Lee, Massachusetts calls itself "The Gateway to the Berkshires," the hills that run from south to north at the far western end of Massachusetts. Daniel Chester French's studio at Chesterwood was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the town neighboring Lee to the south..
In 1899, the Town of Lee dedicated a public drinking fountain in memory of Amelia Jeannette Kilbon, a vibrant member of the Loyal Temperance Legion (part of the Christian Woman's Temperance Union). Daniel Chester French was commissioned by the Loyal Temperance Union to design the fountain which was to have two sides - a horse fountain and a drinking fountain. French used two images for the fountain from which the water flowed: an image of a Mohegan Indian, Chief Konkapot, and a fish. Chief Konkapot was Chief of the Stockbridge Mohegan Indian tribe which in 1722 sold what is much of Berkshire county to colonial settlers including the land which now makes up the town of Lee. Kilbon was instrumental in raising funds for the fountain; after her death, others continued raising funds and the fountain became a memorial to Kilbon and her work with the Loyal Temperance Legion.
The back of the fountain carries an inscription which tells the story of the dedicatee of the fountain, Amelia Jeannette Kilbon:
This Fountain Was Begun By
The Loyal Temperance Union
Under The Leadership Of
Amelia Jeannette Kilbon
And Was Completed By Other Friends
As A Tribute To Her Memory
Originally installed at the intersection of Railroad and Main Streets in Lee, it was moved to its present location on the Town Park Village Green after cars replaced horses as the primary mode of transportation. The fountain is made of Lee marble, quarried in Lee (Lee still boasts quarries for marble and limestone).
French's fountain is in need of restoration; it is badly stained from years of running water and it was cracked and poorly repaired at one time. Chief Konkaput dispenses only half of the water that he was designed to offer. Yet the fountain remains a strong testament to the hard work of local citizens who not only fought drunkeness and the violence and crime that often followed it, but who also came together to give their town something as practical and necessary as a drinking fountain.
The Public Drinking Fountain ("Chief Konkapot") is located on the Town Park Village Green in Lee, Massachusetts, adjacent to the Lee Town Hall.
All photos below were taken by Douglas Yeo in August 2004.
|The "Public Drinking Fountain" from the front, showing the fountain and image of Chief Konkapot. 1899 was the year the fountain was dedicated. The red brick building in the left background is the Lee Town Hall which also houses the Lee Police Department and the old Berkshire County Courthouse. The Courthouse is no longer in use but was immortalized in Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant."|
|A closeup view of the image of Chief Konkapot.|
|This view shows the back side of the "Public Drinking Fountain" with the inscription in honor of Amelia Jeannete Kilbon and the fountain which emerges from a carving of a fish. The Housatonic River runs through Lee.|
|A closeup view of the back of the fountain showing detail of the inscription.|
|A view of the fountain from the left side.|
|The "Public Drinking Fountain" in situ.|
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