1916 Confederate Soldiers' Memorial Fountain
Removed by the Helena City Commission in 2017

The Algeria Shrine Temple seen from Hill Park, ca. 1930. In the foreground is the Confederate Fountain, donated to the City of Helena in 1916 by the Daughters of The Confederacy to commemorate Confederate Army victims of the Civil War. Until 1926, it was the northernmost Confederate memorial in the U. S., (a memorial in Seattle's Lake View Cemetery now has that distinction). The fountain underwent several repairs and restorations in the years before it was removed.

In August of 2017, following a Charlottesville, Virginia demonstration over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, in which one person was killed and 19 others injured, eight members of the American Indian Caucus of the Montana Legislature called on the City of Helena to remove the fountain because it was a memorial to dead Confederate soldiers. None of the eight members of the Caucus lived in or represented Helena.

On August 16, the City held a public hearing on the proposed removal of the fountain. Emotions were high, and the topic became quite heated on social media. State and local historians publicly opposed the fountain's removal.

On August 18, workers removed the fountain to a City utility building. Several protesters were present at the removal. Two people were arrested by police at the scene, one of whom was a serious protester, the other apparently just drunk.

As of this writing, August 21, 2017, the fate of the fountain is uncertain. There is a report that it was damaged during removal



An Early Photo of the Confederate Soldiers' Memorial Fountain
Great Northern Railway Depot and Trainyard in the Background


DAVID POOR COLLECTION

 

Fountain Dedication, Helena Daily Independent, Sept. 6, 1916

Handsome Fountain Given To Helena With Fitting Ceremony
Confederate
Daughters Present Memorial Structure.
Large Crowd Hears Talks.
$2,000 Memorial Placed at Highest Point in Hill Park to Beautify Rest Spot
Miss Young MakesSpeech of Presentation.

With fitting ceremony, the beautiful fountain recently placed in Hill park was presented to the city of Helena last evening by the Daughters of the Confederacy in Montana. City Attorney Edward Horsky, acting for Mayor R. R. Purcell, who was unavoidably absent, accepted the gift after an address of presentation by Miss Georgia C. Young. The emblem is a splendid contribution to the beautification of the park given to the city some years ago by the later James J. Hill.

A gathering of a couple of hundred Helenaites joined about the new structure to listen to the evening’s program. Several Confederate veterans were present in places of honor. A short program, with a few necessary formalities, was applauded by the patriotic crowd. When the impressive monument was unveiled a long demonstration followed, giving the fountain a most hearty welcome as one more means of beautifying the city park.

The Evening’s Program. Judge R. Lee Word presided over the program. Prior to the unveiling ceremony the Helena drum corps gave several selection. Mrs. Will Aiken pulled the cord which released the flag covering the new fountain. The water was turned into the huge bowl by Mrs. F. F. Read. These women with Miss Young, who followed with the presentation speech, are the only charter members now in the city.

Miss Young, in formally presenting the splendid memorial to the city, told of the history of the gift; how the Confederate Daughters seeing the need of more means of beautifying Hill park, set about on a campaign to secure funds for the work. She explained the motives of the order in planning such a gift, telling how the Confederate Daughters, desirous of making some presentation to their new residence after leaving the south, had decided upon the fountain as a fitting memorial.

Formally Presented. The speaker lauded the present-day American spirit, a spirit of union with no feeling between the old north and south, which caused such bitterness and sorrow years ago. Both sides are now engaged in building up a better c ountry to live in, making their homes more comfortable, their cities more beautiful. She closed:

“On behalf of the daughters of the Confederacy, I present this fountain to the city of Helena as a token of our esteem toward our new home.”

“The city of Helena is pleased and honored to accept this substantial and beautiful donation from the Daughters of the Confederacy. On behalf of the city I accept most heartily this splendid token” Thus spoke Attorney Edward Horsky, in place of Mayor Purcell.

