Mystery in East Germantown leads to history lesson

- A mystery in East Germantown led us to a bit of local history. 

The Facebook tip described the hollow concrete block sitting beside Logan Street near Stenton Avenue as a grave marker.  Perhaps stolen from a cemetery and discarded? It was checked, but it seemed too large and heavy to have been stolen. The name on the front read “In memory of Annie L. Lowry. Women’s PSPCA.” led to Bucks County.

“It started here,” CEO of the Women's Humane Society Cathy Malkemes said.

It led to the Women’s Humane Society in Bensalem, home to America’s very first animal shelter, which was founded in 1869.

CEO Cathy Malkemes was asked about the concrete…”thing.”

“What is it?”

Cathy says, “It’s a horse drinking fountain.”

A horse drinking fountain.

A hundred years ago, before cars took over, horses took people where they were going. Horses hauled stuff, too.

And, they got thirsty.

“They were concerned about the treatment of horses in the city and felt like they needed watering stations,” Cathy says.

Malkemes says the Women’s Humane Society helped set up more than 50 watering stations for work horses all over Philadelphia.

According to Malkemes, “They were viewed as work animals. Our founders cared about them more than just being work animals. They truly wanted to make sure they were properly watered, properly fed, properly cared for.”

So who paid for those fountains and troughs?

Donors like Annie L. Lowry.

Malkemes says, “There she is, yeah.”

Cathy reads from Lowry’s 1908 obituary, “Woman bequeaths $450,000 to charity. $83,000. For animals. Mrs. Annie L. Lowry’s cat and parrots to get $5,000.”

Lowry’s most famous gift is the still-operational horse fountain at 3rd and Bainbridge in Queen Village. Etched into the stone, the words “Drink, Gentle Friends.”

Today, the Women’s Humane Society adopts out nearly 2-thousand pets each year – mostly dogs and cats. Their veterinary hospital treats some 10 thousand critters annually.

This important work began nearly 150 years ago, and was taken to the next level by women like Annie L. Lowry.

“You never know what you’re driving past on the side of the road,” says Cathy. “You don’t You don’t. Hahaha”

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