February 1, 2016

1900s Water Trough Still Flowing

horse trough (2)

In the early 1900s, Des Moines was still a predominantly horse and buggy town.  Several organizations, in an effort to ease the strain on horses, built two public water troughs and then gave them to the City of Des Moines.  Over the years, the water troughs became obsolete as automobiles became the common mode of transportation.

The original locations of the two water troughs were at 8th and Cherry and Penn and Grand, most likely in the middle of the intersections.  Their original locations were selected with the approval of the National Humane Alliance and subsequently, was the reason they were moved.  Apparently, they caused too much congestion when buses, trucks, and autos came along.  The city council ordered their removal and for a while, they were stored.  At some time after 1915, one was moved to SE 10th and Scott Avenue and the other moved to SE 6th and Hartford.

The Southeast Water Trough at Sam Cohen Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.  Through the decades and even today, the trough is still dispensing water, albeit now as a fountain.  Water pours from two lion heads into the horse trough.  At the base, four smaller water-filled troughs allowed smaller animals to drink. Water also flowed from a small alcove above the horse trough.


Posted by: Laura Sarcone 4 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in History

4 Responses to “1900s Water Trough Still Flowing”

  1. February 02, 2016 at 11:24 pm, Pat Meiners said:

    Probably only 2 fountains were given to DM by the National Humane Alliance. 30 were made every year and a total of about 125 were produced from 1906 – 1912. Herman Lee Ensign died in 1899 and created the fountain program in his will. Ensign had lived in Iowa and that may be the reason Des Moines seems to be the only city which received more than one fountain. It may also have something to do with Mr. Gatchel. Houston, TX could never decide on a place for a fountain and never did receive one.
    In Des Moines Theodore F. Gatchel (of the 1st Methodist Church & a Methodist Hospital organizer) had earlier put fountains around the city which also served people, horses and dogs, He was an ASPCA founder in Washington, DC. A memorial after his death in the Register of 4/16/1902, page 4, has an article about a DC memorial to him for laws regarding animals.
    Also see an article of 11/10/1895, page 6, Register about Mr. Gatchel and the police enforcing animal treatment laws. It may be from the Gatchel fountains that the number 15 came about. I am still working to find more info about this, but am sure DM did not get 15 fountains; but probably 2. This article needs changes.


  2. October 09, 2016 at 12:10 am, Tim Rounds said:

    I remember my grandfather had a horse and wagon in to the 50’S and he lived on se 5th street.
    I also remember it being in the middle of the street and it was being used into the 60’s.


  3. September 26, 2019 at 3:44 pm, BRANDON CLARK said:

    So what ever happened to the one at 6th and Hartford


  4. February 27, 2021 at 10:05 am, John J. Walsh said:

    For more information on the approximately 150 of these fountains go to http://electronicvalley.org/derby/quiz/pages/wateringtrough.htm or the interactive Google Map – https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1NW8lnCl1lpM6uJai9jkOfmDYVfE&ll=32.71799182295419%2C-98.86504629030367&z=4


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