There are many stories that surface from time to time with regards to something that has been missing for a very long time and then miraculously found. And, no matter the item, it is gratifying when something is put back in its rightful place. The same can now be said of a Civil War era cannon, which silently disappeared back in 2003 from Fort O’Brien State Historic Site in Machiasport.
In a ceremony to be held on July 29 at 10 a.m., the Machiasport Historical Society, with local and state representatives on hand, will officially welcome back the cannon. Slated to speak will be Rep. Will Tuell, Sen. Joyce Maker and Machiasport Selectman Brian Smith, with the honor guard from American Legion #9 presenting the colors. Washington County Manger Betsy Fitzgerald will moderate the ceremony. “History books have never told the story of the first naval battles and the struggles here in the Machias area that would lead to the American Revolution,” Fitzgerald said. “This cannon and this place allow us to remember those actions and recognize the bravery and commitment to a purpose that inspired the colonists then and is still evident in Downeast Maine today.”
Stories about something lost and then found usually have one thing in common, the unexpected. In the case of this cannon, it too has an unexpected twist to its story. Back in 2003, the State of Maine’s Bureau of Parks removed the cannon for safekeeping because its mount was deteriorated and beyond repair. This was done without any advance notice or discussions, hence, the mystery of the cannon’s disappearance.
About 12 years later, Celeste Sherman, a member of the Machiasport Historical Society, happened to be on a bus trip and was having a discussion with Tom Harmon, park supervisor at Cobscook State Park. When the conversation turned to the cannon and its mysterious disappearance, Harmon mentioned, “We have a cannon in storage just like it.” The state having removed the cannon for safety reasons decided to store it at Cobscook where, over time, it was simply forgotten.
From there, other members of the historical society working with Harmon and the State Park Service saw that the cannon made it back home. The Downeast Correctional Facility provided the labor to design and construct a new mount for the cannon. The cannon itself dates to 1862 and was manufactured by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Massachusettes. It is cannon No. 44 and is a 12-pounder, known as a “Napoleon”. In optimal conditions the cannon can launch a ball over 1600 yards, approximately the distance across the mouth of the Machias River.
Fort O’Brien Historic Site has been a part of history dating back to 1775, when the residents of the area built a small breast works there to guard the mouth of the Machias River. It remained a fortification site for both the War of 1812 and the Civil War. In1923, the U.S. government transferred ownership to the State of Maine for use as a public park.
Barbara Malloy, president of the historical society says, “It is so welcoming to have the cannon back in place. That cannon has been a part of the Fort for many years. Many children have climbed and sat on that cannon over the years, and as adults it was a part of their childhood that was sadly missed. It was also a large part of the history of the Fort. Even though it was never used, it stood as a symbol of our past.”