Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 30

If the Cannonsburg cannon were as big as Bob Alcumbrack believed how could he have imagined it would be easy to raise such a cannon. Service wise it'd take 38 men and 38 horses to handle a cannon. This was the standard military requirement to service this gun. What Bob's cannon lacked, too, was the caison the cannon was attached to for ease of movement. Dragging a cannon mounted on a carriage would be exceedingly difficult for several horses to handle in trail sand. Before Bob finished his first big dig the cannon's overall length, that's cannon with carriage preponderance put the cannon's entire length beyond 14 feet and roughly five feet outside the coffer box upside down.

The preponderance is the excess weight of the piece in rear of the trunnions over that in front. It's what determines the measurement of lifting power, in pounds, which must be applied at the rear of the base ring, to balance the gun, when suspended freely on the axis between the trunnions.

The trunnion is the mechanical or cyclindrical pivot upon which a piece (cannon) turns each ot two fixed projecting pivot pins one on each side of a cannon that rests on the carriage and allows movement for vertical elevation. In French, the word trunnion is called a "trognan stump." The Cannonsburg cannon could have been made in a number of different countries and not necessarily England. England made more iron cannons, because it had all of the iron it needed, but copper, tin and lead were imported products. It didn't have master gunfounders until the late 1600's.

When Bob started his quest to find the cannon he was prepared to sacrifice the carriage for the cannon. He had made no preparations for documenting the carriage. Problems was that if the carriage was engraved he'd lose the authentification needed to document the cannon, then too, what if the carriage had a brass engraved plaque. Either one was necessary to authenticate the historical significance of the cannon.

His dowsing rods showed the carriage rested atop the cannon. Bob had never found anyone who could describe the cannon or carriage. That was the ultimate secret. No pictures, photos or line drawings were found. This is one reason why a few Cannonsburg residents repeatedly told Bob the cannon was fictious and he was chasing a ghost cannon. The carriage could have been standard issue or custom made. Iron cannons are very difficult to engrave, but brass cannons are easier, but all engravements after manufacturing can damage them. Since the cannon was presented personally by LeGrand Cannon to the town elders, the cannon and carriage might have been specifically made. The cannon could have been manufactured and poured for a specific king or queen and it could have been resurrected from a shipwreck. Possibilities were endless for where Mr. Cannon got the cannon. It might have been military issue, but not American.

Bob wasn't interested in the carriage, just the cannon, but tearing apart the carriage to get the cannon wasn't the ideals of a good preservationist. Allen Janose knew this, but didn't tell the crew until Bob said the cannon was beneath the carriage. Bob had kept a secret from the crew, a secret the crew wasn't fond to discover. Often times when Bob was mapping the cannon's energy signals they got weaker towards the end of the month. Allen sensed the falloff in power, too, but he too began to wonder what was causing the interference? The crew began to doubt Bob's reasoning power to use the rods effectively. Was his ability to concentrate along with body aches and pains distorting the electricals signals between his brain and hands? As a result his crew began to doubt Bob's expertise with dowsing (angle) rods. It was uncanny how he used those rods on dry land, but it was his inability to use them unsuccessfully in wetland areas that made his crew uneasy.

No doubt about it, Bob was tired and stressed from the throng of spectators and news media, but the realities of dowsing techniques, time and geological mysteries he began to encounter was evidence they could derail his thinking processes. Listening to negative conversations destroys a dowsers ability to concentrate and focus objects in the mind's eye.

The biggest secret among dowsers is that when using dowsing or divining rods (angle) is that the individual using them must be well rested (no aches or pains) and be mentally, spiritually and physically fit. Muscular, joint pain or body aches aren't allowed. Bob had to learn this as well as any in his crew that used the rods, too. All dowsers must be able to relax, concentrate and see the object in the mind's eye and let the brain cells supercharge electrical current from the brain fire through body and limbs with neuromuscular reflexes that manifest itself with eye, hands and rods usage. All things culminate musign the strong electrical current connection between the brain, mind's eye, hands and rods. The human brain is the powerhouse battery thats' filled with electrical current. We are technically walking computers and our brains possess great power beyond our limits of understanding.

As I said previously Bob miscalculated the power of the rods. His dowsing rods were expensive and cost nearly $1000 a pair, a small sum compared to what they might discover. What the package lacked were instructions on the proper use of them. For two years after his big dig finished we had Bob practicing his skill and he became more accurate finding objects we purposely buried, but he was unsure why the rod reactions were stronger and weaker, sometimes disappearing over time. I, and crew had to correct this before we'd do any more backbreaking work digging for another ghost cannon. We thought maybe his brain was misfiring signals, but it wasn't. Remember Bob had no instruction manual so we had to help him find the cure. Something was interupting the signals between brain and hands. What we found was that the polarity of the stones in the area of the box changed with the lunar cycle.

While Bob was practicing I was researching unexplained mysteries of electro-magnetically charged stones when I stumbled upon an Englishman who was shocked when his dowsing rod touched the standing stones of Stonehenge on a dark night. As a result the visitations of anyone at Stonehenge was prohibted for fear an individual could conceivably electrocute themselves when a rod touches the stone on dark lunar cycle nights. Electro-magnetic energy fields spin from stone to standing stone at Stonehenge and these fields spin at high velocity. These are called "rings of fire" and ley lines between stones are the strongest on the darkest of nights. Ley lines and power spots exist all over the earth and Bob found some pillars of light near Moffit Hill. We found three supercharged stones. They were electrically charged pillars of lights and they tingled Bob's hands.

At Stonehenge the ley lines of converging energy spin at amazing speed from stone to stone creating a force field of electrical energy only seen with infrared night vision gear or infrared film. Stonhenge isn't the only place where standing stones exist. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of standing stone monoliths stand worldwide, the newest discovered in 2009 at the bottom of Lake Michigan. The Stonehenge like formations at Nunica, Michigan are frauds, but real standing stones exist on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan and circles of stones of Native American culture exist in the Lower Penisula and all across America. Bob found and charted the major ley lines (the electromagnetic fields) from the Norton Mounds in Grand Rapids through Cannon Township to other ancient monuments twenty miles away. In fact, he charted the ley lines that criss-cross Cannonsburg and found several magnetic power spots in the vicinity of his big dig.

Magnetic field energy spots and circles of standing stones are places where UFO sightings have been reported. Many paranormal individuals believe these ancient sites are places where once humans interacted with extra-terrestrials from other galaxies. To understand how Bob uses his rods you must also have a fascination with mysteries of the unexplained universe. Bob and crew had to investigate electromagnetic force fields to understand all the complexities of rod usage to solve Bob's mysterious fluctuations in power signals from strong to weak to strong again. What caused this was the fact the new moon cycle interferes with dowsing signals and depending on the fattening moon it can decrease the ability of rods to find signals from buried objects.

The reason dowsers are prohibited from visiting Stonehenge is because the standing monoliths are generators of magnitized electrical energy. So too, the electromagnetic energy fields or magnetic energy spots increases six days after a full moon and decreases to zero over six days as it nears the full moon. Fourteen days of darkness exist where electromagnetic energy usage is greatest. The distortion signals weaken as the moon gets fatter and stronger as it wanes. America's war in Iraq or Israeli wars start on the dark cycle of the moon. Missiles don't hit to within a gophers whisker of accuracy when electromagnetic targeting is weakening because of a fattening moon.

The lunar cycle was distorting Bob's energy fields and what corrupted his dowsing rods. Bob wasn't aware that to use electromagnetic energy to find the cannon he had to use the rods during the dark cycles of the moon. It took Bob two years of practicing to fully understand proper rod usage. To be a successful dowser using divining, angle or dowsing rods for cannons or treasure one has to participate in the mysteries of Astro-archaeological sciences. Bob was doing a solo act without use of an instruction manual and he learned by trial and error method of achievement.

In America divining rods of Bob's day were primarily used to detect underground veins of water and not used for indiscriminately searching for cannons or treasure hunting. It takes years of study to master the art of dowsing. Bob mentally burned up hundreds of billions of brain cells to fine tune is dowsing skills. Bob was inept using the rods, it was just that he didn't have one solid clue as to the correct size of the cannon. Any dowsers intended target must be factual and precise - not a guessing game of fill in the blanks. The mind's eye must see the actual object and the mantra (silent conversations of question and answers) must be precise.

A treasure hunter in England using dowsing rods in 2009 changed one word in his mantra while searching for treasures. He changed the word treasure to 'gold and silver' coins. He found a treasure trove worth millions after 18 years of incorrectness. What you seek with dowsing rods requires correct use of rods. By 1988, Bob Alcumbrack had increased his skill for dowsing and he could locate purposely placed objects we buried and he could date coins buried in the soil. He could map out dimensions of objects buried to test his abilities and he knew how to discriminate out junk objects and hot rocks (magnetized stones). If you witnessed Bob's humiliation and failure at the first big dig sites bust it'd make you a "doubting Thomas" too!

Bob's ability to dowse may have looked strange in 1986, but in Bob's day, the electronic metal detectors couldn't show you objects, where in 2009 they can show you what is buried before you decide to dig it up or what rests on the bottom of the sea. Treasure hunting with the latest gear these days has taken some of mystery out of what you've found. It's an exercise buster. Next time I'll discuss more about mysterious history.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 29

Robert Alcumbrack six-pound military cannon was indeed a 'ghost' just as Maggie McCarthy warned. Bob had mistook an underground stream of iron ore encrusted granite, tungsten (dark green), quartz, bluestones and placer gold for the Cannonsburg cannon and carriage. Bob felt humiliated, but Allen Janose and Harold McCarthy felt the embarassment, too. They had dowsed Bob's mythical cannon numerous times and now they wondered how could they trust Bob's attempts to clarify the situation and not make the same mistake again at site number two. Bob didn't quit because he failed. Bob dug many holes between 1986-88.

Bob had located three major spots prior to digging, but chose the first since that is where he sensed the most powerful magnetic field. Before we dug any more holes we had to make sure Bob could accurately use the dowsing rods. It wasn't until after the big dig we discovered the reason for Bob's strong energy fields was the fact the iron ore encrusted tungsten, quartz and bluestones were supercharged with magnetic energy. The whole area around Bob's first big dig was littered with magnetic stones and other anomalies of increased electromagnetic power sources. Everywhere you walked the electronic metal detectors sounded off.

