One hundred years ago from atop the Prayer For Rain fountain, the likenesses of a Native American, a panther, and a deer began keeping watch over Champaign’s West Side Park. The fountain and sculpture have come to mean many different things to many different people.
For two years (’98-’99), the Champaign Park District had taken steps to restore the fountain to its original appearance when first dedicated on June 1, 1899. After a year long absence for restoration purposes, the sculpture atop the fountain was returned just in time for a rededication celebration on Saturday, June 26, 1999.
Sculptor: Edward Kemeys (1843-1907)
Prayer For Rain
by Edward Kemeys
The Indian paused by the hills’ wild crest
Where the hemlocks throw their shade,
He looked o’er the land where the burning west
A river of flame had made.
The suffering Earth was parched and dry
Neath the fierce Sun’s molten glare,
For drought had drained rivers afar and nigh
And a thirst was everywhere.
Then lo! as the Medicine-Man on high
His arms upraised in prayer
Forth came two beasts from the river bed dry
And pausing, they joined him there.
The first was a panther, cruel and grim
The other was a wild deer shy;
And they raised a prayer for rain with him
To the Manitou on high.
- 1894 – Benjamin F. Johnson left $10,000 for the beautification of White Park (West Side). This money was used for a bandstand, sidewalks, a fountain and a statue “Prayer For Rain.”
- 1899 – Sculpture erected.
- In July of 1900 the Illinois Fish Commissioner donated 75-100 goldfish that were kept in the basin of the fountain.
- For the 100th anniversary of the Prayer For Rain fountain, restoration and re-dedication was performed in 1999. The fountain was returned to its original look and function after having been modified over the years.