By Don Schmidt
The huge cannon in Wyoming Cemetery is a memorial to Civil War veterans who lost their lives in the war. Its placement in the soldiers’ lot near the flagpole was sponsored by the David DeWolf Post 371, Grand Army of the Republic. This was Wyoming’s veterans’ organization for Union soldiers. Since nearly all the able-bodied young men of Wyoming served in the war, the cannon was a memorial that was meaningful to practically every family living in the Wyoming area at the start of the 20th century.
The DeWolf Post applied to the war department for a light artillery piece that had seen service in the war. Some time later the post members were notified that their cannon would arrive by rail in Wyoming on a certain day in February 1901. The post was advised to have ample men on hand to remove it from the train. A celebration was planned, a parade organized, and veterans in uniform planned to form an honor escort as the cannon was pulled from the train station to the cemetery.
The GAR had ordered and expected a cannon similar in size to the 3-inch ordnance rifle on the courthouse lawn in Toulon. They were shocked and completely unprepared when a 30-foot long, 3-foot diameter, 14-ton coastal defense cannon rolled into the station. The veterans had no idea how to lift it off the flatcar nor how to move it to the cemetery. Plus, the freight bill was several hundred dollars.
Howard Graves, in a 1969 article in the Wyoming Post-Herald, related how the dilemma was solved and how the freight bill was paid. Howard likely had first-hand knowledge of this story since William Holgate was his grandfather:
“After the cannon had been on the siding for several days, Lewis “Grandpa” Redding, a local house mover, came to the rescue. Piers of crisscrossed railroad ties were raised to the level of the car platform, rollers were wedged under the cannon, and a great winch turned by horses cabled it a foot off the car. Huge rollers had been placed under the ties and once off the car onto the ties it was budged a foot at a time toward the cemetery. The Reddings moved it there in a couple of days.
“By the time the cannon was unloaded from the flatcar, the freight bill had reached almost $500 against the veterans’ empty treasury. The commander of the post, William Holgate, was also president of the First National Bank so he arranged a distress loan to pay the bill. Unfortunately, the post was never able to repay the loan so Mr. Holgate had to make it good out of his own pocket. His private joke for many years was to speak of ‘my cannon’ or the possibility of selling or trading a toy cannon on which he had to foreclose.”
By Don Schmidt