Tungsten is a metallic element akin to Chrome and it has the highest melting point of all metals. It holds a magnetic charge. It is a heavy stone that Native American Indians of Michigan used to make axe heads. The Cannonsburg area is strewn with tungsten, but its purity was more reminiscent of the Upper Peninsula. Tungsten is used to alloy steel and is primarily used for electric light filaments. The stones removed from the coffer box were high grade minerals.

Tungsten fooled Bob's dowsing rods, but they can give false readings to electronic metal detectors, too. Too much tungsten and gold images tripped Bob's psyche and I knew something was wrong and my doubts about him using metal rods to find treasures was dumbfounded. With the rods Bob felt he couldn't lose because the rods were touted as the best tools available to find brass objects and Bob had found with amazing accuracy many brass items buried in fields. The rods were heavily advertised in treasure magazines for their ease in finding just about anything. Brass was undetectable to electronic metal detectors during the 1980's so why not use dowsing rods? These rods today are used by telephone, cable TV, electric, gas, engineers, water well and geo drillers, and grave dowsers with amazing accuracy when puzzled by electronic devices.

Had Bob done his research before he started digging he would have found that the Cannon History book writers had done a disservice to its readers by saying the cannon was "a small military" cannon. Fact is, had it truly been a military cannon, the person who sold it to LeGrand Cannon or Mr. Cannon himself would have been convicted of a felony with a stiff fine or imprisonment. It was illegal for military pieces including decommissioned cannons to be sold to private individuals, but nothing prohibited Mr. Cannon from purchasing a cannon from a private foundry, friend or recovering a discarded cannon from a shipwreck or family inheritance.

The smallest cannon's used by the US Army in the 1840's were six-pounders, but they did indeed discharge smaller cannons to towns for protection from Indian attacks. The smallest cannons were 1/2, 2 and 4-pound cannons that were ancient and seized from the British during the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812. The six-pound cannons the US military had were captured guns from the British. American militiamen got freedom fighters from France along with ammunition and old cannons, too. Only a few 4-pound cannons were made in Cincinnati, Ohio foundries prior to the Civil War.

Bob pictured a six-pound cannon in his mind's eye when dowsing for the cannon. His rods didn't work because he was fantasizing the wrong size cannon and the mantra between his brain and hands was incorrect. When Bob purchased his dowsing rods they came with no instructions, therefore, whatever he learned about their usage was strictly trial and error. On dry land he was unstoppable in his reasoning power and was more than 90% accurate, but he found out quickly that his dowsing skills in wetland areas was poor. He had prepared himself for failure, since he had found three possible sites where the cannon was buried. He concentrated all his efforts on the site that was most probable based on the tears that welled in Mr. Murray's eyes.

Before Bob first big dig was a bust I formed the opinion that the Cannonsburg cannon could have been a recovered English, French or Spanish military piece regarded as a war trophy. Mr. Cannon was an honorable and well respected New York capitalist and land speculator, a man who owned rolling mills and railroads. Surely he wouldn't purchase an American military cannon, but he could have received it as a gift from a foreign foundry. He could have received a brass cannon from a friend and had the carriage engraved or a brass plaque attached to the carriage. Since the cannon had been fired repeatedly without incidence for 38 years gave Bob the clear indication it had to be made of brass or bronze. Engraving cannons after manufacturing makes each piece extremely dangerous to fire, since the engravement causes tiny unseen fractures in the metal. The cannon that Mr. Cannon received could have come from a storage facility, purchased from a business acquaintance or supplier, a private foundry or retrieved from a sunken shipwreck.

The cannon wasn't American made. America had no foundries to make good quality brass cannons until near the end of the Civil War. The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York, the organization that keeps all of Mr. LeGrand Cannon's archival existence died know that a township, village and cannon were named in honor of Mr. Cannon's last name, if fact, no records have ever showed the gift cannon's existence. How then did Bob Alcumbrack get the idea the missing cannon was 9-14 feet long? How did the cannon's energy field get so large is a mystery? How did seven young men wrestle the 800+ pound cannon from a creek side grave, a watery hole as big as a mini-van?

How did four elderly township official dismount and completely bury the cannon in soft water laden soil? It must have been a backbreaking challenge to bury it in daylight? Surely they couldn't hope to have disposed of the cannon so quickly. How could seven young men dig it up so fast, pull it up and clean if off so quickly? How could five men redig such a large hole, then flip the cannon and completely rebury the cannon in forty-five minutes to an hour and return to town? Why then did it take Bob and Crew more than 28 days to find out the cannon wasn't there? This shows the fraility of Bob's collective reasoning and why he failed so miserably. He never did have an answer to these questions before starting to dig.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 28

After July 4, 1986 each day Bob Alcumbrack and crew saw fewer spectators. The Cannonsburg cannon's nostalgia was wearing off fast, but it was the best news for Bob Alcumbrack. The human pressure was off and the crew could now fix the broken machinery without spectators. He was more relaxed, his mind and body being more sound and his dowsing skills were better. Spectators and the media took their toll on his psyche, but what many do not understand is that it took Bob and crew 24 days more to get the box down to its maximum depth of 9 feet, which wasn't enough. We fought broken equipment daily and the box sidewall presssure was showing signs of metal fatigue. The missing cannon kept defying men with modern machinery from its image. The boxes depth wasn't enough. We couldn't go any deeper and still the cannon was 4-5 feet deeper. The boxes depth was two feet above grade level and the cannon was out of recovery range because of shifting sand.

Each time Bob and crew returned to the coffer box it had to be dewatered entirely before the crew could dig and probe the bottom with long metal rods. Bob had only one bilge pump. It had good suction, sometimes too good, and when it pulled up stones that's when the impellors were chewed and damaged so badly it lost suction. The influx of water like an open fire hydrant made it seem almost impossible to get water levels down to bottom and soon it was up to experienced scuba divers to dig and probe the bottom sediments with long iron rods.

As divers entered the water Bob would stand above them on planks and rechecked cannon disposition. Each diver used lead weights to get them to bottom, but the swim fins caused such turbulence they had to place their masts within three inches of bottom. The divers were 8-feet underwater and we only saw rising bubbles and we could hear them trying to probe the bottom with metal rods as I listened with my Emergency Medical Technician's stethoscope like the doctors and nurses use to take your blood pressure, heartbeat and respirations. I was eavesdropping on the box by listening to the stress noises and the diver's chattering and earth music. I got pretty good at deciphering the different noises made when the probe struck them, but gun metal wasn't heard.

The coffer box was being stressed - the creaking made the diver's nervous and the diver's finally got scared and refused to dive until more bracking was installed. What was interesting was the diver's reported they were striking larger stones and as fast as they removed sand, the holes would collapse more sand to replace what was removed. The rod sounds of probes striking stones was duller than metal and metal to stones was distinct. Metal to metal wasn't what we found and pounding probes underwater was almost impossible. Work stopped. Bob borrowed more bilge pumps which finally allowed him and Allen Janose to dig and probe on solid bottom without the water. Whenever Bob would pound down the metal rods and hit something solid he insisted the cannon was below. It increased out adrenalin and we dug harder and faster when we thought the cannon was within reach.

Bob's mind had convinced him that the five men rolled the cannon and carriage into a natural wash, it flipped and they covered it with soil and stones and it sunk into the spring. That's in the same hole as previously buried. His dowsing skills had indicated the cannon was upside down because the wheel rims made or iron hoops were closer to the surface, but we didn't find any and we thought the entire carriage with wheels was made of oak and that's why the wheels squeaked loudly. If metal hubs why didn't the men oil the carriage wheels? They could have made a better secret get away, but as it was the squeaking wheels is what woke Estella Ward from a sound sleep on July 5, 1885. She saw the five men dragging the cannon away passing he folks house.

Finally, the end of Bob's first streamside excavation site was in sight. Sorry to report he didn't find the cannon at the bottom. I provided Bob with a core sampler - a hard plastic tube that when pounded down where the cannon went under the box wall showed no soil disturbances, but it did capture many small granite, quartz, tungsten and blue and green stones stained and encrusted in heavy deposits of iron ore. A layer of black sand was laced with flecks of fine placer gold. The tungsten, blue and green stones were magnetized. This was Bob's worst day (July 28, 1986) as a cannon hunter. He was glad the public and news media didn't witness his humiliation. I couldn't imagine how he could misinterpret an underground streambed with connecting feeder streams of ice-cold water for a cannon and carriage? This was surreal.

Bob had assumed too many things in his attempt to locate his wildest dream cannon. Had he done the basics of writing down what was repeated to him in person instead of what was repeated in his nightly dreams we wouldn't have wasted a month of hard digging He couldn't recognize fact from fiction and vice-versa. We were constantly hoping to learn some secrets to the burial site, but he became blindsided by his distorted dreams. The old folks in Cannonsburg, the eyewitnesses were good bluffers and he couldn't get them to slip their tongues. He tried to trick them into revealing secrets and he thought Mr. Murray's constant tears were a dead giveaway to the cannon's secret burial site. Bob never gave up pestering the old folks -- he was the sandburr of youth -- a sticktight hoping to uncover a mysterious secret.

At the conclusion of Bob's big dig this site was not where the cannon was previously buried. The ground showed little disturbances one would expect if the cannon were buried by the five men. These men couldn't have dug a hole in one hour and sink the cannon, where we had spent 28 days trying to overcome shifting sand, magnetized stones and ice-cold water. We had to figure out how Bob could mistake the underground streambed for cannon and carriage. Bob's big dig was busted! We pressed onward into the future and in 1988 we found...