The city attorney, in accepting the gift, delved into the history of the city and the park, on which the monument was built. He lauded the spirit of the Confederate Daughters in making such a fitting gift. “The efforts of the Daughters of the Confederacy in planning such a gift are worthy of the highest praise,” said Mr. Horsky. “We have several pretty parks, though they lack such fitting and substantial markings as this, it is a beautiful memorial that will long keep bright the memory of the organization that donated it.”

Of Native Granite. The fountain is carved from native Montana granite. It towers eight feet high and in the top a large electric globe is placed. Four streams of water pour forth into a large bowl which overflows into a basin six feet square. The structure is ornamented with pretty carvings. It was designed by Architect George H. Carsley and erected at a cost of $2,000. It was placed on the highest point in Hill park.



From Confederate Veteran Magazine
January 1, 1917
via Ken Robison


CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL IN HELENA, MONT.

The 5th of September, 1916, was made memorable in the
city of Helena, Mont., by the presentation of the Confed-
erate memorial fountain as a gift from the Winnie Davis
Chapter, U. D. C. It was in 1903 that this Chapter began
its work for a Confederate memorial, and in this it was aided by other Chapters of the State. So on the evening of September 5, in the glow of the long Montana twilight, an interested throng gathered to witness the unveiling ceremonies.

Judge R. Lee Word, of the district court, acted as master
of ceremonies. The speech of presentation was made by
Miss Georgia C. Young, the veil was drawn by Mrs. Will
Aiken, and the water was turned into the fountain by Mrs.
F. S. Read, these ladies being the only charter members of
Winnie Davis Chapter now residing in Helena. On behalf of
the city the fountain was accepted by City Attorney Edward Horsky, who expressed the appreciation of the municipality for this splendid gift.

This beautiful memorial, which cost approximately two thousand dollars, stands in Great Northern Park, near the heart of the capital city, on the western rim of historic old Last Chance Gulch and near the Great Northern passenger station. The site is such that it is accessible, and the fountain fits into the landscape most charmingly.

The base upon which the fountain is placed is rectangular
in form, bordered by heavy granite copings and approaches being on opposite sides, corresponding to the east-and-west axis of the park. These will be bordered by flower beds, and trees and shrubs will be placed about the fountain.

On the other sides are granite seats with supports having
classic lines. There are two basins. Bubbling drinking foun-
tains at its north and south sides are so designed as to en-
hance the beauty of the lines of the fountain. The upper basin is about six feet in diameter, supported on an octagonal pedestal springing from the lower basin. This pedestal is orna mented by conventional water plant leaves.

Rising out of the upper basin is an octagonal shaft, upon
opposite sides of which are two inscriptions in cut letters,
also with panels and ornament of carved leafage. Upon one side is this inscription : "A Loving Tribute to Our Confederate Soldiers." Upon the other are chiseled these words :

"By the Daughters of the Confederacy in Montana, A.D.
1916."

Four bronze spouts spill water from this pedestal into the
upper basin. In addition, there are four low jets bubbling
through the surface of water in the upper basin, which, to-
gether with two overflow spouts from the drinking fountain and the water spilling from the upper into the lower basin, form pleasing lines and graceful patterns.

THE MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN.

The whole is surmounted by a bronze lantern, giving to the shaft something of the proportions of a lighthouse, the distance from platform to top of light being about nine feet. The designer, Mr. George H. Carsley, the well-known architect of Helena, was inspired somewhat by the memorial fountain erected in Washington City to the memory of Francis Davis Millett and Col. Archibald Willingham Butt, two heroes who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic.

Except for the bronze spouts and the floor of the platform,
the material used in the fountain is native Montana granite.

 

Girls posing at the Confederate Fountain, ca 1917

 

 

Confederate Fountain in Hill Park, 1921
Algeria Shrine Temple Under Construction


DAVID POOR COLLECTION

 

Girls posing, 1940s


Mary Evelyn Synness (on the left) and an unknown companion.



