Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 55

Blunders! Bob Alcumbrack, the cannon crew and I made many mistakes when searching for the cannon, but nothing like my previous post blunder this morning. A fast moving thunderstorm with too close for call lightning prevented me from making corrections before publishing it this morning. Mistakes weren't corrected. Egads!

Jame's Thomas had a vested interest in what happened to the cannon just as another secret wasn't discovered until 2007 by an accident I created. Bob had passed away years earlier from old age maladies without my help. Was I shocked when a reread my post. He didn't die because of anything I created.

Le Grand Cannon got the shock of his life when he opened his daily mail. His attorney John Ball wrote that "Cannonsburg and Cannon Township were named in his honor." Because of the narrow timeline between December 1847 and arrival of the cannon on July 4, 1848, the cannon had to either be a gift or it was a family heirloom in storage. Surely the special or personal cannon couldn't be manufactured with six months. America was years away from manufacturing cannons. Gillispie could have given it to Mr. Cannon after retrieving it from a Lake Ontario shipwreck, to settle a debt or as an act of friendship. It took four years to find the answer. I found it after nearly going blind reading old microfilm and pioneer memoires down at the main Grand Rapids Library.

Life was extremely hard for settlers from 1847-1849 in the Grand River valley. Mexican War hostilities were waning and it was "westward ho." It was hot and water was a premium product.

Michigan was in the midst of the worst drought the Indians, trappers and pioneers could remember. No snow during winter months, the ground never froze like in 1831-32 and in 1848 leaves were on the trees in February. Soft and hardwood trees were barren in July due to dryness. The blistering sun and high temperatures turned evergreen forests and grassy plains into crunchy tinderboxes ready to explode from the smallest sparks generated by trash fires, campfires, fireworks or cannon blasts. Arrest warrants were sought against anyone who lit a fire, even a cigarette, cigar or pipe. The tinderbox of dryness cancelled all Fourth of July celebrations. NO FIRES!

Sidebar: If Al Gore knew this he'd stake a claim to this natural weather phenomenon and say "See, it's global warming!" Trouble is, what Gore preaches is historical ignorance. He bases what he terms global warming on what he sees looming for the future. Temperatures haven't risen and the polar ice cap doesn't stay melted. It freezes and thaws. Nanosecond viewing isn't global warming it's a natural occurrence. The sun is still shining and water evaporates and rains again. Water hasn't risen for hundreds of years so what makes him think that Miami will be 27-34 inches underwater before 2031 when it hasn't since he was born. It's because of nanosecond viewing of melting glacial ice. The sea hasn't risen.

In 1848 America's railroads, businesses and settlers were burning thru 41,000 cords of firewood daily, but all the coastal cities aren't flooded, with the exception of rain and broken drains. It rains no harder or longer. Hurricanes aren't stronger. The destruction seen is because we live like sardines in cans -- too close in confined spaces. We can change weather because we expand outward instead of upward. Sidebar end!

The Grand River ran half its normal flow, the water running so low only a few shallow draft steamers could make it up to Grand Rapids from Grand Haven. Most supplies came up the river by pole or keelboats, similar to Mike Fink's "Gullywumper or Mongahill" or something like that. Only the two small flat-bottomed steamboats the ALGOMA and HUMMINGBIRD could maneuver the shallow waters.

The Hummingbird was a shallow 12-inch draft steamer with collapsible stacks. She was similar to the NAPOLEON, whose rusting hulk lies resting on the north side of the Grand River east of Jupiter Avenue bridge in Plainfield Township just as it has for almost a hundred years. It floats when the river floods today, the mooring ropes keeping her from drifting away. It was built and launched at Comstock Park around 1910. Algoma Township is named in honor of the steamer ALGOMA that sailed the Grand River until it sank in Bear Lake north of Muskegon Lake. Both vessels were well suited to river travel and not Lake Michigan, but both could navigate over the river mouth sandbars, where other steamers couldn't. The Hummingbird was built and launched into the Grand River in Ottawa County.

