In my search for secrets of a sunken cannon I acted upon a dream sequence I couldn't shake. It was if the spirits of Bob Alcumbrack and Walter Tompsett were inviting me to the Cannonsburg cemetery. I did go because I felt unsettled and haunted and I didn't tell anyone where I was going or what I was investigating. Bob Alcumbrack died in May 2004 while Guy Lewis, Charlie Alcumbrack and I survive today. Not to steal or out do Bob's thunder, but I thought it was important that your hear about what my dream accomplished. The dream may have been fostered by too much Thanksgiving feasting and that made for one fantastic dream or nightmare. Bob and Walter's spirit haunted me into submission and that morning in a November 2007 snowstorm I went to Cannonsburg cemetery. That morning I acted upon what the spirits said needed to be done about the cannon and what we missed.
Going to the cemetery without telling anyone was foolish, but I acted upon what the spirits were calling me to do. It almost cost me my life, but in the process I made a startling discovery. I referred to this earlier, but didn't share particulars. I let the spirits guide my path and walk. Its very unsettling and mind boggling when a dream haunts our psyche.
The first sleet storm of the season had started just as I entered Cannonsburg cemetery. It was 18 degrees F. with a 25 mph wind and the strong buffeting winds laced with biting, stinging sleet pelted my face. I stood praying and asking God for guidance between the gravesite of Walter Tompsett and Bob Alcumbrack. I sensed the presence of spirits and far away voices as pebbles of ice pelted my face and I shivered, but the spirits said "walk." It would have been easy to think I was cold, but wasn't. I was distressed by some feeling I couldn't explain. I walked like a drunken man with no set course and a voice said "turn right, not that way, but this way." I felt spooked and wanted to quit and leave, but the voices kept calling me. Creepy, huh! I was never afraid of ghosts or spirits, but do believe in Angels.
Being a research historical investigator I have always felt at ease and welcome in cemeteries when searching for family members. Frequently I pray before entering, but this time it was unusual to find the spirits so inviting. Ice pellets littered the ground several inches deep burying some surface markers. It was treacherous walking on ice pellets and then it happened. I slipped, then tripped forward on a broken gravestone and fell backwards between two large tombstones. Instinctively my arm grabbed a circular tombstone to break my fall "Oof," I said. It was a bad fall. The ground was rock hard, but at least I didn't hurt myself. Sprawled on my back I saw the large tomstone twist and move as if it was going to fall on me. The spirits said, "You dumbcluck, we finally get you here, but you aren't supposed to kill yourself before you see what we all missed."
If the tall tombstone would have shifted more it'd had fallen on top of me and I'd be dead for searching without telling anyone where I went. I was below the rise of the hill, but eventually with the use of GPS authorities would have found my lifeless frozen body eventually. Had that happened Search for Secrets of a Sunken Cannon wouldn't exist. Nobody would have found me until it was too late. I'd be found sprawled between the two tombstones in a frozen heap crushed to death beneath the heavy tombstone that I believe showed what the Cannonsburg cannon resembles. It is one of two mystery tombstones in the Cannonsburg Cemetery and one of equal size in the old Bostwick Lake or Marshall Cemetery off Ramsdell Ave, just north of M-44 or Belding Road.
These tombstones are the only three tombstones of its kind in three Cannon Township cemeteries in Kent County. Further investigation has revealed that none of these tombstones exist outside of Cannon Township in the north half of Kent County. Cannon Township stands alone with these mysterious stones and as such it makes the township a place of rich historical heritage.
From my ground disposition and looking up the tombstone resembles a cannon. Standing up I noticed the reinforcement rings at the chamber seat and muzzle end and noted it similar to Bob's cannon dimensions. The tombstone was made of hand polished round sandstone, but with marbling, too. It was hollow with a two-inch bore that was plugged with 19th century gravel cement. The smallest tombstone of the same features resembles a 1/2 pound cannon. It puzzled me that the butt end of the largest one that almost fell on me was cut above the reinforcement rings and if purposely cut, since the other one in the Bostwick cemetery wasn't cut. Why?
My mind ran wild with excitement. Maybe it was the real cannon covered with a liquified sandstone or sub-aggregate that dried and was hand polished to resemble the cannon. I should point out that not every tombstone in a cemetery has a grave beneath it. This one didn't. It was the tombstone for Francis Hartwell. He died of malaria several weeks after the Battle of Perrysville, KY on October 8, 1862 during the Civil War. He is actually buried in Perrysville. His wife Matilda designed and had erected this 16th century cannon that resembles the monument in his honor for his valiant bravery in the artillery battle. This tombstone I had my hands upon was placed in the Cannonsburg cemetery minus his earthly remains.
The tombstone resembles an English cannon with Austrian, Venetian or Dutch features, but pieces of such are missing the topper ornament, which was believed to be an eagle, the symbol of pride to Americans national heritage and valiant bravery. Vandals had stolen the toppers, like the brass plaques on grave markers today.