People in Cannonsburg reported that Bob Alcumbrack was a pest for more than 50 years. He had been interested in the mysterious cannon's disappearance when he heard some comments about the tragedy in his youth. He was a bugger - sort of like our cat named Libby, short for her real name Liberty Belle. She can be sweet and a pest when hungry. She does all she can to make us get out of bed in the morning to feed her. We can't lay in bed peacefully if she knows we're awake. She hops up on the bed and walks on us, knuzzles and purrs. If that doesn't work she jumps to the nightstand and chews on the phone antenna until we chew her out. When she quits but still hasn't gotten us up she pushes her nose hard against the touch lamp twice and we get blinded by the light, jumps back to bed and trounches us and attacks our every movement. Libby knows how to get our attention and if we do get up she won't stop pestering until she gets what she wants 'Chicken and Salmon" in gravy. Libby and Bob Alcumbrack were pests -- but are well remembered as friends. Next time the journey to find the Cannonsburg cannon continues and I'll share what more secrets Bob and friends uncover.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 27

Hundreds of spectators swarmed into Cannonsburg in 1986 hoping to watch Bob Alcumbrack lift from the cofferbox the missing cannon. It was scheduled to be a four day event, but when folks started seeing Bob rub or scratch his head the rumor mill moved at lightning speed and tipped off the news media folks, who seemingly went into hyperdrive. The din of talk was getting so loud Bob was losing his concentration when walking the planks above the cofferbox. His crew felt this is when Bob's paranoia began, because the rod reactions weren't as strong and if fact the rod reactions was getting weaker as each day progressed. We felt the crowd chatter was interupting Bob's abilities to think and see clear pictures in his mind's eye. All dowsers work the best in silence and not noise. Allen Janose and Harold McCarthy were Bob's minders and were very proficient in the use of dowsing rods, too, and yet they wondered why the signals from the ground beneath were decreasing. I had my doubts the cannon was buried at the big dig site. Too many things didn't add up. Maggie McCarthy was sure Bob might be chasing a 'ghost cannon.'

My mind kept repeating 'Why would the original five killer cannon men bury the cannon in the same hole? The town elders for the second cannon burial didn't want to know where the cannon was buried so why in the first burial spot? The naysayers in Cannonsburg were saying 'It was dug up and used for the recycling war campaigns during the Spanish-American War or one of two World Wars.

Trouble was, the five men who buried the cannon were the only ones who buried it and they swore themselves to secrecy and I doubted one would dig it up without a concensus of the other four. That's exactly the same fate of the Twin Sister cannons of Texas and when they did return to dig them up they couldn't find them. Bob though discounted Maggie's belief that he was chasing a ghost cannon. He didn't believe the recycling mantra either and pressed forward with digging. After two days of digging the box had only sunk two feet, the third day two more feet and then he struck ice-cold Lake Superior like water, so cold it'd be too dangerous for his crew to dig without insulated boots and waders.

Bob and crew could suffer hypothermia if wet too long at the bottom of the coffer box. The crew purchased insulated gear and the digging began in earnest. I could never figure out how Bob expected to dig soil alongside a stream without encountering water. He had found liquid ice and when the box filled with water some scuba divers volunteered to probe the depths and remove sediment, but they couldn't be underwater for more than fifteen minute segments. Bob felt the presence of DNR and EPA investigators and he sensed they might be watching so he went to great lengths to make sure no sediments from the box got back to the stream. He felt someone was spying, but they and any spectators who caused any trouble could be charged with trespassing. To cut the spy stress Bob laughed and said, 'That's why my head itch's. Must be government fleas!'

Bob's nighttime operation deep in the mosquito infested woods looked more like a rescue mission or mining operation more than an archaeological dig. When the sun went down the spectators left in a hurry since the drone of mosquito wings grew louder and we practically bathed in mosquito dope. The mosquito population was horrendous and they rescued our cannon secrets. In the dark shadows the crew primed the bilge pumps and serviced the air injector lines. Finally Bob could walk the planks in complete silence -- no spectator din - from corner to corner, but Bob's rods didn't work. The energy fields had disappeared or were so faint the rods barely moved. The nighttime air was cooling and mists were rising from the cold stream, the fog spotlighted by the full moon rising overhead. Bob couldn't map out the disposition of the cannon.

Bob shrugged off the weak signals saying he must be tired. Divining rods don't work unless the body is physically rested, that's mind, too, and when the rods don't work that shows the depth of body fatigue. That's what we all believed, but the magnetic fields disappeared for his crew, too. A week earlier the rods crossed easily in Bob's hands as well as Allen's and Harold's. Odd! All shrugged it off as tiredness. Bob pushed his electronic metal detectors down into the water just in case the cannon was made of iron. It squealed softly, but the signal weak. He began to ponder if it might be wrought iron, but he didn't know for sure. He had no proof what type of metal was present. It was still buried deep - twelve feet. Odd, why did it seem to be slipping deeper?

Magnetic readings were higher during the day, but growing weaker at night. Bob had done his homework prior to digging and triple checked his readings with the most advanced and sophisticated metal detectors known to mankind in 1986. The cannon and carriage's magnetic energy fields encapsulated the cannon inside the coffer box, but the deeper the box settled the more the cannon fell outside the box walls. This would present him with additional challenges to overcome. He couldn't fathom why the cannon was shifting? Could it be the weight of the box was pushing it outward and downward into softer soil? Was it his impression of Elvis Presley's famous hip gyrations he used to rock the box causing it to sink? Bob was stymied. How could his hips shift the massive weight of the cannon?

Again came the question you want answered. The question is rephrased. "How could five men dig and bury the cannon to a depth of 12 feet in 45 minutes in a spring where shifting sand, gravel and ice-cold water that prevented us from digging in four days? "

Four days was Bob's target date, but it took 21 more days before the box reached maximum depth. Surely rolling the carriage with cannon into a bubbling spring wouldn't cause the cannon to sink an bury itself to a depth of 12 feet without additional help?

Tompsett's survivors buried the cannon deep and fast. They had to make sure the cannon was gone forever before the Cannonsburg community woke up and went to church or whatever. Bob assumed that time constraints and closeness to town were the key to getting rid of the killer cannon. This would prove to be Bob's most inaccurate illogical explanation.

One week after the Fourth of July, the magnetic signals got stronger, so strong neither Bob, nor Allen, Harold or Matt had trouble mapping the disposition of the cannon from atop the cofferbox. The cannon's existence was confirmed when rods crossed (+). The bilge pumps labored heavily sucking up disturbed sediments, woody debris and different colors of sand. Tiny pebbles of bluestones and greenstones flowed down the sluiceways. Black sediments of coarse granular sand was encountered, the sand streaking the orange sand. We could see and feel the different textures of sand, the same type of things water well drillers grind between their fingers. The sediments ran off the sluiceways far from the stream.

The spectators tried to get a closer look at the sluiceways, but we didn't want the interferrence or added liability. We were digging without insurance. Bob couldn't afford that luxury. We checked the sluiceway sand frequently hoping we'd find light colored woody debris, which might indicate the carriage was mushy below. Our fingers sifted the debris and black sand as if we were panning for placer gold.

It's ironic that in 1885 nine men had hands in secretly burying the cannon and nine men in 1986 were going to resurrect what they buried. Each group had a core group of five men. History going was repeating itself?

Our biggest surprise that Independence Day 1986 was that we did indeed strike gold in a thick layer of black sand, which was deposited onto the sluiceways and the running water filtered out the fine particulates of imbedded placer gold. Beams of bright sunlight filtered down throgh the dense treetops highlighting the precious mineral in black sand. Flecks of gold - so fine it'd take a long time before you got one ounce, but we had found something that has been actively mined from the glacial streams near Cannonsburg and Ada since the 1880's. Luckily we didn't find any quartz stones with big gold deposits. The public didn't need to know this secret.

Yes, we found real gold and not fool's gold that you find 'for sale' in specialty gift shops as gag gifts. Black sand is found near bubbling springs and black sand is everywhere in Bear Creek's streambed. Where? Gold secrets I do not share, but be forewarned by law you need a gold mining permit from the MDNR giving location of panning operations. You have the option to mine gold clandestinely, just don't get caught. Call it stone washing! Treasure hunters, those who actively search for precious minerals and stones have been stung often when providing locations to the government. Doing so doesn't mean your secret will remain private. You'll probably find your secret exposed by someone sifting for your gold without a permit. Like they say when you conduct businesses, "To avoid is legal, but to evade is illegal."

Bob's big dig had turned into a 'golden hole.' The public didn't need to know we had struck real gold and Bob wasn't interested. His goal was finding the Cannonsburg cannon and pulling it from its grave on July 4, 1986. The day turned out horrible. The bilge pump impellors were destroyed by the small stones being sucked through the pump. When that happened in late afternoon his crew the media and spectators were going to be disappointed by his lack of progress. The cannon was still six feet or more beneath the surface and shifting. In our core group discussions we kept our heads down and lips pointed to ground so nobody could read our lips or listen to our chatter. We were perpedicular or sideways to the media. Stalling was our mantra and secret. The crowd was growing impatient. We could sense they knew something was up as they studied Bob's body language; always scratching and rubbing his hands through his hair. Bob psyche was being challenged. His facial expressions showed his sadness, but eventually he told the crowd, the machinery failures had cancelled any hope of resurrecting the cannon as promised to conclude the weekend festivities.

Bob had proved that life isn't always fair and no matter how many positive ducks are in control it takes only one problem to sabotage the goal. Something will always go wrong and at 6:00 on the Fourth of July Bob, with tongue in cheek, announced officially that production had ceased and spectators and media had time to share the rest of the day with friends and family. He couldn't give a time frame for when operations would begin again, but each day after spectators showed up, but after a week of repeated starts and stops he saw fewer people until none appeared. The spectator hoopla was over and that was what he had hoped would happen. He could start anew without distractions. Next time you'll read what Bob discovered three weeks later -- it wasn't the end, but the beginning of the next segment of his journey into cannon hunting that lead to discovery of... "Good day," as Paul Harvey would say at his noon hour broadcast.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 26

Over hill n' dale the Cannonsburg cannon went missing in the wee morning hours of July 5, 1885. Five men hauled the rickety carriage with cannon in tow past Estella Wards house on Joyce Street, then disappeared up the trail over the trail. Where it went and what happened in the forty-five minutes of so when the men returned was a mystery?

Never when questioning her as an adult did Estella Ward ever tell Bob how many horses nor did she describe the cannon to Bob. As a child of 8-years old she was sworn to secrecy. That's unusual for a child to keep such a secret even through adulthood. Two horses could pull a 6-pound cannon with carriage and without a caisson up, over and down a sandy hilltop trail. That's not a 3,850 pound unit. The forward weight would bear down heavily on two horses. Bob hadn't made this connection between cannon weight and horsepower until several months after his big dig started.

From now my daily or current thoughts are at the end of each post. That's so that we can get back to the nitty-gritty on the missing Cannonsburg cannon first and then you can check my sanity or memory for bugs. My memory is still pretty good, but like all humans sometimes we all make historical mistakes. The same was true for Bob Alcumbrack. His memory was flawed on more than one occasion when researching before he started digging. We weren't sure if his memory failure was accidental or made by faulty dreams. Whenever you do paper searches you always write down information you found and don't trust what you've learned to memory. Its probably the most important information you need before you begin physical labor.