Girls Climbing, 1946



The Fountain in 1955



Confederate Fountain Restored with Model City Funds, 1971



The Fountain in 2012


2015 Renaming/ Rededication Controversy
2017 Removal

Historic Fountain a Victim of Local Politicians

On June 17, 2015, a young, mentally deranged White racist shot and killed nine African Americans as they worshipped in their Charleston, South Carolina church. The shooter, apprehended by law enforcement the day after the attack, had previously posted online photographs of himself holding up a Confederate battle flag. In response to the shooting, efforts were made across the United States to remove or modify symbols, memorials and monuments related to the Confederacy.

Various motivations were behind the efforts to expunge or alter historical references to the Confederacy, ranging from overwrought emotions, appeals to politcal correctness, and blatant political opportunism. In Helena, City Commissioners Katharine Haque-Hausrath and Andres Halladay proposed "rededicating" the fountain. Haque-Hausrath wrote, "...we do not believe an explicitly Confederate memorial and its attendant support for slavery and more recent symbol for white supremacy and exclusion of minorities, is appropriate for our city."

The reaction from Helena's history community was strong but measured. Via articles in the Independent Record newspaper and postings on social media, the case was made that the fountain should remain unchanged, and that signage explaining its historic significance should be added. It was pointed out that the fountain is not a tribute to the Confederacy as such, but rather a memorial to men who fought and died. The inscription on the fountain reads, "A Loving Tribute to Our Confederate Soldiers."

On July 8, 2015, the Helena City Commission discussed the proposal, and also took public comments. On July 14, 2015, word was received that City Commissioners Haque-Hausrath and Halladay were no longer advocating renaming the fountain. It was decided that an interpretive sign would be placed nearby.

Language for an interpretive sign was painstakingly drawn up, but no sign was ever installed by the City, who cited problems complying with federal signage regulations as the reason. Skeptics maintained that the City never intended to install such a sign, which would have likely prevented future efforts to remove the fountain. It appeared that the City was intent on the fountain's removal, and were only waiting for the next racially-charged incident to happen on the national stage.

On August 12, 2017, a protest occured in Charlottesville, Virigina over the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. One person was killed and 19 injured. On August 15, eight members of the American Indian Caucus of the Montana legislature, none of whom lived in or represented Helena,
called upon the Helena City Commission to remove the fountain. They were:

* Rep. Shane Morigeau
* Sen. Jason Small
* Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy
* Rep. Bridget Smit
h
* Rep. George Kipp III
* Rep. Susan Webber
* Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy
* Rep. Rae Peppers


Speculation arose that members of the Indian Caucus were chosen to issue the call so that, given the prevailing climate of racial and ethnic tension in the U.S., people would be reluctant to criticize the motivations of a minority group, for fear of a political backlash.

As they had in 2015, state and local historians publicly opposed the removal of the fountain, but to no avail.

A hearing was held on August 16, at which opposing viewpoints were voiced. Citizens were not allowed a vote on the matter. On Friday, August 18, the fountain was removed. It's fate is uncertain as of this writing, August 21, 2017. There is a report that it was damaged during removal.

As one writer on social media put it:

"The fountain should have remained, serving as an anti-war monument, reminding generations to come that Confederate men were victims of war, as were those who fought for the Union. Ordinary people always lose in war, which is what the fountain spoke to."

As for the former site of the Confederate fountain, proposals have been made for the erecting of an "inclusive" fountain or sculpture, and also for removing all traces of the fountain's foundation, leaving only sidewalk and grass on the site.



Mugging and Laughing at the Hearing, August 16, 2017


THOM BRIDGE - INDEPENDENT RECORD


Protesters in Hill Park, August 18, 2017


PHOTO BY DAVID POOR




Removing the 1916 Confederate Soldier's Memorial Fountain
Morning of August 18, 2017 • Hoisted Away by Crane


THOM BRIDGE - INDEPENDENT RECORD



 

Afternoon, August 18, 2017

 

 

Were They Not Men Like You and I?


ROCK ISLAND CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, ILLINOIS

 

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