ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin




Lewis Fountain


Native American Statue

Intersection of West Main and Washington Streets


In this article substitute “Native American” for “Indian” and “red man



This zinc statue of an Indian Chief is an exact duplicate of the statue that once stood in the center of the intersection of Main and Washington Streets.  The original figure was gifted to the city by industrialist and city benefactor Robert E. Lewis and his wife Fanny in memory of their son, Clifton, in 1896.  It was created by the J. L. Mott Iron Works of New York.  The original statue stood on top of an ornamental fountain that provided drinking water for animals and thirsty passersby.  It stood in place for nearly 30 years until it was struck by a passing motorist in 1925 and knocked off its perch.


The original statue was damaged beyond repair and so an exact duplicate was ordered from the original manufacturer and placed in Union Park, where it stood for nearly 30 years, suffering damage at the hands of vandals, small children and the elements.  In the early 1960s the City of Watertown decided to remove the statue.  Rather than sell it for scrap, city officials decided the best place for it would be to entrust it to the Watertown Historical Society.  Accordingly, the statue was placed on the grounds near the Octagon House in 1964, where it has remained ever since.


This statue, which depicts an unknown Indian Chief, is one of many such statues that can be found in several parts of the United States.  It is a masterpiece of the sculptor’s art.  It also serves as a visual reminder of the many Native American peoples who once lived in and around Watertown.



Indian Statue is cast zinc; manufactured by J. L. Mott


^ click to see source ^


Jordon L. Mott Iron Works sold zinc statuary, acquiring models

and designs in Europe, making its castings in the U.S.


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 and listed it in their catalog of statuary. 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.  [Source and detailed info on fountain and statue]




Plate on Lewis Fountain Indian Statue:  The J. L. Mott Iron Wks, N.Y.


Reproductions of this Indian statue



Probably the city's most generous donors were Robert E. and Fanny Lewis.  In 1898 [drawing appeared in 1897 City Dir] , as a memorial to their son Clifton, they donated the money for a unique drinking fountain with tiered troughs for animals and cups for humans.  Above the fountain was the statue of a Chippewa chieftain.  When this fountain-statue was placed in the middle of West Main Street, it was not only imposing but useful, for drivers stopped there to water their horses, and thirsty dogs lapped up water from the lowest troughs.  But when automobiles came in, the troughs were accidentally damaged and the fountain had to be removed.  The noble Indian has found a new site at the Octagon House, where he looks out toward the Rock River, as his living counterparts once did when the river and the land belonged to them.    Kiessling, Elmer C., Watertown Remembered, (Milwaukee) 1986, p. 218.






     Looking east, Main and Washington






     Picturesque Watertown book 




Every town and village in America owes it to humanity to set up at least one drinking fountain where horses and dogs can slake their thirst.  But few towns are so situated that this cannot be conveniently arranged for, and will be found to pay, even as an investment.  A farmer will drive a mile farther to reach such a place, and there is seldom a mad dog scare where water is plentiful.



    Prior to laying of interurban trolley tracks in 1908.

Sprinkler wagon keeping dust down on Main Street.


     (Interurban tracks laid in 1908)


1906       If you want to get sprinkled meet me at the fountain - or the bath tub; and if you are thirsty don't go to the fountain unless you desire to get wet inside and outside.  Go with a sprinkling can or four new cups.   Sept 20


Editor - Leader: Please republish the above item concerning necessary conveniences at the fountain, West Main Street.  Parties here must object to replacing leaky cups - if so will someone name them.   A Citizen.




07 31       LEWIS FOUNTAIN REMOVED while street car tracks being laid 

The Board of Public Works has removed the Lewis Fountain at the corner of West Main, Washington and North Washington streets temporarily while the street car tracks are being laid.  As soon as the street railway is completed the fountain will be replaced on its old site on a better foundation than heretofore and connected with larger pipes for the overflow to be taken away.  The watering troughs will be turned east and west, making it more convenient for teamsters to water their horses than heretofore, and decreasing the chances of accident.  The Board is to be commended for deciding to retain the fountain at this point, not only for the reason that it was placed there by the only real philanthropist that Watertown has ever had, the late Robert E. Lewis, but also for the reason that it will at that point be the means of quenching the thirst of more animals than at any other place in the city. Watertown people are not unlike people the world over, they have a kindly feeling for the brute creation and are willing to do their share toward administering to their wants.      WG




A solid concrete base is being erected at the fountain square in West Main Street, on which the Lewis fountain will be placed this week.  The fountain will rest higher than it was previous to being taken down and horses can hereafter drink at it without being unchecked.      WG



     1910               c.1900, looking west






In all probability the public drinking fountain at the intersection of West Main and Washington streets will remain where it is.  Every citizen should appoint himself a committee of one to “call” the man who persists in driving his team to the watering trough in a way to obstruct traffic.  The police can also help and there will be no cause for complaint.    The Watertown news, August 07, 1918


c. 1919





Watertown's Indian Chief, originally the Lewis Fountain, who has stood guard for years at the intersection of West Main and Washington Streets, bit the dust at an early hour this morning when he failed to survive what proved to be a very modern motor and street car crash. 