Maggie McCarthy, the wife of cannon hunters, Harold and Matt McCarthy thought Bob had gone a little daft when he was telling her the size of the cannon. Often times she told Bob he was chasing a mythical cannon, but he refuted her notion it couldv'e been a smaller cannon. She asked him many times 'are you sure its over 9 feet long and will fit inside the coffer box. Bob was sure it was 10 feet below grade and buried in sand rippled with bubbling springs. My mind said, "No way!"

How could the five Cannonsburg men bury the cannon so deep within 45 minutes? Sound familiar? Remember the twin sister cannons of Texas? The five Texans buried the twin cannons, and this a direct historical quote, "so damn deep so fast no damn Yankees could ever find them." If all three cannons had been buried at water's edge they'd all strike water within a few feet and the weight of cannons wouldn't help them sink too fast even if rocks were placed upon the pieces. It is possible that the twin sister cannons no longer exist, because maybe someone else saw them bury them, dug them up and they did indeed go to a recycling foundry.

Bob Alcumbrack believed that since the men were only gone a short time they probably buried the old cannon on the Shoemaker property (1885) now the Luther Augustine property in 1986. He assumed they reburied the cannon where the town elders previously buried the cannon. Why not, the hole was half dug, but how the five men sink it so deep, not in mud along the stream, but in sand and gravel? Remember Fred Thomas wasn't with the five men. He was too drunk on hard cider and his mind and tongue might loosen when in a drunken stupor again. They couldn't chance the discovery of the secret hiding spot again, but Thomas would become a bright "beacon of light" approximately 103 years into the future. Thomas' destiny or collision with cannon hunter Bob Alcumbrack and his crew were written in the heavens long before the modern day hunters were ever born. Treasure hunters, too, should never surround themselves with alcohol drinkers. In drunken stupors they give away silent secrets.

After years of listening to eyewitness accounts of the Tompsett tragedy, Bob thought he had found the first burial site, because of his friendship with John Murray. Murray was 22 years old when he fired the cannon, but whenever Bob pestered and prodded him with trick questions Mr. Murray chose his words carefully so as not to tip off Bob where the cannon was buried. It was Murray's reaction when they took buggy rides down the trail and crossed the footbridge over the small stream that comes down from Pickerel Lake. The stream water was ice cold year-round. So cold was the water it could petrify the human body. Bare the body in Bear Creek as local Indians said, 'You'd be pertrified.'

Murray would stop his buggy horse on the trail's wooden bridge, but not say a single word. Tears streamed down his face, his eyes flooded with eye dew. Murray's eyes filled with tears before they even got to the bridge. Because of this fact Bob felt the cannon was buried closeby. His face was sullen and ash white. Murray at time sobbed, but when Bob asked a question Murray kept silent. Farther away from the bridge his silence ended. Bob thought Murray's body language exposed a silent secret. As Bob said, "You don't get tears in your eyes unless you remember something so bad or good that happened years ago."

Approaching the bridge his face turned sullen, never laughed or joked, just increased sniffling and tears flooded his eyes. Beyond the trail of tears, the better Mr. Murray's eyes improved. Bob spent years with his dowsing rods trying to pinpoint the cannon grave and "X" marked the mystery spot and placed the box atop where his signal readings were the strongest. The secrecy surrounding the cannon's disappearance showed the depth of their grief and respect for Tompsett. The 1885 men took the mystery spot to their graves. The cannon was at peace for 101 years, but the day of reckoning was close at hand 103 years later (1988).

"FLASH," who wrote the community "Cannonsburg Happenings" column for the Rockford Register in 1885 was silenced after Tompsett's death. "FLASH" was my nickname to work partners in 1986, but it's where I started talking. Destiny or coincidence? Bob requested I not inform you what happened to the Cannonsburg cannon until he died. I honored his request and will tell you the final secret, but not today, because you need to see what ends this legend to see if he failed or succeeded. Bob did discover an ultimate secret in 1988, a secret that John Murray and fellow cannon buddies never knew existed. Fred Thomas' grandfather (James Thomas) kept a secret from the original five men who buried the cannon. It lead to the biggest reward of our expedition, but it wasn't found until Bob's destiny collided with the elder Thomas. What do you think was found that lead to our silence?

Well, Bob was sure that Murray was the key to the burial site. Murray's body language; his eyes and where they started to fill with tears, where his voice began to crack and where the tears began to streak his face were indications the cannon was nearby. Murray showed the most remorse and sadness at the bridge crossing. Never did he look sideways, his head forever bowed. Bob's clue was to search on each side of the bridge along the stream. How far in each direction he wasn't sure, but Murray would start talking again the farther they got away from the bridge crossing. Murray's eyes watched the ground beneath the horse and never peered off across the fields. Murray kept his wits.

Bob began his intensive search. The sand bottomed stream below the bridge was nestled deep in a mosquito infested woodland setting now. The muddy bottomland made it a dark search. He searched up and down the creek and found the biggest power spot and "X" marked the spot. He dowsed the spot with his two brass dowsing rods, because electronic metal detectors of 1986 couldn't find brass objects. Brass cannons are non-ferrous meaning they are derived from 90% copper and 10% tin. Bob used nuclear metal range finders to flush out the cannon. He got directional power hits from distant locating and charted where the directional lines crossed. His pair of rods fine tuned the location. This was his most promising spot, but my first impression was "Why would the men bury the killer cannon so close to town in the same hole? Could it be because the hole was already half dug or was it buried fast because of an angry adrenalin rush?

The only reason they disappeared over a sandy hill is because wherever they buried the cannon so fast they didn't want others along the roadways to see the direction or where it was buried deep. If buried so rapidly how could they expect it to stay buried. Someone surely would have been suspicious of disturbed soil in a wheat field or pasture. How could they have buried the cannon in 11 feet of gravel and sand - no muck? Bob assumed they may have simply partially buried or just hidden the cannon from view for burial after Tompsett's funeral and burial?

Bob and crew struck ice-cold water at four feet down. It was a gusher like a burst fire hydrant, the water filling the coffer box within minutes. The bilge pumps labored hard, but eventually Allen Janose, Matt McCarthy and Bob Alcumbrack drew down the water level. Bob with perfect balance walked the planks atop the coffer box, the rods actions showed the cannon's dimensions and directional disposition. He had figured it out to the inch on his diagram designs. Bob's impression was that he found what Mr. Murray's eyes had not shown him. The cannon as within reach, but something was odd. The electronic metal detectors that wouldn't give a signal if brass suddenlyly squealed softly and his mind interupted what he found as meaning the cannon was here below him. Just because Mr. Murray's eyes filled with tears, never looked sideways at the bridge, but stared down at the horse's feet didn't mean that was positive prtoof it must be nearby.

It was possible, but Matt McCarthy and I thought the site nearby was the first burial spot and not the second, but what could make the rods act so favorably. Bob kept walking the oak planks over the watery grave like Captain Jack. What was more strange was the fact that Allen Janose and Harold McCarthy used Bob's rods, too, and mapped out Bob's same dimensions how the cannon was resting. Why couldn't the 1885 men have buried the cannon farther away? It was only one-fourth mile from accident to burial site. Was it because it was Sunday, a day of grief, prayer, reflections and remembranes of Tompsett? Could Estella Ward have simply lost track of time. No information was found about Tompsett's funeral or graveside services. Cannonsburg had witnessed a horrendous tragedy and the cannon's disappearance was silenced forever, or so they thought.

A new town physician arrived two months after the accident. His memoirs stated that when two citizens met on the street, the eyes were on the ground and they never acknowledged each other. He tried desparately to loosen the tongues between 1885-1889 with no success. At church functions people talked to each other, but not on the streets nor in shops and stores. Sadness and depression were everywhere. This proved the depth of the town's sorrow and the gloominess and silence was more than he could stand so he left, went to Grand Rapids and taught surgical skills to interns.


My prayers go out to all those unfortunate innocent individuals who suffered greatly when a Texas man commited suicide by flying his small Cessna plane with 80-gallons of gasoline onboard into that building that houses the IRS, FBI and private corporations in Austin, Texas. His frustrations with the IRS caused severe anguish that lead to his insanity and he took out his anger against the people. This act of domestic terrorism was a home grown incident, but it goes to show what happens when Congress doesn't listen to the people and pass income tax laws on certain classes of people who feel singled out and robbed of their rights to earn a living as self-employed persons. SAD! All this happened partily because of a domestic disturbance with his wife and his festering anger towards the IRS caused the fireball rebellion. TRAGIC! It's even more tragic when media folks file first images of a man that set his house on fire with his wife and child inside. DISGUSTING rumors to glorify the situation. Increasing HYSTERIA is scrambling two military jets to shoot down other would be terrorists so the falling debris will kill hundreds perhaps thousands of other innocents on the ground. How does this LUNACY protect Americans?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 25

In case you hadn't heard, a U.S. naval rescue helicopter flew down into Mt. Saint Helen's crater and recovered the body of the experienced hiker that fell 1500 feet. He was a veteran climber to the rim, but despite repeated warnings not to stand on the rim, he failed to listen. The rim collapsed under his weight, but was it an accident or could he have simply lost his balance or succumbed to a medical emergency. An autopsy will decide his fate. Accidents happen when we don't listen to others just as the Tompsett tragedy happened because of failure to listen to town elders.

Tompsett died July 5th, 1885, at Dr. Patterson's house. Twelve hours of agonizing pain was Tompsett's demise. Those outside the house were arguing over who was at fault the most. Tompsett's six friends were guilty, but two played bigger parts in the tragedy. The town elders should've buried the cannon earlier and not waited until the day before a holiday. They were even more guilty for not keeping the burial spot secret. Before Tompsett died I believe they had already formed an opinion of how to get rid of the cannon. They probably heard Rena's loud cry when Walter died and it probably was Dr. Patterson who delivered the bad news to the eyewitnesses outside that Walter died. Instant shock and sadness. The ringing of church bells shortly after 1 a.m. rang up distant valleys announcing his death. The final ring cast a silent pall over the crowd that lasted for months.

