We did it! Repairs and Plaque at Lowell O’Bryan Monument

On September 15, 2017, a dedication ceremony will take place at 11:00 AM at the site of monument to Lowell O’Bryan, a University of Wyoming student killed in 1922 while participating in a UW campus event. The stone monument is located on the UW campus, on the walkway leading to 9th street just west of the front entrance to Old Main. The ceremony is free and open to be public and will dedicate a descriptive plaque placed at the monument by UW crews in summer 2017.

During the fall semester of 1922, a new “prexy” was to arrive at UW. In October, Dr. Arthur G. Crane was set to begin his tenure as the school’s 12th president. Students and faculty devised a “wild west” welcome for the Easterner in which they would dress as cowboys and, on horses, meet Crane as he neared Laramie and “abduct” him into a waiting stagecoach for the drive onto campus.

Their prank went off smoothly, except for one tragic exception. Earlier in the day, one of the best horsemen on campus, Lowell O’Bryan, a junior studying agriculture, was critically injured as he helped ride out the mounts for the Crane reception—meaning that he rode them until they calmed down and stopped bucking. O’Bryan intentionally made one mount buck; then, suddenly, the horse broke toward a wire fence. Fearing the horse would break through and into a group of students, O’Bryan tried to dismount to head off the horse, but the saddle slipped and he was thrown underneath the horse, badly kicked and dragged about 30 yards before being rescued. He died a week later. He was 23.

O'Bryan from 1923 yearbook

Lowell O’Bryan. Photo from the 1923 University of Wyoming yearbook

O’Bryan’s death cast a pall of sadness over the university. By 1927, friends and classmates of O’Bryan had raised the necessary funds to construct the memorial fountain we now see just west of Old Main’s front entrance. For many years, the only commemoration was a cryptic bronze plaque over the fountain basin that states: “He gave himself to insure the safety of others” along with an epitaph etched into stone reading “In Memory of Lowell O’Bryan October 10, 1922.”  As the years went by, the story of O’Bryan faded until few were left who knew his story. Also, the monument steadily fell under disrepair; the stonework chipped, effloresced, and faded over time.

Lowell fountain_1927_ah301215

Monument as it looked when installed in 1927. It was originally located where the Biological Sciences building now stands. At one time, it was a functioning fountain. Photo from the AHC’s Ludwig-Svenson Collection.

In the fall semester 2015, Leslie Waggener and Rick Ewig of the American Heritage Center introduced the prospect to their First-Year Seminar of raising awareness and finding funds to repair the monument and to add a plaque explaining its significance. Through class efforts, more than $1,500 was raised. In the summer of 2017, thanks to the efforts of UW’s Facilities Engineering Project Manager Charlie Jahner and others, the monument has been repaired and an explanatory plaque installed. The story of Lowell O’Bryan is a secret no longer.

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AHC’s First-Year Seminar (fall 2015) initiated the process of repairing the monument and placing a plaque explaining the monument’s significance.

We hope you can join us to for the commemoration. For more information about the ceremony, contact Leslie Waggener at lwaggen2@uwyo.edu or 307-766-6640.

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