When [With] so many white people unable to stand the terrors of the modern automobile, the Indian is hardly to be blamed for passing into the happy hunting grounds.


The Indian's end came this morning.  A Ford car driven by John Neuman and the street car which arrives from Milwaukee at that [same] time, collided and the Ford was knocked against the red man.  The Indian was unable to withstand was shock and the shattered remains were scattered in every direction.


Luckily Mr. Neuman was not injured although one of his hands was bruised, it was stated by the police.  The Ford was almost as badly wrecked as the Indian and the street car, being made of sturdier stuff, survived quite nicely.


The Indian suffered a similar mishap sometime ago when a motorist took a fall out of him, but that time he survived and was put back into place after much patching.  This time it looks as if it will be impossible to save him. There isn't enough of his face left to allow a beauty expert to lift it.     WDTimes



The council passed an ordinance providing for the removal of the base on which the Indian Chief was stationed at the intersection of West Main and Washington Streets.  The big chief is not to be replaced it appears.  The council ordered the installation of a mushroom light at the intersection.  Since the Indian was forcibly removed in an automobile and street car crash several days ago, there has been agitation in certain quarters that the monument be replaced.  A few aldermen at first were inclined to such action, but at last night's meeting his death knell was sounded.     WDTimes


Cross reference note:

Subsequent to the accident, the statue was placed in Union Park, near the Milwaukee depot, the troughs having been taken off.  When it was badly damaged by vandalism the city removed it, it was painted, and placed on the Octagon House grounds.




The Out Door Art Association has submitted a recommendation to the City Council relative to the beautification of the west river bank between Main and Cady Street bridges by causing the removal of debris which has accumulated thereon and requesting that the Board of Public Works be directed to deposit on the bank during the coming winter and spring stone, broken cement pavements and other suitable material to build a wall and that the said association will cause a uniform planting of trees to be made. 


At the suggestion of Alderman Cavanaugh, the Mayor agreed to see that the Lewis Fountain, NOW STORED ON THE BANK OF THE RIVER, would be probably taken care of and repairs and set up at a suitable location if possible.


Tracking the location of the statue after removal from W. Main & Washington is confusing.  Reportedly, pieces were "picked up in a basket," and along with the pedestal moved to the bank of river, "the west bank of the river from Main Street Bridge to Cady Street Bridge," according to another 1927 article.

A 1941 story in our "History of Watertown" ebook notes that “for more than a year he [the Chief] lay in the old city machine shed.”

Elements might fit if it can be determined that there was a city machine shed on the west bank of the river, between Main and Cady.  The best known city property in that location at that time was the Phoenix fire house.



             Indian Chief Has Friend in Alderman Cavanaugh


Watertown's old Indian Chief figure on the Lewis Fountain, which for many years stood guard at the intersection of W. Main and Washington streets but who met his doom through the progress of the white man, is to be removed from his resting place on the west bank on Rock River and stored in a safer place until such time when he can have his face lifted and given other necessary rejuvenation treatment.


The Indian met his doom twice, if such a thing is possible.


He was knocked out by a street car and by an automobile in two accidents which took place at the intersection which formed his camping ground.  After the first accident he was repaired and set up to uphold the prestige of the red man.


The second knockout was just about fatal and no attempt was made to repair the damage to his features.


He was put away on the river bank.


Now that the Out Door Art Association has requested the Council for its cooperation in beautifying the west bank of the river from Main Street Bridge to Cady Street Bridge, and the Council has agreed to the plan, the Indian will have to be removed from his present resting place.


The remains of the fountain would undoubtedly have been junked but for Alderman E. J. Cavanaugh who showed that he is a friend of the red man when he told the Council at its regular meeting this week that he wanted the remains of the fountain preserved. 


He pouted out that it was a gift from one of Watertown's well know residents and that even though it was greatly damaged, there was no need to throw it away.  As a result, it is to be stored away until such time when the Chief can be put in condition to again view the city from his stand at some point within its limits.




That statute of Big Chief So and So over in Union Park has been given the works lately by a bunch of youngsters who play in the park.  A bow and arrow has been bent and broken and they will probably be scalping him next.


The kids are reported to have climbed all over the Chief and just about wrecked him.  If this keeps up Alderman Cavanagh, who is the Chief's [statue’s] best friend, will have to stand on guard to see that no more harm comes to him.  Indians are scarce and the white man ought to help preserve the few there are.




The Indian Chief in Union Park is to be given a coat of paint if the city council sees fit to order it.  The Indian needs it, say those who claim to know.  Since the original Indian Chief was knocked from his perch atop the old West Main Street fountain as the result of a street car and automobile accident, back in the days when the city had street cars, he has been replaced.  The original Indian took an awful licking in the accident and when they picked up all the pieces all they could do was pack them away.  Then when the fountain base was set up in Union Park, Edward Cavanaugh, the alderman, saw to it that there was a new Indian to place on it.  He has been there since.  The Indian, we mean, not Ed.                -WDTimes



City’s Old Indian Chief to get $30 Overhauling


The city council is going to spend $30 to put Watertown’s “Indian Chief” in repair.  He’s the Indian who has stood guard in Union Park many years, following a disastrous encounter with a street car and an automobile when he camped in West Main Street, at Washington Street, some 15 years ago.