Had the seven young men not dug up the buried cannon 18 hours earlier Walter Tompsett would have been alive, but surely something would have happened in the near future or never. After the crowd dissapated, five of Tompsett's friends got some horses and hitched up the old cannon and under the cover of darkness pulled the cannon through town and went up Joyce Street past the Ward place. Estella Ward was awakened by the squeaking wheels of the cannon carriage. She sprang to the window and watched the men pass going north. The men returned about 45 minutes later and the cannon went missing for 101 years when Bob Alcumbrack enters the mystery.

Bob's dreams fueled his imagination and he felt he'd found the burial site. He always analyzed his dream and stretched it like a piece of taffy. Tompsett's friends who buried the cannon had done the township people on the whole wrong, since the cannon was an honorable gift to the founding fathers of the township and they had no right to dispose of it without a concensus of the people. Bob felt they should have disabled the cannon and kept it as a memorial to the township and Walter Tompsett's memory. After a propery grieving time they could have displayed it in front of the town hall. My thinking was surely Rena Tompsett wouldn't ever want to see that killer cannon each time she visited Cannonsburg. Put yourself in Rena's shoes. Could you look at the cannon that killed your husband without crying? You'd be heartbroken, too, each time you saw it in the public square and I'm sure it'd make eyewitnesses cry. Out of site and mind was the cannon's demise. Cannonsburg became the ultimate secret society until most of the eyewitnesses died.

What was most puzzling was "What happened to the cannon. Where did it mysteriously go missing from the public realm before sunrise on Sunday, July 5, 1885? Very little information surfaced in newspaper and community news accounts about the tragic accident, and yet, how did Bob's mind interpret the cannon as a "small military cannon?" Maybe its because one other small item on the subject classified it as military so it must have been a six-pound cannon. Then too the eyewitness accounts said it let out an "awesome" blast, but no other details about the cannon were ever mentioned.

So before Bob started digging in 1986 the cannon had grown from 9-14 feet long. It was a monster gun with a gun and carriage dry weight of 3,850 pounds. But being submerged in wet soil for 101 years the carriage would be wet weight and weigh about 6,500 pounds and the suction weight of the entire assemblage would be greater than a small backhoe could lift. Add to this water and soil disturbances. Both could destroy the carriage and the brass plaque could be lost. Bob's mind always saw "awesome" and his mind saw the flash scenes of the smoking gun.

Bob based all information he knew on the fact the cannon was pre-Civil War, but he thought since it was described as a small military cannon it had to be a six-pound cannon. What he didn't know was that these were the minimum requirements for use in the US Army at the time. They used nothing smaller. What Bob also wasn't aware of was the fact America didn't have the ability to produce cannon's yet. The military was using old captured brass cannons from the War of 1812 and American Revolutionary War and Mr. Cannon couldn't have purchased a military cannon and given it as a personal gift to Cannon Township forefathers. That was illegal, but a found cannon was legal of if founded privately. Local governments received old military cannons for protection.

Bob was infatuated with first hand accounts from John Murray, one of the five men who fired the cannon. He was emotionally scarred for the rest of his life by the accidental death of Tompsett. Bob never got true dimensions of the cannon from Mr. Murray's recollections. Bob made his own dimensions based on "awesome." What started out as a joyous celebration had turned in the town elders worst nightmare. Tompsett's death spread like wildfire throughout Michigan.

No doubt Tompsett's six remaining friends probably retraced the tragic event in their minds, felt the guilt by association, pain and sorrow. Fred Thomas drank hard cider to excess and was so drunk the remaining five left him in town so he couldn't spill the secret where it was buried. John Murray he was devestated, but he had to make sure the cannon never appeared in public again. I imagine the six probably accused each other, but all were guilty of young impetuousness negligence and inexperience and Tompsett was one of them.

Of the township elders James Thomas, and the other three, were the saddest, because they failed to keep the cannon's first burial secret. They should have kept quiet and shouldn't have talked about its burial amongst themselves and family. Then too, the biggest burden of failure was the fact they didn't stop the seven young men from firing the cannon. They could have insisted and stopped the additional firings. None of the young men had any artillery training firing the cannons. The men were so excited about having their chance to fire the old blunderbus cannon. What these men hadn't done is paid strict attention to detail when firing cannons. These were the town elders biggest fears and it was noted by the Federal government, too.

Cannons prematurely discharge because someone else made a mistake. John Murray's grief was the most of the group, because he didn't place his thumbstall over the hot barrels vent hole or Fred Thomas didn't use a sponge rod or worm rod to brush out the glowing powder ash clinging to the inside bore chamber. That's before the ramrod nested a new powder charge. Thomas had just released his hand on the ramrod when the cannon exploded. Thomas had just nested 1.25 pounds of powder. If Tompsett wasn't the rammer could it be he was carrying the shot or was he simply distracted by conversation and was just crossing in front of the muzzle or was he going to pull out the ramrod? The rammer needs both hands and all his body weight from a side stance to ram a tight fitting powder bag down the chamber, unless he was loading loose gunpowder with a scoop.

No trained artilleryman would stand in front of a cannon being loaded unless something out of the ordinary could have caused a break in judgement. Bob had assumed they were shooting iron cannonballs or leaded stones, but he never found any on distant hillsides. Tompsett might have head someone call him and he absentmindedly turned and walked towards the cannon just as it went "BOOM!" He couldn't escape the blast, the flash in the face, the ramrod striking his knee. Since the cannon was being repeated fired Bob's reasoning said the cannon was brass. You can't repeat iron cannons -- they get hot, real hot and most iron cannons prematurely explode from decayed age. Repeat iron cannons explode before the 30th firing, but brass cannons can be repeat fired hundreds of times before failure. The military preferred brass cannons for safety reasons.

Bob's six-pound cannon was a myth. A ramrod rocketing out of the barrel wouldn't strike Tompsett in the knee, but it would have struck him in the abdomen or stomach or cut him in two killing him instantly. This was biggest miscalculation on the size of cannon.

A knee shot?

Another miscalculation was at the first burial site by the town elders. How could four old men wrestle with such a large cannon. They'd get a hernia and you'd have to dig a crater to bury cannon and carriage. This time they disassembled the unit, but how could the seven young men dig it up so fast and put it back in action within 18 hours? Bob said, 'I never did ask the eyewitnesses the dimensions of the carriage.' He just assumed it was large. From his explanation my reasoning said, "If the cannon was difficult for four men to handle why wouldn't it have been equally difficult for the five who buried it after the accident have done so in under 45 minutes to one hour? Could Estella Ward have lost track of time and didn't really know how long the men were gone? This was my take on the scenarios since the second day after I met Bob.

Large cannons require large wheels and carriage weight. If it doesn't the cannon flips or explodes upwards from the massive firepower. Cannons in surrounding towns were 4 pounders made of cast wrought iron after the Civil War. Each time they were fired the inside muzzle chamber's temperature was 575-625 degrees and the outside metal so hot you couldn't touch the muzzle. Each time the gun was fired the outside metal touch could burn those servicing the gun.

The reason Tompsett was critically injured was because of missing tools to service the gun and John Murray was distracted momentarily and released his thumbstall allowing oxygen to enter the chamber, the glowing ash seizing air and igniting the powder. This is what was actually causing so many cannons to prematurely explode all across America each Fourth of July. The Cannonsburg cannon was old with age and the necessary tools had gone missing. The sponge rod would have dampened or extinguished the glowing powder embers. The worm rod would have cleaned out obstructions and damp or glowing wadding. A missing thumbstall even a split second could ignite the glowing embers against the powder. Evidently the men were so excited they bypassed and circumvented the strict military firing point procedures after rapid firing and "BOOM!"

The result was excitement suicide by repeat cannon firings. Missing tools caused this accident and tragedy - the death of Walter Tompsett. Next time its the "Mystery of the Golden Hole."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 24

Stupid! That's exactly the truth. Why don't those who push the extremes in harsh weather dress appropriately and obey warnings about adverse weather and mountain climbing dangers before they embark on a hiking trip to the top of Mt. St. Helen's to take pictures? Did you hear about the hiker yesterday (Feb.15) who before leaving was warned that the mountain top was very unstable, but still climbed atop the rim? The hiker thought nothing of the warnings, stood about five feet from a cornice to snap a photo and the ledge collapsed. He catapulted into the crater and fell 1500 feet. Rescue helicopters flew into the crater, but strong winds made them abort a rescue attempt, but they did drop more adequate weather gear and supplies. Rescuers noted he didn't move and weren't sure he was alive. He wasn't totally stupid since during the night they heard him blowing his rescue whistle - that's a miracle, but will they be able to reach him before he freezes to death by excessive cold. Why is it some people don't listen to authorities and seem to push the envelope of adventure to such extremes as to place rescuers in such grave danger from avalanches between the inside crater walls and the live lava dome of an active volcano? "Stupid is as stupid does," said Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks.

Whether its extreme sports or treasure hunting its ego and the thrill of accomplishing the goals of dreams. Some love the hunt for adventure, while others just enjoy the thrill of doing something fantastic to prove their tenacity for life beyond good judgement Bob Aclumbrack had vision, endurance, courage and the energy to push himself and his crew of six men towards victory in his search for the sunken cannon. The same was true for the original seven men involved in the Cannonsburg cannon accident. To my thinking men are doers, not sitters and they can't stand being tied down without anything to do, but create trouble. Seems men are always getting themselves into serious jams and its others who must put their lives in danger to help or rescue those displaying their arrogant stupidity.

Weather leading up to the Fourth of July 1885, the people living in Michigan were experiencing the strangest weather. None of them could remember when the weather went to such extremes but the summers of 1847-49 were the most unbearable in Michigan history to pioneer settlers and it forced some to flee towards the gold fields near Ft. Sumpter California. Ottawa Indians said 1848 wasn't as bad as winter of 1831-32 and 1836 when more than 200 tornadoes ripped wide swaths of forest destruction across Michigan in one day. Spring and summer arrived on June 22, 1885, and not the first on March 21.

The winter of 1885 was cold and snowy and snowstorms ravaged Michigan until late May. Folks were miserable and the frozen ground, too hard for tilling and planting dampened their spring spirits. Then when the sun did start melting everything it turned our blazing hot in early June and the thaw was happening. The hot winds of change fanned their faces, but the fields and woods turned tinder dry and forest fires broke out. The people were tired of fighting flames and snorking smoke and then a cold snap with heavy frosts and bitter winds returned the third week of June. The weather extremes of 1885 were the same extremes of the 21 century (2009). From this historian's viewpoint global warming doesn't exist, but mans prolific use of concrete and asphalt causing heat to rise will alter and create weather extremes. The weather changed history in 1885. The pioneers were sick and tired of fighting with mother nature's tantrums and it was a bad year to deny the young seven men of their rights to fire the cannon. Independence Day picnics and festivities and cannon firing were the boredom breakers.

