Wausaneta Drinking Fountain

Location: Kiwanis Park, Le Roy, Illinois, USA.

The statue of an Indian was originally a wood carving created by Samuel Anderson Robb who was the leading cigar store Indian peddler. It was carved for William Demuth & Co. who cast it in zinc and advertised it in his catalog as “No. 53 Indian Chief.” In 1873, the J.L. Mott Iron Works purchased the design, with dimensions of 5ft. 9ins. to the top of the head and 6ft. 6ins. to the top of the feathers, and listed it in their catalog of statuary. The statue was also offered atop a cast iron drinking fountain.

Simeon H. West, a local spiritualist, who claimed to have communicated with a Kickapoo Chief called Wausaneta (also referenced in documents as Osaketa) commissioned a drinking fountain surmounted by the statue of an Indian. The statue represented the Chief whose tribal lands covered almost half the state of Illinois until they were forced to surrender the property in 1819 and relocated to territory in Oklahoma. There is no symbolism attached to the fact that the statue faces north east towards an old fort and burial ground.

The statue and drinking fountain cast by J. L. Mott Iron Works was unveiled by Simeon West’s granddaughter on 1st January 1912 and accepted on behalf of the town by Hon. Leslie J. Owen. Mr. West dedicated a blessing, And now invoking the blessing of God and the holy angels on this beautiful fountain, I dedicate it to the use, benefit and pleasure of all who may come within the radius of its influence.

The square base offers four inlaid panels for memorialization. The legend beneath the front of statue is inscribed: Donated To The City Of Leroy / By / Simeon H West. The three remaining panels are inscribed with Mr. West’s principles.

  • Love and thank the supreme power. Control your temper. Try to keep cheerful. Do all the good you can. Be honest, truthful and temperate. Help the poor, needy and sick. Encourage the weak and timid, make specialty of trying to add to the happiness of someone today – and all other days.
  • Cultivate love, peace and harmony. Life is too short and time too valuable to waste in angry strife. Be slow to believe evil reports about your neighbors. Be diligent in searching for something good to say about others, and when you find it don’t wait until they are dead, but say it at once.
  • When you find a person on the down spiral or in the gutter, don’t kick him, but help him by kind words and acts to strive for better conditions. Try to scatter rays of sunshine and happiness along your pathway wherever you may be. Do good today – you may not be here tomorrow.”

A stone step which was originally placed to offer children assistance in reaching one of three demi-lune fluted basins is still in place today. Although the manufacturer’s casting offered lunettes with lion mascarons of spouting water on three sides, customization equipped this fountain with modern sanitary “bubblers.” The fourth lunette at the rear of the statue hosts a name plate, WAUSANETA.

A column with laurel decoration and guilloche extends above the fountain base. Two consoles originally supported electric globe lamps.

The capital supports the Indian figure. In his right hand the Indian Chief holds an arrow, and in his left hand he holds a bow attached to a base near his left foot, which rests on a rock. (This stance is called contrapposto, where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed.) A tree stump behind his right leg balances the sculpture. The original statue was dressed in a headband containing three feathers, a bear claw necklace, a cloak, a breechcloth (fabric tucked into a belt that covered the front and back), fringed leggings and moccasins. The missing feathers may have been removed during restoration for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

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The fountain was restored again in 1998.

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Glossary

  • Bubbler, a fountain with a tap which ejects a stream of water
  • Capital, The top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Console, A decorative bracket support element
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Guilloche, Decorative engraving technique of two or more bands twisted over each other in which a very precise intricate repetitive pattern
  • Lunette, The half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal

 

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