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A LOOK BACK: Admiral Dewey’s Cannon

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By Derek M. Otto

Memorial Day is here and as we go about celebrating the long weekend, it’s also a time when we remember the men and women who gave their lives for our nation’s defense.  Next week at the end of the Dairy Festival, the Concord Historical Society will present their annual cemetery tours. This year’s tour focuses on the men and women who served our nation and are buried in Maplewood Cemetery.  

I mentioned in the article on Fiddler’s Green about the Civil Monument.  Well, believe it or not, there are other soldiers’ monuments in Shuttleworth Park.  More interestingly, for many years stood a war relic on Main Street and Academy Street.  It was a cannon off Commodore Dewey’s flagship Olympia from the Battle of Manilla Bay, according to an article from 1939.   

In the 1920s, the United States Government gave communities tokens off of warships that were being decommissioned.  The Village of Springville received the cannon and the village fathers placed it on the corner of Main and Academy Streets—at the time, a very prominent location and also on the grounds of Griffith Institute.

The Spanish American War was a brief war in the history of the United States.  The United States had sent the battleship the USS Maine to Havana to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolution.   Subsequently, the USS Maine was mysteriously blown up and sunk.  The sensationalism of the media at the time changed American public opinion into outrage and cry for revenge of the 250 sailors killed in the attack.  Congress declared war and for the next four months, the United States would fight from the Philippines to the Caribbean.   The Battle of Manilla Bay happened on May 1, 1898. In a matter of hours, the Spanish Squadron was defeated and the United States controlled Manilla Bay.   Though it was a very short, the outcomes were great for the United States.  Culturally we would have stories of the battle of San Juan Hill and Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.  In the end, the United States would acquire the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba as new territories.  The Spanish Empire met its demise and New Spain ceased to exist.   

The war effort was quick; there was no draft like you would see with the Civil War or World Wars.  With the help of Jolene Hawkins, we discovered eight men locally who served in the Spanish American War: Frank Burgess, William Burroughs, George Mathewson, Glen Oyer, Hershie Peabody, James Proctor Walter Lee Sears and John Stoehr.  These men were from Concord, Ashford and Sardinia.  As far as we researched so far, there is not a veteran of that war in Maplewood, nor did any local men die in the conflict. So am surprised to see that Springville would get such a unique artifact.  In other research, I found that the Olympia is still intact and restored.  So I wonder if it is really of the Commodore’s ship and not another ship of the same class.

After World War I, attitudes toward war were shifting and in 1939, another European war started. In that year, the school officials determined that it was inappropriate for an instrument of war to be on school grounds.  The cannon was given to the G.A.R. and Sons of the Union Soldiers.  The cannon was moved to South Buffalo Street where the old Fire Hall stood next to the G.A. R. log cabin.   According to the newspaper, the cannon would have an iron fence around it and a plaque depicting its history.   Those never came to be.  In 1949, the American Legion took over the cabin and when a new legion hall was built in the early 1990s, the cannon was moved to new legion on Zoar Road.

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