Mendon's Watering Fount and Town Well
"We know not water's worth until the well runs dry," literally expressed the harsh reality of many hot, dry
summers in Mendon center in the 1800's. With reliance on farming and stagecoach travel as part of
the economy, an abundant supply of water was necessary for household uses and watering founts.
Some summers were so dry that drought - like conditions existed, leaving an inadequate water supply
for people and horses. In order to address this problem, two structures were built along the roadside
in the late 1800's. They served a valuable period of usefulness for many years and became part of the
streetscape of the town's agricultural village.
Mrs. Charlotte Joy, widow of Honorable David Joy, donated a watering fount at a town meeting in 1875
and had it located at Dudley Corner, the corner of North Avenue, Hastings Street, and Main Street. She
contracted Silas Dudley, a respected town official and farmer, to maintain it and keep it filled. On its
side were the inscribed words, "In Memory of Hon. David Joy, 1877." All went well until Mr. Dudley's
death on November 15, 1882. By the following summer, it was evident that the fount had been
neglected and often went dry. Lilla Joy Draper, Charlotte's daughter and wife of General William
Draper, expressed her displeasure by covering the fount in black cloth. She wrote a letter to the Milford
Gazette stating the condition of the fount was a disgrace to her father's memory.
Susan Cook, of the farmhouse at 23 Hastings Street, widow of Aaron Cook, connected the well in her
barn to the fount. This kind gesture from her private well provided water until the town decided to create
a public source.
Selectmen in 1884 voted to hire Albert W. Gaskill to dig a town well near the corner of Washington
Street and Hastings Street. The job included connecting the well to the fount by laying about 250 yards
of pipe along Hastings Street. The fount was gravity fed, as it was down hill from the well. The new well
was a tremendous water source. It was said that it never went dry. With the new, prolific source, the
fount was always full, and it became a popular rest area during the era of horses and carriages.
By the twentieth century, advancements in transportation brought changes to the village. Automobiles
had replaced horse-drawn carriages. The cistern in memory of David Joy was no longer needed to
quench the thirst of tired horses. The connecting pipe was cut off in 1924. The well continued to
provide water for several decades. It was especially popular with summer residents who lived at
cottages at Lake Nipmuc. They often had inadequate wells, so they went to the town well pump with
bottles, pails, and buckets for their drinking water. In 1974, the well was closed down by the Board of
Health, after ninety years of service.
The two roadside fixtures, once vital to the daily life of the village, have faded. The only visible evidence
of the well is a circular metal plate, level with the surface of the sidewalk leading up to Washington
Street. The once pristine well succumbed to the pollution of winter road salt. The watering fount has
served for decades as an attractive flower bed on a vulnerable traffic island, but recently, it received
substantial damage as the result of a truck accident. The challenges of retaining the identity of our
treasured historic village are ongoing, but Charlotte Joy's memorial to her husband and the ever-
flowing town water pump made life easier in Mendon's village center for many years.
Note: Members of the Mendon Historical Commission, with the assistance of the Administrative
Assistant to the BOS, are in the process of planning, repairing, and restoring the Joy Fount.
Information for this article was obtained from notes by Florence Aldrich, March 30, 1969, Mendon
Historical Society; Worcester Sunday Telegram, Feature Parade - March 15, 1949; and Paul
Curran, Yesterday's Past, Milford Daily News, July 2, 1996.
August 27, 2013
Now and Then - The Joy Fount Mendon Menu
Horses drinking at the Joy Fount
Town well at Hastings Street and Washington Street
Thanks to Bryan Sullo for the two photos above,
which show damage caused by the fount being hit
by a truck during the summer of 2013. Also, thanks
to Paul Curran for permission to use his article.