The Algoma was built at Mishawaka, Indiana on the St. Joseph River. The word "Algoma" means "Hills of Wild Roses" at least that's what an Ottawa Indian Chief, Smoke-in-the-face, said in Algoma, Wisconsin. The dunes in Algoma, Wisconsin, the forests of Algoma Township and the trackage of the Algoma Central Railroad in Ontario are adorned in May thru August with wild, pink roses.

The Algoma and Hummingbird together ruled the Grand River from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids until late June 1848. Lashed to the Hummingbird's bow was a 30-inch rifle cannon of 1/2 pound caliber sitting on a small naval carriage. It fired a celebratory shot when within a mile of dockage. This announced her impending river arrival at Eastmanville, Grandville and Grand Rapids and it announced its arrival at North Park, Austerlitz or Plainfield, Bear Creek/Buena Vista Mill, Ada, Lowell and Ionia in July 1848. The dam at Grand Rapids made the Grand River too deep to use poleboats except for moving downstream.

The Hummingbird's cannon barked foudroyantly (French) word meaning the "thunderous echo" could be heard booming up distant valleys and glacial canyons. The word "foudroyant" was a National Spelling Bee word a 12-year old spelled correctly in May 2009 on ESPN. Use this word to impress someone at a fireworks show. Someone will ask what that means and you show them you aren't as ignorant as they believe you to be.

The Hummingbird's cannon was a swivel or pivot gun. It was similar to the small 1/2 pound brass cannon Davy Crockett, King of The Wild Frontier, bestowed upon Mike Fink, King of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in 1810. Fink, Crockett and Jeorgie Russel masqueraded as bankers to flush out an outlaw gang impersonating marauding Chickasaw Indians near Cave-in Rock.

Walt Disney's film classic about the real life adventures of "Davy Crockett and The River Pirates" starring Fess Parker (Crockett); Buddy Ebsen (Jeorgie) better known as Jed Clampett and Barnaby Jones fame; and Jeff York as (Fink) gave us memorable insights into the three most colorful folk heroes in American history. Crockett and Jim Bowie died at the Alamo in 1836 and Fink (Michel Phinck, his real name) was a French Canadian killed by his friend in a drunken stupor over a romantic pretty young woman in the Rocky Mountains. Crockett and Fink became the legendary heroes of the pioneers rushing westward towards the California, Oregon and Washington territory. These were the driving forces to expand America to the West Coast and which gave Michigan such Capitalists as Le Grand Cannon and John Ball. Ball traveled west of the Mississippi before 1828 and bought land for himself and Le Grand Cannon.

Most swivel guns were made from 1525-1743, but because they were expensive to make they fell out of favor with kings and queens before 1635. Most were muzzleloaders; the piece at muzzle often flared with reinforced rings and each had engravement decorations near muzzle on top until the early 1760's, but most engravements stopped before that due to amount of fracturing after being cast. Nearly every cannon manufactured no matter what size had decorations, markings and legends giving the finder the clues necessary to date the cannon, origin and nationality. This was the history lost when Mackinaw Island cannons were recycled for World War I and II and replaced with smooth reproductions without historical legends.

Whenever any cannon is found the decorations fall into four categories: (1) pure art form, (2) founders signature and date, recapture dates and legends during wars, (3) facts about gun owner, (4) ordnance marks, crests, etc. The cannon inscription determines the value of such objects, because captured cannons have additional decorations and are valuable trophies of war. Bronze cannons were the most valuable, because they don't rust and being on the bottom of the sea preserves them unlike iron. Iron tends to collect coral and barnacles making it difficult to chip off encrustaceans with electrolysis. Next time the mysterious disappearance of the Cannonsburg cannon continues with more insights into Mr. Cannon's arrival by steamboat with his precious cargo, the Cannonsburg cannon.

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