Lake Michigan was so low in 1848 freight bound for Grand Rapids was off loaded on pole boats over the sand bar at the mouth of the Grand River, then transferred and transported up the river by the flat-bottomed steamer called the HUMMINGBIRD.

This vessel ran up the river to Eastmanville and Grandville docks twice each day. The shallow 12-inch draft vessel had a small 1/2 pound swivel cannon, like Mike Fink's, lashed to her deck to announce she was within one mile of her destination. This vessel actually brought the Cannonsburg cannon up the Grand River from Grand Rapids in 1848 to Plainfield/Austerlitz and LeGrand Cannon personally delivered the cannon with rental wagon to Cannon Township officials. The small cannon had been fired for 38 years without any accidents until 1885.

When the Independence Day celebratory speeches and picnic banquet feast was done, the seven young men rushed down to prime the cannon and a thunderous "BOOM" shook the picnic grounds. The cannon roared, the ground shook and big bellows of rising white smoke filled the air until Walter Tompsett and two other friends made a deadly mistake in judgement while loading.

Right around 1:00 p.m. for some unknown reason Tompsett was standing in front of the muzzle when it was being loaded with gunpowder. The man thought to be Fred Thomas seated the powder, released his hand just as the cannon prematurely discharged, the ramrod rocketed out in a burst of bellowing smoke and struck Tompsett's knee. Either Tompsett wasn't thinking or he was somehow distracted by conversations while the cannon was being primed.

"BOOM!" The cloud of ashen-white smoke filled the air, the ramrod shattering Tompsett's knee, the bones and muscles splattered across the grass. Tompsett screamed in sheer agony and was thrown by the concussion and severely burned before he hit the ground. The cannon's roar ceased, but Tompsett's screams brought the entire festive celebration to an instant halt. Mother's covered the ears of their children when they saw Tompsett screaming and saw him writhing on the ground holding what was left of his leg, his face grimaced in unimaginable pain. All six men were thrown backwards from the concussion. Aid rushed down to Tompsett and it was an awful bad scene.

William S. Johnson, Frank Ladner, Cornelius Harvey and James Thomas, the town elders who buried the old cannon 18 hours earlier knew the outcome of their inability to bury the cannon and keep it secretly buried. They ran down to Tompsett yelling, "We knew it, we knew this was going to happen, the government said it was going to happen, why didn't you leave it buried?" See what happened! Angry words flew out, too, probably a some expletives and colorful metaphors that need not be printed here. Put yourself in the picture as the father of a son firing the cannon. What would your response be to the accident unfolding?

Can you see the hysteria and panic of the women and children all watching and listening with heads bowed, some already crying wondering who was injured? They knew by the screams that the carnage was terribly bad. Listening to the screams of agony was bad enough, the children didn't need to see the injuries. As men and officials rushed to Tompsett's aid some young women were crying hysterically as Dr. Patterson tried to comfort them. Someone yelled out it was Tompsett and Rena, his wife put her one-year old son Walter in the arms of another woman and ran to the accident scene. The men kneeled around her husband and she burst into tears and staggered back at the unsightly wound. His blood gushing from his severed leg, the bones splintered, the flesh burned. With tears streaking down her face she tried to comfort Walter as someone else tried dressing the nearly amputated leg to stem the flow of blood She knew amputation surgery was the only way to save his life. His knee was gone, the upper leg and lower leg held together by only bloody skin.

The men gathered around and picked up Tompsett who screamed in unbelievable pain and laid him in a wagon. Each bump down the hill he screamed louder and finally arrived at Dr. Patterson's house. The journey must have felt like eternity -- the same feelings as ambulance rides today on bumpy roads and highways. The picnic was over. Many packed up and left in a sober mood, while the eye witnesses to the tragedy gathered outside Dr. Patterson's praying for a miracle that God would save Tompsett.

Word was dispatched to Edgerton and Walter Tompsett's mother and father were summoned, but it was a full days ride from Edgerton to Cannonsburg. Dr. Patterson assumed control and sent for Dr. Hyser at Plainfield and Dr. Johnson, a surgeon from Grand Rapids. It'd be a full days ride for them, too, but before they arrived young Tompsett had bled to death and died 12 hours after the tragic accident. Dr. Patterson was a preacher and could only attend to his soul. Tompsett laid in agony on a table, stretcher or bed and Rena literally watched her husband bleed to death. Upon his death the crowd swelled in silence and prayed for the Tompsett family in Cannonsburg, formerly known as Churchtown before 1847.

It must have been a horrific 12 hours for Rena Tompsett watching and listening to the love of her life; husband, son and friend for life die so painfully. Tompsett's cannon firing friends and town elders who couldn't keep silent the cannon's burial secret probably argued until his death where to dispose of the killer cannon.

Gruesome as it all sounds, this is the beginning vision about the Cannonsburg cannon accident. Each time you read the gruesome story the picture will be more fine-tuned, but Tompsett's tragedy will be the same. Only when I repeat the story in more detail will you discover the unknown secrets the Cannonsburg eyewitnesses took to their graves. Walter Tompsett's death made them the ultimate secret society. Never again as long as they lived would they talk about the accident that shook them to silence until... destiny 101 years into the future would the secrets unfold. Next time I'll we'll see what happens to the cannon. The tragedy view above is fictional and the real scene is only known by those who witnessed the tragedy and God, but it was the closest to reality for the accuracy of the story.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 23

The first cannon burial by the Cannon town elders was a dreadful mistake that ultimately was responsible for the death of Walter Tompsett. Town elders William S. Johnson, Frank Ladner, Cornelius Harvey and James Thomas met in the wee hours before sunrise and hitched up several horses and dragged the old Cannonsburg cannon from storage and preceded to bury it in a not to distant secret location. Someone had overheard or saw the township elders whisk the cannon away and bury it beside a glacial stream not far from Cannonsburg. As senior elders it took longer dig a shallow hole alongside of the stream under a hot blazing July sun. The salty sweat poured off their foreheads into their eyes, while they took turns resting, swatting deer flies and mosquitos. After the cannon was buried they returned to town thinking they had stopped the first cannon casualty and would relax on the Fourth of July.

Hindsight from 101 years into the future (1986) I couldn't help but wonder why the officials decided to bury the cannon instead of smashing, destroying or recycling the old weapon? Could it be they felt since the cannon was an honorable gift given by the township's namesake it wasn't their right to destroy it? Surely they could have just disabled the vent or poured molten iron into the chamber plugging the bore. Actually they had hoped to preserve the cannon by burying it getting it safely someplace else before something happened and it premature burst like the Federal government was warning. Burying it they felt was the most logical choice and it would be out of site for the holiday festivities. They could have done many things to the old cannon, but they didn't want to accept the responsibility or liability should someone find or fire a sabotaged cannon. They had hoped the burial spot could be kept secret, but alas, they made the mistake of burying it too close to town and wagging their tongues and the result was that several young men weren't going to be denied the right to fire the old cannon. For too long they had watched their fathers have fun firing the cannon for 38 years and they weren't going to be denied firing it again.

Still Bob Alcumbrack didn't have answers to questions and this haunted his dreams both day and night. I was as perplexed as the cannon digging crew. Bob had concentrated so hard on what the oldest residents told him about the cannon - the awesome blast when it barked and how the blast echoed up and down valleys. Bob only investigated hearsay town folk, but he never investigated all the township officials and men that fired the cannon between 1848-1885. Bob believed that the first burial spot was the last burial spot for the cannon. Since the five men were gone only a short time they couldn't have gone very far so it must be buried in the same hole. Because Bob hadn't put found the answers to early questions Maggie McCarthy was sure he was chasing a "ghost cannon." What he did know was that the cannon was pre-Civil War manufactured, but what he didn't know was how old and his mind plus the newspaper article and history book sentences, well his mind said it had to be a small military cannon - a six-pounder. That was the smallest in the U.S. Army of the time period.

The biggest reason township elders buried the cannon is because it still gave them a sense of community pride and geographical importance. They had scruples and heeded the governments warnings, but felt it wasn't their sole responsibility to destroy the cannon. They just wanted it out of sight for safety until after the Fourth of July so they could dig it back up and formally decide its fate, which more than likely was recycling it into hitching posts, signs or other products.

Recycling useless objects was a concept whose roots sprang from English history more than 300 years ago and not just the 20th and 21st century versions of American environmental correctness. Early cannon makers invented the environmental concept of saving this planet called Earth. When the English were short on cannonballs and cannons they captured these guns were recycled into larger cannons. During that time the Brits lacked copper and tin to produce brass cannons. During war periods British peasants stripped the rooftops of lead shingles and smelted them down for cannonball production and recyled decripit cannons into more modern cannons. The art of English recycling was a lucatrive business, because nearly every king or queen was engaged in war and His Majesty's or Her Majesty's precious artillery was either being seized in lost combat or vessels sunk at sea. American's didn't even know the word "recycle." We just tossed everything into bottomless kettle ponds, bogs, cisterns and honey holes.

Bob had reason to believe the cannon was made of bronze, but what he didn't know the age of the old cannon. It was an ancient bronze cannon and it was no where near a six-pound military field cannon. Some in Cannon Township at the time Bob was digging thought he was on a fool's errand and that the cannon's legend was a hoax. Some business owners use the legend about the cannon as ways to promote business sponsored treasure hunts today. A dentist in the Bella Vista area has gone to great lengths to discredit tragedy of Walter Tompsett and has gone so far to say that the only reason someone got hurt is because some teenagers got careless and two Rockford newspapers last summer validated this claim and newspaper editors fell in with this faulty attitude of political incorrectness. Poppycock!