It seems the boys in the region of Union Park have been pegging stones and other objects at the venerable old Red Man and have been able to dent him considerably.  Last night, Alderman R. F. McLaughlin, Third ward, mentioned this fact on the floor of the council and said that the boys tossing the stones have been able to elude the police up to now, but he warned if they are caught it will go hard with them.


He asked that the Indian be put in repair, and the council agreed.  About $30 will be spent fixing him up.


Gift of Lewis


The Indian came into being here in 1896.  At that time he was erected as part of an elaborate fountain and placed at the West Main street intersection.  He was a gift to the city from Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Lewis, who provided the fountain as a memorial to their son, Clifton Lewis.  They paid a considerable price for the memorial, for fountains of such elaborate type were expensive those days and any city that didn’t have one was looked down upon. There were water troughs for horses, birds and dogs and there were places where humans could drink, too.


Several times the Indian fountain was brightened up with paint and year after year he continued to stand guard.  Then came the modern street car and the tracks were routed around him.  For years after the he watched the yellow cars whiz by.  Automobile traffic also increased, but he stood his ground and remained a sort of landmark on the west side.


Motorist Smacks Him


Then one night a motorist, dashing up the street, found his car heading for the fountain when a street car came along.  Seeking to avoid hitting the fountain, the driver, before he knew it, had his car pinned between the fountain and the street car.  The automobile resembled a folded accordion when they got it out.


The Indian was just about toppled from his perch.  In fact, if memory serves correctly, he was toppled off.  They picked him up in pieces and for more than a year he lay in the old city machine shed.  Then a west side alderman, E. J. Cavenaugh, to be exact, got busy and hit the warpath for the Indian.  He finally got through an appropriation to have the monument and the Indian transplanted to Union Park.  And there he has been on the receiving end of a lot of stones, bricks and other missiles tossed by careless and unthinking boys. 


The council now hopes to fix him up so he may continue to stand guard in his solitary way for many more years.    Aug 06 WDT




Times Square:  Frank C. Cook thinks the city should move the statue of the Indian chief, now backed way off in Union Park, to a spot in the little triangle park at College Avenue and Western Avenue, entrance to what leads to the Octagon House, where people would see it.  Mr. Cook has written a letter about this to the city fathers and the council has referred the letter to the Playgrounds and Athletic Committee for a decision.  The statue in question replaced an original Indian statute which was part of the old Lewis Memorial Fountain which stood in the center of W. Main Street at Washington Street for many years.  Those were the days when fountains were all the rage, and no city was complete without one.  This particular fountain had water troughs for horses and dogs and there was also a place where people could slake their thirst.  The Indian stood guard there for many years. . . .  Then one night a motorist smacked him down when he, the motorist tried to beat a street car to the crossing and found himself between the fountain and the street car.  That was, we might explain to the kiddies, when Watertown still had street cars clanking up and down Main Street and West Main Streets.  Anyway, the Indian was knocked from his perch and when they picked him up, they had to use a basket.  That will give you a rough idea of what happened to the Indian.  The entire fountain was moved and later when a new Indian had been secured the council decided to set him up in a safer place, where street cars and motorists were unknown.  Since then he has stood guard in the region of Union Park.  Now some people, including Mr. Cook, feel he should be brought out and placed in the proposed location.  We'll have to wait and see what happens.      WDT




     < Bruce Larson & Denny McFarland




                The famed Indian chief, depicted in the Lewis fountain, a gift to the city at the turn of the century, is in the news again.  Black Hawk for many years has been standing guard in Union Park and now, due to weather, rain, sleet, cold and heat has become greatly deteriorated.  In fact the statue has reached the point where it is considered dangerous and a hazard to children and others in the park.  A plan is underway to move the statue to safer ground, probably on the Octagon House property if the Watertown Historical Society is interested, or else Black Hawk may be shunted to some obscure storage place.




The original statue was damaged beyond repair and so an exact duplicate was ordered from the original manufacturer and placed in Union Park, where it stood for nearly 30 years, suffering damage at the hands of vandals, small children and the elements.  In the early 1960s the City of Watertown decided to remove the statue.  Rather than sell it for scrap, city officials decided the best place for it would be to entrust it to the Watertown Historical Society.  Accordingly, the statue was placed on the grounds near the Octagon House in 1964, where it has remained ever since.



06 06         







Indian figure from Lewis Fountain.  Originally at intersection of W. Main and Washington streets, then Union Park and now on grounds of the Octagon House Museum. 








A statue of a person

Description automatically generated with low confidence          A picture containing text, grass, outdoor, plaque

Description automatically generated





This statue now stands guard on the grounds of

Watertown’s Octagon House,

outside the Gladys Mollart Tour Center.

It is a replica of a fountain in Central Park, New York City.







Cross Reference:

Fountain Bar, 222 W Main, was also at this intersection


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History of Watertown, Wisconsin