Sunday, September 8, 2013

Edith Bowdoin and Her Horse Troughs*
"No better work could be done, nor would it be possible to prevent a greater amount of animal suffering with the same expenditure of money than by the erection of drinking fountains. …that no horse in New York need go without water for the want of a public place at which to quench its thirst." --- Edith G. Bowdoin, New York, April 29, 1907.*1

South of Bar Harbor's Main Street, at the corner of Route 3 and Schooner Head Road, is what was once a horse trough (GPS: N44° 22.298'  W068° 11.809'). Now, compliments of the Town of Bar Harbor via the A. C. Parsons Landscaping and Garden Center, it is a beautiful floral planter. A small plaque on it states: "Erected by Edith G. Bowdoin 1911."

Edith was born in New York in 1869 and lived on Park Avenue with her parents, George and Julia Bowdoin, and older siblings, Temple and Fanny. During summers they resided in Bar Harbor at "La Rochelle" on West Street.  Her father built the stately brick home in 1902. Upon his death in 1913, Edith inherited all of his property in Bar Harbor. Upon the death of her mother two years later, she inherited their Park Avenue home. Her brother and sister were already deceased.

Photo: David Goodrich
The 5' 5" tall, blue-eyed Edith Grinnell Bowdoin never married and seemed to keep herself occupied addressing the plight of horses in NYC and in Hancock County, ME. In 1896 in NYC there were nearly 74,000 horses. As a member of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, she advocated for their better treatment and donated horse troughs to the city. One of the three remaining troughs is outside the old ASPCA headquarters in Brooklyn and inscribed with the words: "Presented to the A.S.P.C.A. by Edith G. Bowdoin 1913."

In Maine Edith was Vice President of the ASPCA of Hancock County. She ensured water was available to horses by placing pails at watering spots throughout the county. The pails had the words "SPCA -- WATER YOUR HORSES." A New York Times article described her activity this way: "Miss Bowdoin has seen to it that on every road on the island of Mount Desert, where spring or brook flows, pails for the watering horses and cups for drinking have been placed, and this system has been gradually extended over the whole of Hancock County. Several men are employed by Miss Bowdoin in looking after this system, and pails and cups, conspicuously lettered with neat little signs, are put up by the roadside at short intervals."*2

The horse trough at the Route 3/Schooner Head Road corner seems to be the only remaining evidence of her effort to improve the lot of MDI's thirsty horses.
There are, however, other horse troughs on MDI:

at the southeast corner of Bar Harbor's Village Green (N44° 23.261'  W068° 12.270') 


in Acadia National Park west of the Great Head parking lot
(N44° 19.991'  W068° 10.931')

the Clement memorial in the center of the road in Seal Harbor
(N44° 17.792' W068° 14.360')

near the south end of Sargeant Drive in Northeast Harbor
(N44° 18.956'  W068° 18.307')

Last month Southwest Harbor approved a restored horse trough for placement at Harbor House on Main Street.

Elsewhere on the Island troughs were known to be located in Bar Harbor on Route 3 opposite the entrance to the Canoe Point estate,  near Duck Brook and in Hulls Cove. One was at the junction of Route 102 and the Crooked Road in Town Hill. Another, known as the Stone Horse Trough, was at the south end of Schooner Head Road near the outflow of the marsh. There was one on Cooksey Drive in Seal Harbor. Virginia Somes-Sanderson described yet another: "A well-known one on the outskirts of Somesville on the Southwest Harbor road had been chiseled out of a huge slab of granite and was filled by a continuous stream of water, piped from a nearby spring."*3
I suspect there are other existing horse troughs and former locations.

While Edith was highly engaged in ensuring the health of horses, her most enduring and important contribution for the people of MDI was likely the establishment of Bar Harbor hospital's west wing in memory of her parents. In 1916 she provided the funds to build the wing consisting of two sun parlors, a men's ward accommodating 20 to 25 beds, and four private rooms. For New Yorkers, besides the horse troughs mentioned above, she donated six stained glass windows to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Visitors from Great Britain will appreciate that she funded three beds in 1908 at London's Queens Hospital for Children and endowed their continuance with a $10,000 bequest from her will.
Edith died in 1943 at her Park Avenue residence and was buried with her family in NY's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Her estate was valued at $1.6M, of which she left $250K to the ASPCA.

* Note: Some horse troughs accommodated drinking fountains for humans. This article does not differentiate their design, but mostly terms them horse troughs.
1 New York Times. May 1, 1907, p.8.
2 New York Times. June 29, 1913, p. 20.
3 The Living Past by Virginia Somes-Sanderson. Beech Hill Publishing Co., Mount Desert, Maine. 1982, p. 281.