heads that spouted water, and on the north side of the fountain was a plaque dedicated to the founder of the fountains, Hermon Lee Ensign. The only cost to the city would be the shipping cost from the granite quarries where the fountains were made on a small island off the coast of Maine named Vinalhaven.

The Humane Alliance shipped the fountain in November of 1910. On Jan. 14, 1911, the Daily Sentinel reported the fountain was on it way from Maine, and it arrived on Jan. 25. It came in two sections and was so heavy that when City Commissioner Scovill was hauling it up from the freight yards, it proved too much for his wagon, breaking the coupling pole and dropping the huge fountain in the mud of Sixth and Main. As soon as the weather settled down, the concrete foundation was laid and the fountain was unpacked and installed with the metal plaque on the north side of the fountain stating, "1908 Presented by the National Humane Alliance. Hermon Lee Ensign, Founder."

On March 28 the program for the formal dedication ceremony was placed in both the Grand Junction News and the Daily Sentinel, stating Mrs. Elizabeth Walker Hinton on behalf of Emma Keene Sullivan would give the history of the fountain with Mayor Todd accepting the fountain for the city.

Emma was not able to attend as she and her husband, Judge Sullivan, went on an extended trip after the marriage of their daughter, Elsie on Dec. 1, 1910.

On March 29, the intersection of Fifth and Rood was filled with men, women and children to witness the dedication. There was a prayer by Rev. S. B. Warner, the Colorado Glee Club sang "By the light of the Silvery Moon" and "America." I.N. Bunting of the Daily Sentinel referred "feelingly" that the presence of this beautiful fountain is due to the insistence, courage, and untiring energy of Mrs. Emma Keene Sullivan, further stating that she overcame obstacles to have the fountain brought to Grand Junction.

Mrs. Elizabeth Hinton spoke on behalf of Emma and presented the animal fountain to the city. She stated the fountain was conceived in love. It was love that prompted Hermon Lee Ensign to leave his estate to the fund which builds and donates these monuments for his love for dogs and horses, and it was love which upheld Mrs. Sullivan in her endeavor to secure the fountain for this city.

Mayor Thomas Todd formally accepted the gift in the spirit of gratitude and trust, stating that is was a rare occasion for the city to get something for nothing, and it was his hope the fountain would stand as a thing of beauty and joy forever. The mayor then called upon City Water Commissioner Bostwick W. Vedder to turn on the water to the fountain and the program was completed.

So now the horses and dogs of Grand Junction had their own public fountain, and there was even a cup for humans who wished to get water from the flowing lion's heads. The water fountain stayed at the intersection of Fifth and Rood for many years. After a time, as automobiles became the main mode of transportation, the fountain was removed.

We know by records that Judge Walter S. Sullivan died in 1915, his wife Emma followed her daughter — Elsie McKinnie — to California, where Elsie died in 1935 and Emma died in 1937. Emma's remains were bought back to Grand Junction and buried next to her husband and baby boy, Philip, in the Orchard Mesa Cemetery.

Now, for the rest of the story.

There were about 125 fountains placed in the United States from the years 1906 to 1921 when the National Humane Alliance closed its doors. There is a list online at http://www.electronicvalley.org/derby/greenway/fountains/NHAFountains.htm. In researching this story I discovered that Grand Junction was not mentioned as a city receiving a fountain. Upon contacting the website and sending photos from the Museum of Western Colorado, Grand Junction is now listed along with the other Colorado cities of Denver and Colorado Springs. The Denver fountain is still located in a small paved triangle in the Civic Center District, where Colfax, Tremont, and 13th intersect.

The Grand Junction fountain is documented by photos from the Museum of Western Colorado from 1911 to about 1923. By the time the tennis courts on the southwest corner of Fifth and Rood (current location of Snap Photo) are replaced with a gas station, the fountain has been removed. Only a manhole cover marks the spot.

As of the writing of this story I have not been able to find where the fountain went. It's hard to lose something that big, so if anyone out there has scrapbooks or old stories from your grandparents who might have mentioned the day a five-ton, $125,000 water fountain got up and moved away from Grand Junction, please contact me at my e-mail listed below.

It would be nice when we find it, if it were again placed somewhere for the enjoyment of children, adults and animals. And then if we spy a white cloud in the shape of a smile in the blue Colorado sky we might assume it's Emma Keene Sullivan's spirit shining down and saying well done.

Photos: Museum of Western Colorado, Loyd Files Room, Michael Menard: David Bailey Peter Booth; Bill Chilles, Vinalhaven Historical Society; Jack WalshDerby, CT: Grand Junction News: The Daily Sentinel files: Mesa County Library Obit Files: Snap Photo: City of Grand Junction Cemetery Information, Vicki Beltran: Lavada Palmer of the Mesa County Assessor's Office: Richard Tope History of Mesa County: Mesa County Library Staff: Pat Gromley: Special Thanks to Marie Tipping who helped me look through four days of newspaper books from 1908-1912. This was a HUGE Job.

Garry Brewer is storyteller of the tribe; finder of odd knowledge and uninteresting items; a bore to his grandchildren; a pain to his wife on spelling; but a locator of golden nuggets, truths and pearls of wisdom. Email Garry at brewer62@bresnan.net.