On July 4th 1885 seven young men aged 25-41 years old gathered together and hitched up some plough horses. They mounted a search party for the missing cannon that was buried 18 hours earlier. In morning twilight they found the cannon's grave beside the small stream. It was so easy an child could find the burial spot. Disturbed soil and discolored soil gave away its secret spot. The young men wrestled it from the hole, cleaned off the soil, mud, grass and decaying vegetative matter. Grinning from ear to ear they dragged it jokingly back through town to the dismay of township elders and repositioned it atop the hill near the old-two story Cannonsburg School and fired off a celebratory shot. The thunderous noise echoed up and down the valleys announcing that festivities would soon begin in earnest around 11:00 a.m.. Townskeepers said the cannon let out an "awesome blast" each time it belched fire and smoke. Shopkeeper windows rattled with each blast.

Mr. John Murray, was one of the five original cannon firing men and whenever Bob quizzed him about how awesome the blast was he always said the vibrations rattled windows for miles If that were true Bob surmised the cannon had to be spaded to the ground to keep it from recoiling or flipping over, but Bob could never get Murray to comment on the carriage architecture. Bob always said, "Murray's eyes misted or glassed over whenever he tried to get Murray to talk about the cannon accident. He was keeping the visual image of the accident and cannon description secret. He took that secret to his grave.

Other eyewitness accounts of the cannon's firepower said the cannon was tethered to the ground and its wheels were partially buried and blocked preventing recoil or flipping when fired. If the cannon were pre-Civil War it might of had recoil springs off the carriage axle leading to the trail spade. When fired the spade digs into the ground, the spring absorbs the recoil. On ancient cannons the spade was absent. Nobody ever told Bob if the cannon did or didn't have a spade. The carriage trail on an ancient cannon is very heavy, made of oak or iron, and up to twice the length of the cannon that's balanced on the axle. Knowing the length of the trail foretells the size of cannon and poundage. A six-pound cannon's carriage axle was six feet wide from wheel to wheel and the cannon was mounted in the center of a heavy carriage. This was precisely the measurements Bob witched above the coffer box indicating this massive cannon was at the bottom of his big dig site. If true it 'd weigh about 3,865 pounds. Bob's readings said 'the cannon was resting upside down, which meant he'd encounter woody debris in bilge water and concieveably tear apart the cannon carriage to recover the piece, but he might miss the brass plaque. His mind envisioned the entire cannon and carriage to be about 11 feet long and that was the reason for the cannon's awesome blast. He assumed that's why it took seven young men to dig up the cannon, but what I couldn't understand is how could four elder men bury such a large cannon the day before. Nobody that Bob ever interviewed gave any cannon dimensions. Never did the men reveal a physical description of carriage or cannon. This was an ultimate secret.

What Bob did know was that it took seven men to dig up the cannon, wrestle it from the burial spot and return it to its hilltop location. The group was comprised of Jake Eaton, Truman Hutchins, George Inwood, John Murray, Henry Schoomaker, Fred Thomas and Walter Tompsett. These young men had watched their father fire the ancient cannon and they were going to defy the town elders and didn't want to be robbed of their heritage of firing a peacetime celebratory cannon. Bob, when digging never knew who found the first burial site nor did he care. He was obsessed with the cannon.

The most probable suspect was Fred Thomas, since his grandfather was James Thomas, the highway commissioner and one of the men who buried the cannon. Fred led his friends to the exact burial site. I believed this to be true, yet it is circumstancial evidence. I couldn't find solid proof, but he is the second man of the original seven who didn't help his five friends rebury the cannon. I believe he was injured or in shock. Only Thomas was kin and the proof of his involvement in finding the cannon comes later when 'walls talk' that lead Bob and crew to the true identity of the cannon.

The cannon was ready for firing by mid-morning. The first celebratory shot woke up the Saturday morning folks from a sound sleep. The cannon's first salute announced Independence Day celebrations at the picnic site. Township elders shuddered and winched when the awesome cannon roared. They were shocked that someone had found the cannon's burial spot and were immediately saddened by the sight of seven young men firing it who had no formal artillery training. It is time to stop for tonight. The next segment describes the tragedy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 22

In 1986 when Bob Alcumbrack and the cannon crew began digging for the missing killer cannon of Cannonsburg, Michigan, the cannon had disappeared for 101 years and the Twin Sisters of Texas had vanished for 122 years. These were the three most historical cannons in America, but Bob was the only cannon hunter who was actively engaged in trying to uncover not just the cannon, but to find closure on its secret disappearance, too. The cannon's true identity had been lost on purpose by design or historical accident. Ashby of Texas never did find the twin sisters resting spot in 1985 nor did Alcumbrack of Michigan in 1986, but he did uncover some of the ultimate secrets of its disappearance until 1988 when... Before spilling beans you need priveleged insights into the secrets behind our cannon adventure.

Life has dark shadows that are hidden in secrecy of past events. Who knows what the future holds for any one of us. Just when we think we've figured out a secret something else lurking in the shadows jumps out to illuminate unknown pathways to resolve mysteries. Unseen forces surprised us. You could say it was if the cannon was cursed, because it seemed to haunt our progress. Things went wrong we couldn't explain and what we felt at different sites made Bob a little superstitious, but at least he kept an open mind long enough to seek solutions in uncharted happenings. At certain sites, like the first big dig, in darkness it was spooky. It was as if someone or something sinister was watching his every step. The sudden cold spots on warm dark nights made him and his crew shiver, but we did find answers to revealing secrets that Bob never knew existed in Cannonsburg. When digging started he hadn't planned on exploration trips outside his circle of confidence and understanding. He hadn't pondered the fact his journey might take him into the world of paranormal anomalies. Tompsett died a violent death and cold spots to many ghost hunters is evidence of paranormal activity.

Bob Alcumbrack was aware of the Twin Sister expediton, but he chose to blot it out and concentrate all his efforts towards his biggest conquest. He knew it might be only a matter of time before the twins were found at a watery grave in Bray's Bayou and he knew it'd take the pressure of him. Ashby continued her quest to find the cannons offering large rewards for information, but alas nothing materialized.

Bob grew up in Cannonsburg and spent countless hours listening to the horror stories about the killer cannon and the tragic death of Walter Tompsett from eyewitness accounts, but the oldest residents abstained from giving Bob too much information. He strained his ears listening to their oral history lessons. He was a dust buster. His ears sucked up clues faster than dust bunnies, dirt and rumors. Since his youth Bob was forever digging in sand and probbing muddy sinkholes looking for the cannon and he was rewarded with finding numerous 19th century antiquities of Cannonsburg residents. He was obssessed with finding the cannon. To find a dream treasure requires passion and Bob had plenty.

Over the years Bob used the latest metal detectors and graduated to more sophisticated equipment such as electromagnetic meters and nuclear metal range finders. He began learning the basics of using brass dowsing rods and his mind to find objects. He practiced and practiced like a skillful musician. Using his dowsing craft he constantly fine tuned his dowsing mantra. He had to focus his mind and concentrate keeping a picture of the cannon in his mind's eye. He had dreamed about finding the cannon for 55 years and it was now or never. His physical stamina was beginning to decline. His dreams had taken him into obsession. Time was beginning to take its toll on his physical well-being. The aches and pains of senior status weren't far off.

Bob's search for the cannon was like playing "I've Got A Secret" and the five young men of 1885 kept the granddaddy of all secrets. Bob was already saying he felt "something was lurking in his shadow." Invisible prying eyes were watching and studying his daily movements. All of us felt uneasy digging for the cannon on dark nights. It was as if Tompsett's ghost or the spirits of the original five dead men were watching and laughed when things went wrong. The hair on our heads bristled, the hair on our bodies and arms rustled wildly. We felt this way when we dug at night hidden from the prying eyes of photojournalists. Were we being watched by the other cannon hunting group in the Cannonsburg area? Other eyes might find a clue to our success and find the cannon first destroying Bob's dream. Cannon and treasure hunters all agree: "We don't like the spy guys!" Wouldn't you feel cheated or robbed of your destiny as a cannon or treasure hunter if you purposely tipped them off and they found the objects of your affection? Why should they get the notoreity?

This entire story originates from the day the Cannonsburg town elders believed it was time to rid the community of their cannon due to its advanced age on July 3, 1885. The town elders had grown fond of the cannon, since they had been firing it for 38 years without any accidents, but time had taken its toll on the weapon. The cannon was given to Cannon Township town elders for naming the township and village after his last name "Cannon." LeGrand Cannon was an Eastern capitalist from New York who was the largest freeholder of land in Cannon Township between 1837-1850. Cannonsburg was platted and he gave away lots away "free" in exchange for owners if they put a dwelling on it and mortgaged it thru him. Of course they had to pay the taxes, too.

In appreciation Mr. Cannon gave town elders the special small cannon in his honor. He felt the town's genuine sincerity and thought the cannon donation was an honorable gift. He delivered it personally. What was surprising was the gift was from his heart and it was a secret that LeGrand Cannon kept from his closest friends and business associates. He didn't even involve his attorney and fishing companion, the esteemable John Ball of Grand Rapids. Mr. Cannon's land agent and property manager, E.B. Bostwick, for whom Bostwick Lake gets its honorable name know nothing about the cannon. Even Mr. Cannon's bookkeeper George Babcock at the Troy Rolling Mills in Troy, NY was unaware of the cannon gift to township officials. The only person Mr. Cannon trusted with knowledge of the gift was his best friend Capt. Gillispie of his Majesty's merchant marine service. Mr. Cannon's ancestry hails from France during the American Revolution. Mr. Cannon was born in 1786 in America.

The real story behind Bob Alcumbrack's search for the vanished cannon was the tragic death of Walter Tompsett. Tompsett was 26 years old, a farm laborer who was killed in a freak accident when the cannon prematurely discharged July 4, 1885. Cannon's only prematurely explode when improperly serviced. Human error or negligence. History doesn't say who else was injured, but five of the seven men disposed of the cannon when Tompsett died.

The reason town elders took it upon themselves to bury the cannon was because prior to 1885 cannon accidents were claiming too many lives and injuring too many citizens and friends at Fourth of July celebrations. Too many premature explosions, whether premature or accidental tragedies warranted the disposal of Civil War era cannons. They didn't want a dreadful accident to take a life in Cannon Township. Too many cannons all across America were being fired by men who hadn't had military artillery training. Cannon tools were being lost and not replaced for safe firing.