Francis Hartwell served with artillery units in the Army of the Ohio, the battle capping Union losses of 916 killed, 2943 wounded and 489 missing. Confederate losses were 2000 killed, wounded or missing. Matilda was so proud of her husband's achievements in artillery and she wanted Cannon Township resident to remember his sacrifice as he fought, despite dying from disease. She wanted to remember Francis with pride of his sacrifice to the Union.
Francis Hartwell fired the ancient Cannonsburg cannon with his father. This is what got him interested in artillery and why he enlisted as a volunteer in an artillery unit. Heartwell's father was a founding father of Cannon Township and received the cannon from Mr. Cannon in 1848. Matilda watched her husband and her father-in-law fire the cannon at celebrations. Only God knows if this is true, but I had to wonder how Matilda could design and erect such a large tombstone resembling a cannon unless she had seen the Cannonsburg cannon. Where else would she have seen a 16th century cannon unless she remembered the Cannonsburg cannon's physical features?
Most, if not all these monuments were made of sandstone, soft marble or glow in the dark mystery stones. Yes, in dark cemeteries some stones glow, as if inhabited by ghosts or spirits. These frighten nighttime trespassers. Francis Hartwell's tombstone cannon resemblance wasn't discovered until November 2007 while sprawled on my back in the cemetery. The spirits led me here on a dreamy nightmare and prayer.
Monuments like Francis' are considered mystery stones, since they were only manufactured between 1848-1875. None exist in cemeteries after that date and not much else is known about them. I ventured a guess they were put on graves of Civil War veterans who served in artillery units.
Bob with help from Allen Janose, Harold and Matt McCarthy, Chuck and Charlie Alcumbrack, Guy Lewis, Bruce Bjorneth and I, Bob's historical research investigator and writer helped Bob reach the final conclusion of his dream. Bob's cannon legacy and Legend of Bob Alcumbrack and Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon now rests in the Cannonsburg Cemetery.
"HOLD IT!" Where the cannon is buried in the cemetery? It's our ultimate secret, too, and respectfully for all the eyewitnesses the day Tompsett was killed by a ramrod. I chose to leave you guessing. It didn't matter to us whether the cannon is buried in an unmarked grave or beneath a tombstone? What matters is that we respect the silence of those who kept guard on its burial place secret for 125 years this past 4th of July 2010. Would it benefit anyone to know where? We are like the guards protecting the Holy Grail or Gold Chalis (the cup that Jesus Christ drank from thinking its owners would live for eternity" in Indiana Jones' adventures.
This ancient cannon deserved to go missing. The accident was preventable had someone replaced the missing lost tools and kept there silence where town elders buried it. The accident left the entire community in shock for years. Would it benefit anyone to know exactly where the cannon is buried. Just know that the new park trail that cuts thru the cemetery today is part of the same trail the cannon was dragged up on to the Cannonsburg cemetery. Pause as you enter. Say a prayer before entering and see if the spirits of Walter and Bob speak to you.
Just because Bob Alcumbrack and crew never visibly saw the cannon doesn't mean it didn't exist. Right now some would like to find and probably tar and feather me for not revealing the exact burial spot sooner. I never said Bob dug up the cannon nor saw it physically with his own eyes. I just gave you hope that he found the cannon. We showed you what we learned. An open mind is all you need to explore history, science, geography, astronomy, archaeology, etc., which encompassed our small corner of this planet.
Bob, the crew and I sowed fertile cannon seeds, sprinkled with water (interest) and you germinated hoping Bob did indeed find his wildest dream cannon. Bob never dreamed he'd get so involved and fascinated with so many important discoveries and secrets he knew nothing about. My research skills helped where he failed. Exploration of the cemetery with dowsing rods was one of his least favorite reward. He felt his presence was disrespectful, but he accepted the fact that just because you dream about something doesn't always mean it comes true. Got a dream! Some dreams come true, some don't but keep on dreaming until you act upon what the spirits tell you. Walter Tompsett and Bob Alcumbrack's spirit lives on into eternity.
Don Kurylowitz, the owner of Cannonsburg Market, deli, cafe', gas station, party store and Honey Creek Inn dedicated the Cannonsburg cannon memorial to Bob Alcumbrack in August 2006. Stop at the Cannonsburg corner some dark night when the street light is out. By some infrared film and see if the spirits of Walter and Bob and fifteen other cannon enthusiasts are clustered around the cannon pointing and hee-hawing at you trying to take their picture. If you see the pointing fingers and laughing you better run. It's time to stop drinkin.'
Finding an apparition on film could make you a millionaire or it'll drive you insane. Hear Bob say, "Guy's I could be wrong! Now you know almost all our secrets!" Those you haven't heard will remain ultimate secrets. The cannon's legend lives on into the future until someone else find the cannon elsewhere with the legends engraved in its barrel.
As Paul Harvey often said at the end of his noon hour Chicago radio show, as once coined by his adorable wife, "And now you know...(almost)...the rest of the story. Good Day!"