Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon -75

Water, too much water like in Tennessee (May 1) was Bob Alcumbrack's biggest nightmare in his search for the lost Cannonsburg cannon. It was freezing cold straight from underground rivers of Mother Earth. Dowsers find water predominantly, but not treasures and Bob Alcumbrack and crew never thought after his first big dig was a bust that they'd investigate the dark world of superstitions. We had become "willow o' wisps." Seldom seen, but our voices resounded in evening darkness. We were the shadows of night and to those who never saw us we were frightening. When working with infrared -- no lights. You view ghost hunters at work thru infrared vision. Ghosts and spirits inhabit darkness.

"CLICK!" Fred Thomas, the missing man of the surviving six is thrust into the future's bright spotlight of past history. His five buddies were responsible for hauling the ancient cannon away from the picnic grounds down thru Cannonsburg and up past Estella Ward's parent house upon the death of Walter Tompsett. Since it was out of sight for forty-five minutes Bob believed they buried it in the same hole that it was originally taken from, because they couldn't have gone further and buried it again. Maggie McCarthy and I thought it'd be a mistake. How convenient it was that they would bury the cannon on the old Schoomaker property in 1885 now the Luther Augustine's in 1986 (Bob's stepfather's property). It was just outside of Cannonsburg, a half-mile or so distant from the picnic grounds now the Cannonsburg School in the Rockford School District. Visit this quaint town and tell Don Kurylowitz, the owner of most of the businesses he's done a fantastic job. The food at the Honey Creek Inn is delicious. That's where the Cannonsburg cannon hunters met to discuss plans until the din in the restaurant ceased. We weren't going to divulge secrets in public.

In the next 3-5 segments I'm going to divulge and expose many secrets not shared by our group of cannon hunters or Tompsett's six friends. The secrets over 125 years have remained hidden from public viewing and in fact several secrets weren't discovered until 2006-09 after the deaths of Bob Alcumbrack, Allen Janose, Harold & Matt McCarthy. Strange as it may seem the latest secrets only surfaced during my accident in a late November snowstorm researching tombstones. Bob and these men never saw or read about the clues to the cannon's heritage.

After his first big dig was a bust Bob didn't want you to see him come face to face with the reality of his failures. He shunned the limelight. He was humble and didn't want you to see where he failed or reveled in success. I will expose secrets to help you understand Bob's problems trying to locate the Cannonsburg cannon's demise. To do so requires me to take you on flashback remembrances of Texas' Twin Sister' cannon expedition that run parallel with Cannonsburg Bob's expedition. "Cannonsburg Bob" is the dedication name Don Kurylowitz placed on Bob after his death.

You might feel that with repeated sequences about cannons you have entered a fictional movie called "Groundhogs Day" starring Bill Murray (Phil). Murray was discovering what in life changes daily that we don't see, hear and we learn from the past mistakes when we don't pay attention or are too shallow to see what can make life better. As time sequences move forward so do new discoveries unfold and we see things different than yesterday, last month or after many years.

All of us are entirely different people in our beliefs every 18 years. Life never stands still, but it changes and progresses forward. We are not the same person we were 18 years ago in fact I can bet you've probably thought "What on earth was I thinking? Was I that stupid? Was I insane? Why did I wait so long to get married? Why didn't I stay single?" It could be what you did or didn't was a career booster or buster. The eyes of the ages sees things differently, but in the end we all come full circle of life. Wise as Moses or dumb as posts. We were in the spotlight in 1986. That's both groups and the pressures to succeed was immense and many secrets never saw light of day.

How did the original five of six Cannonburg area men secretly bury, dismember, destroy, smash, burn or sink the cannon, where it could never cause another death or injury was a guarded mystery for 101 years. These men were true masters of secrecy hiding the cannon. They were like the sword weilding guards that protected the "Holy Grail" in the fictional movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Another classic "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Truly these are the greatest adventure films and National Treasure is the latest where clues to clues lead to riches, but only if you take risks. Are these fictional tales and legends or does some part of these scenarios really exist? Treasure hunting and cache hunting is an exercise hobby. Somali pirates are bold on the high seas and the Dutch navy is a formidable force.

Trying to unravel the secrets of the six Cannonsburg men was an adventure in real life and those picnic participants in 1885 that witnessed Tompsett's tragedy became the ultimate secret society. When Bob began his first big dig he had convinced himself that the cannon was buried on Luther Augustine's property and he never ventured any further away from Cannonsburg because of the time constraints to make the cannon go missing in forty-five minutes or so. That was Bob's biggest mistake.

Walter Tompsett and Fred Thomas' other cannon firing friends were John Murray (1863-1943), Lynn Hutchins, Jake Eaton, George Inwood and Helmer Schoomaker. In 1893 Jake Eaton was manager of Millside-Cannonsburg Mill and Helmer Schoomaker manager of another mill. George Inwood was a Stonemason and builder of the Spring House at Wabasis Lake Park. Fred Thomas was a farm laborer while his grandfather James was highway commissioner. It wasn't Fred who became the brightest beacon of light to the cannon crew and Bob, but James Thomas' history 103 years after the tragic accident. That's tangible evidence to prove the cannon's existence.

The evidence came from an unlikely spot known only to its depositer, James Thomas or his son John and grandson Fred. They all lived in the same house, but the discovery came a precise time in Bob's destiny. Evidence found released Bob and Crew from the stress of imagining the wrong size cannon and it put us on a new track towards discovery. We became supercharged like that cute pink Energizer battery bunny pounding his drum and then being sucked up for powering the alien spacecraft. "Aah, your eyes would glisten too had you found something that really energized your persona after so many failures."

It is very important to tell you "who, what, when, where, why and how" Bob obtained key evidence a few days before the second dig started. What Bob knew then and the new secret plugged holes in the ultimate secrets. This was like 'buckshot', the many new holes illuminating secret darkness. You already know it was a cannonball, but I'm going to play you like a yo-yo and feed short line which will extend over time making the adventure more enjoyable. If I just blurted out secrets you'd stop reading and stop learning about the history of our lives - yours, too. Knowing human nature you are probably searching downward for answers to our perplexing secrets. The human mind is like radar - you want instantaneous results. Well patience was a virtue when uncovering the cannon's secret disappearance.

Bob's cannonball discovery was the master key to cannon identification. A Falcon or Falconet (t), but the cannonballs size determines the time period as probably before 1643. This is when they stopped making these expensive bronze pop guns. Although English military history has documented that these cannons were made up until the mid 1700's they weren't of these cannonball calibre. An example is the 2008 discovery of the 1743 HMS Victory by the Odyssey Group out of Miami, Florida. It was dated because of the copper cook pots. These were discontinued after 1743, because physicians at the time felt they were responsible for the shipboard malady of scurvy. In reality it wasn't. It was the lack of vegetables in the sailors diet. For now the Cannonsburg secrets are exposed as the yo-yo's line is lengthened. It's that little 'devil' in me that keeps the adventure alive.

Fred Thomas, the man in the shadows, the one person who didn't go along to hide the cannon the second time deserves some historical limelight. Bob's reasoning had him drunk on hard cider. He was right, but in reality he was in shock and injured by the cannon blast. He was flash burned in the face and the cider was a natural intoxicant for pain. Despite this tragedy Fred's father, John or James did something so remarkable only in the sense it is an ordinary occurrence in America today? You think about what this could be until next time when secrets are exposed to daylight?

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