Cannonsburg town elders were saddened to hear a premature explosion severly injured H.D. Lovelace and Albert Pickett, the Marshal and Justice of the Peace in Rockford, Michigan on July 4, 1884. The town's old Civil War iron cannon burst prematurely when powder was being loaded. In July 1874 it prematurely discharged while loading and killed a Rockford man. On July 4, 1876, four men in Hopkins, Michigan sustained serious injuries when their town cannon prematurely discharged. Two had hands blown off, one severely burned, the other, the vent man lost his thumb. All these men got reckless firing the cannon. Most Michigan towns didn't celebrate the Fourth of July that year due to having received word that Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his 267 soidiers were slaughtered and killed by a Sioux war party in the Montana Territory at the "Battle of The Little Big Horn."

Communities west of the Mississippi River were afraid of other potential Indian uprisings so they saved gunpowder for town cannons for protection. Accident averages between 1874-1894 documented 538 injuries and 79 deaths per year at Fourth of July celebrations. That's why Cannon Township officials wanted to rid Cannonsburg of their old cannon. All along the Federal government was warning public officials about the perceived dangers of firing old post Civil War cannons. Town cannon firings had become a liability insurance nightmare. Many town cannons were forged after the Civil War of cheap recycled metals and iron cannons were calculated risks after 19 years old mostly due to weather. Weather was changing the cannon landscapes of America.

Remember the twin sisters of Texas were only 27 years old and considered too dangerous to fire during the Civil War. Firing them was suicide. The Federal government began posting strong warnings about iron cannon fatigue and too many innocent spectators were being killed too by exploding cannons. Many small towns heeded the Federal governments liability warnings and voluntarily retired the old weapons or recycled them into other products and in exchange promoted the use of fireworks, but in some instances people were still dying from premature explosions or being injured. Still fireworks were considered a safer alternative, but the loss of eyes, fingers, hands, limbs and death was still looming.

Since the day it was invented 'gunpowder' has always been a killer. Believe it or not, the State of Michigan in 1848 prohibited anyone from shooting up fireworks, because the entire state was a tinderbox out of dryness. Not even in within the city limits of Grand Rapids could you set off a firecracker or light cigars and cigarettes. Stiff finds and imprisonment ruled the year statewide.

Well, back in 1885, the town elders feared something dreadful might happen in Cannonsburg, so the town elders decided amongst themselves at secret board meetings and agreed to discreetly hide the cannon from public firings. They took control of the grave situation and made every effort to rectify their most immediate pressing problem and buried it July 3, 1885, but what they failed to do was silently keep the secret burial to themselves. Next time the logistics of who buried the cannon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 22

UHUuh! UHHuh! Sounds like these mean only thing. Someone is in pain for shoveling too much snow. Seems those on the east coast have forgotten what shoveling too much snow for several days can do when you haven't used those muscles or exercised lately. "UHuhh" is the sound Rosy, that's George Jetson's robot maid said when she was ailin.' It's about time east coasters felt the pain we experience in the north country every winter. I heard a weather person talking to a pedestrian on the street in Florida. She complained it was too cold this morning to walk to work. "It's 39 degrees. " Didn't feel sorry for her. Hasn't been above freezing here for almost a month.

Well, the Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon continues. "UHuuh" is what Bob Alcumbrack and his cannon crew felt after several days of digging deep mosquito infested woods. We didn't like the spiders and snakes. Besides the missing Cannonsburg cannon, the area has another missing cannon, too. Back in Davey Crockett days around 1836, the threat of rampaging Indians was ever on the minds of Michiganians, too, once the Treaty of Greenville was signed. The most fearsome Indian north of the Grand River was "Saubo" who was thought to be a blood thirsty savage. He was actually a blowhard weasel with little backbone.

Pioneers settling in Michigan didn't want to meet Saubo and had a warranted fear of him so the Federal government dispatched a detachment of soldiers with two four-pound iron cannons into southern Michigan to counter any uprisings against settlers The military had possession of these two cannons and they were expendable only because the cannons didn't meet the strict military standards. These cannons were captured from the British during the War of 1812. Most cannons captured by US guerillas were foreign made and the capture dates were engraved upon them.

The Army detachment reached a favorable Grand River crossing near Portage, Michigan in Feb. 1836, the same month the Twin Sisters arrived in Texas. The snow was deep and river frozen over, but the steep bank elevations caused them to fear crossing the ice. The frozen ice made some "cracks", the blowhole water shimmered as it swirled underneath. It was a frightening crossing. Halfway across the ice broke, plunging one cannon with carriage into the bottom ooze, but the horses pulling the cannon were saved. The other cannon sunk into the ice, but removed, saved and transported towards Greenville, but its final destination wasn't known. The lost cannon has never been recovered. If found it could fetch a cool half million dollars or more depending on whether it was truly made or iron or bronze with engravings of its heritage. Might you be the first to find this cannon?

Historical documentation has placed the sunken cannon in the Grand River east of Ionia, or as the Indians of 1836 called it "Little Egypt," meaning "areas of vast wheat fields" all the way to Lyons, Muir and Portage. Secret history records say that the soldiers first had "to find a safer route down to the river's edge, because the riverbank was too steep." The terrian was initially too steep and feared the horses might slip under downward ordnance weight, be injured or drowned if they broke through the ice under a heavy burden. The cannons were heavy weights. Each four-pound military field cannon with carriage weighed in excess of 1400 pounds, that weight on a one axle carriage. Although captured during the war these cannons could still be used effectively against marauding Indians.

Documentation doesn't say how many horses pulled each cannon, but two horses each couldn't pull this much weight through deep snow in Michigan's winter wilderness or removed from broken river ice without losing a few horses. It was presumed that 4-8 horses were needed to move each piece over such rugged terrain during wet seasonal months. These cannons were serviced by 6-8 soldiers, too. This was a real U.S. Army mission into the wilds of Michigan and central Michigan was a very dangerous land. Consider the missing cannon lost in the Grand River as another treasure cannon that has vanished for 174 years. Since this is a public body of water keep your search secret. If you seek help from the MDNRE or EPA you must enjoy nightmares.

The secret of your success means do your own investigations, clandestine if your like, but run your mission silent, deep, explore, prod, poke, peak with underwater sonar and submersible metal detectors, but never become too conspicious or draw attention to yourselves. Have fun playing with aquatics, the crayfish and water snakes. Silence and secrecy is the key to adventure and discovery until you determine if you really want to recover this sunken legend. I've exposed some secrets so now its time for fun and games. Too avoid detection is legal, but to remove a military owned cannon from a public body of water might be hazardous to your wallet lest a tongue slip.

Although the Cannonsburg cannon vanished, too, we found that before you start digging up your wildest dream like Bob Alcumbrack. find, locate and document important historical information. Never trust what you've heard to memory. Write info down so you don't forget or let your mind twist what was said by accident. Bob's cannon grew to a length of 11 feet long only because of a newspaper article and a few sentence in the Cannon Township historical book, but the size was the entire length of a 6-pound US military field cannon mounted on a standard carriage and not just the "piece." A cannon and carriage this size might weight 3-4 tons -- that's encrusted iron weight, not brass.

He needed to find the brass plaque too if on the carriage for authentification as a historical artifact. When he started digging he was only hoping to find the cannon and didn't have a clue to carriage architecture. He couldn't call himself a historical preservationist if he tore apart the carriage and missed the engraving plaque? How could the Tompsett five men dig a big hole in a wetland and bury it so fast and be back in Cannonsburg within 45-60 minutes? The same analogy as the twin sisters of Texas fame.

Plaques and piece engravings are the only way to positively identify cannons of origin. Crests, seals and decorations can be quite intricate under a given king, queen, origin of country and date where cannon was manufactured. All that mattered to Bob was finding the "piece." Adding decorations or engravings after being manufactured becomes difficult to disasterous depending on what type of metal was used in construction. Engraving after manufacture especially in iron causes miniscule fractures that go unseen until cannon ruptures or explodes. Brass cannons are easy to engrave after casting, but not wrought iron. The practice of engraving cannons was halted around 1760.

Bob shouldn't have depended on the newspaper notation that said the Cannon Township cannon was a small military cannon. Private citizens could not buy or sell military cannons. Those caught were shackled, convicted and imprisoned for years. I wondered if the Tompsett five could have dismembered and burned the carriage, then smashed the cannon to bits and pieces? Bob turned white as a ghost when pondering this probability. His mission was to dig slowly and be a methodical excavator and archaeologist. He had to photograph all debris material flowing down slushways, being ever mindful to stop digging when something was found and tag that evidence like a forensic scientist, then make detailed 3-D underwater subsurface grids. He never imagined how painstakingly difficult it would be not only on dry land, but underwater in disturbed sediments to draw the carriage before the cannon was removed.

Bob wasn't about to let these problems stop him from digging. However would you have given up if you were looking up or down at the mountain of problems or would you find friends to help you and press onward? Bob didn't give up and he continued to face his fears and discovered what wasn't hidden in his coffer box. He didn't give up even though his mission was nearly impossible. He was going to conquer his wildest dream no matter what. He was driven by passion, his mind and hands were along for the experience. If we all gave up when we encountered problems we'd be living in the dark ages, but to be successful in cannon or treasure hunting it is most important to find as much information before you start digging. Most cannons and treasures are found by accident or are the result of good intel and planning, but few are found when everything is right.

The reason I told you about Texas' twin sister cannons, the U.S. Army's Grand River Expedition and the problems associated with the Cannonsburg cannon is because I wanted you to see how mysteriously they disappeared and what it takes to connect clues leading to possible discovery. Research and clue connections is necessary to find wayward cannons and one way is to research until you've exhausted the paper trails and theory. Find the answers before digging. Bob wasn't prepared for the unexpected mysteries we were to encounter and they did encapsulate us for two years after his first big dig failed. Pitfalls are everywhere in cannon or treasure hunting and not all historical facts are easily seen. Want to be a successful cannon or treasure hunter? Sharpen your memory skills by eating more fish. The endorphins sharpen memory skills and make it easier to accomplish tasks for success. I know I'm being "facetious, just facetious" as Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) once said to the High Sheriff, Andy Griffith.

Bob's biggest fear was how as he going to salvage the precious Cannonsburg cannon without harming the environment or the integrity of the whole site should be find the cannon? He didn't want to become a bad or ugly treasure hunter, but a good cannon hunter. He was adventurous and not afraid of mysteries outside his level of comfortableness. Next time we'll get into the specifics of the killer cannon of Cannonsburg. Running parallel to this story will be more on the twin sisters and General Armstrong Custer's massacre and how the battle influenced a change in military history and not how Texas' weather changed history.