Letter: How ‘Iron Joe’ came to be

Dear Editor,

Many in Rochelle may not know the story of how the community came to have “Iron Joe” or the Iron Fountain, currently located in front of the Flagg Township Museum.

On May 1, those who attended the opening and turning on of the Iron Fountain at the museum learned a little history. In a nutshell, Mrs. James (Laura) Fesler, Fessler in some histories, was a very effective community activist.

Her list of accomplishments includes many organizations and many philanthropic deeds for Rochelle. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1853, married James Fesler in 1879 and settled in Rochelle for the final time in 1902.

Until her death in 1920 she was known for her good deeds. We have her to thank for establishing the state tree, the oak, and the state flower, the violet, among other things and for bringing “Iron Joe” to Rochelle in 1915.

It provided fresh water for people, birds, dogs and horses, each having its own place to drink at the fountain. Originally it was located at the corner of 4th Avenue and Lincoln Highway, then moved to the municipal building at Sixth Street and Fifth Avenue in 1970, and in 1996 or 1997 it was relocated to the museum.

The museum turns it on from May to October when the museum is open, so the water flows Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. That’s the historic part.
Today, we like to think we made new history on May 1 when for the first time in probably 100 years, a horse drank from the fountain. The goats that came were a little timid but a couple of dogs enjoyed a cool drink and the people in attendance did too.

The museum would not have been able to do this without the help of Amanda Headon, who brought the horse, goats and dog to the museum along with several members of her family: sister Aubrey, mom Cass and grandma Vicky LaRue.

Amanda plans to study veterinary medicine and currently attends the University of Tennessee at Martin, putting her love of animals to good use. The Headon family made the day very special and we are very grateful. Special thanks to them for helping us make history.

Jan Devore, director, Flagg Township Museum


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