2009: Help Wanted On Murray County Photo Identification

This is a photo of a watertower in Avoca, but we’re not sure when it was taken. It was after 1897, which was when the Avoca Fire Department bought the fire equipment pictured at the bottom right of the photo.

Does anyone know what’s going on here? We think they’re taking the water tower down, but is it possible they were putting it up? Was it a planned demolition, and if so, why are two guys running away, one guy running toward and a fourth guy walking blithely along like he hasn’t noticed that the watertower is going to fall over?

And would a camera have been likely to catch something like this in 1900-1910 if it wasn’t planned? Weren’t they still large and ungainly in this time period? Or have I simply missed my guess as to the time of this photo?

Here are some close-ups of the events in this photo:

Top left guy doesn’t care, top right guys are turning around to leave, and bottom left guy is sprinting toward the scene.

Meanwhile, guy in the back is a lot closer to the watertower than I’d get if I saw one of the legs looking like that. And what’s all that stuff at the base of the tower?

Please, speculate and help me and Justine Wettschreck (who first showed me this interesting photo and came up with many of the above ideas about it) figure out what this is!