WATERVILLE'S OLD CANNON
Have you missed the old cannon that, for longer than anyone can remember graced the lawn in front of the old school? The city has removed this little gem for safe-keeping as the old school building is scheduled to be torn down. The history of our cannon is shrouded in mystery. It is too small to be one of the Civil War type cannons that commonly exist in numerous places. It seems to have no markings to provide a clue to its manufacture and no one among us has any expertise in ancient arms or weaponry. Milo Downs, Jr. (1923-2000) related stories about his youth when they would fire empty Pet milk cans up Farnsworth Road from the old gun using large firecrackers for powder. He thought it to be an old naval gun and may have been on a wooden carriage at one time. We think this to be unlikely in his lifetime because we have a photograph of a lady perched on the cannon during the 1913 flood and it was on a concrete base then. So where did it come from and why is it there? We can speculate from some written clues. The present school and the one that preceded it were both built on what was the village square in John Pray’s plat of the village.
We know from several sources that way back in the 1850s Waterville had a militia group known as the Brady Guards and they did military drill routines on the village square. We read in The Soldier Spirit of Waterville, penned (probably) by Civil War veteran John Lansing Pray, that Orson Gilbert Ballou commanded a village gun squad that fired salutes when a group of Waterville men left for service during the Civil War. Waterville’s small cannon may well be that gun used to fire salutes at that very same location. The Brady Guard cannon would have been mounted on some kind of carriage to be mobile and also have been made well before the Civil War. Why did our militia group have a cannon? Perhaps it was always intended to be only a ceremonial gun. When did the village acquire this relic and when was it mounted on the concrete base? Many questions remain unanswered about this old cannon but we look forward to seeing it restored to the village square again when it opens as a park.
Note: An expert from the Springfield Arsenal has reviewed photographs and determined that this is not a military weapon.