Farmington not too fired up about offers to sell cannon
Council delays decision on fate of landmark
FARMINGTON — The fate of the historic cannon that has stood on the corner of 100 North and Main for more than 50 years is still up in the air.
City Council members decided Wednesday night to postpone making a decision on whether to sell the cannon until they receive formal recommendations from historical groups in the community, including the Farmington Company of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Offers to buy the cannon have come from the Civil War Artillery Museum in Pennsylvania and the Northwestern National Military Museum and Foundation Inc. in Montana, with the latest offer reaching $50,000. If the cannon is sold, the money will likely be shared with DUP and used to start a museum next door to Farmington's municipal building.
Members of the DUP rescued and restored the cannon, which they thought to be Old Sow, a cannon brought across the plains by Mormon pioneers in the late 1840s. The plaque adorning the 1,850-pound cannon and the book "My Farmington" tell the same story.
But when city manager Max Forbush inspected the cannon more closely this spring, he found markings indicating the cannon was made in 1864, several years after the Mormon migration. He then contacted LDS Church historians, who confirmed that Farmington's cannon could not be Old Sow, which is in the church's possession in storage.
Farmington's cannon is apparently Civil War surplus that was sold to Mexico after the war ended. No one is quite sure how it ended up in Utah, but the book "My Farmington" indicates Lagoon bought the cannon and used it in battle re-enactments.
Even though it turns out the cannon is not the Mormon artifact Farmington residents believed it to be, and even though one museum's offer includes supplying a replica to take the cannon's place, some residents and members of DUP still do not want to see it go.
"I don't care if the cannon's worth $100,000. It belongs right here in the city," said resident Joe Wilcox. "It's been here longer than I have."
DUP international president Mary Johnson agreed.
"I hate to see us throw away our heritage. A replacement would mean nothing. . . . We're not interested in replicas, we're interested in the real thing," she said.
Other residents argued that the cannon is not safe sitting out on a city corner and could be stolen or vandalized. Selling it to a museum would preserve it. And City Council member David Dixon said that although the cannon is of historical value, it doesn't have a lot to do with the city.
"How does an old Civil War cannon represent Farmington?" he asked.
Judy Jenson, president of the Davis Farmington Company of DUP, says the group appears to be somewhat divided on the issue.
"We preserve things, we don't sell them," she said. "I'm kind of scared to see what's going to happen."The City Council will not make a decision on the sale of the cannon until October when the DUP has had a
Associated Press 2002 Oct 16 Davis County Newsline Briefs
A Civil War cannon, long mistakenly thought to have been a Mormon pioneer piece, has been sold to a military museum for $55,000.
It originally was thought to be Old Sow, a cannon brought across the plains by Mormon pioneers in the late 1840s.
But city officials found markings indicating the cannon was made in 1864, and historians for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the church has Old Sow in storage.
Farmington's cannon apparently was Civil War surplus that was sold to Mexico after the war ended. No one is quite sure how it ended up in Utah.
Northwestern National Military Museum and Foundation Inc. submitted the only bid on the Confederate Iron Napoleon Cannon Barrel.
"We have two choices — to sell or not to sell. There was just one bid," Mayor David Connors said at last week's City Council meeting.
Hayes Otoupalik, director of the Northwestern National Museum and Foundation Inc., Western Branch Museum, in Missoula, Mont., offered to replace the cannon barrel with a replacement barrel per the city's specifications. The museum will pay $5,000 down and the balance when the replacement barrel is delivered and the original picked up.
The $55,000 received from the sale will be used to help establish a city museum.
The new young reader's section of Davis County's Central Branch Library will open at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18. and a celebration, with a hot-air balloon launch, a magician, and other entertainment, will take place Saturday.
The new Val A. and Edith D. Green Young Reader's Area increases the size of the children's area from 1,200 square feet to 3,300 square feet and will allow the collection to increase from 110,000 items to 150,000 items. The remodeling includes new public service desks and a leisure reading area.
The Central Branch will be closed Friday until the opening. Light refreshments will be served, and entertainment will include demonstrations from the Tracy Aviary and the Hansen Planetarium. Several display pieces for the area were designed with the assistance of the Treehouse Children's Museum of Ogden. The pieces and other visual elements were funded by a grant from the Val A. and Edith D. Green Foundation.
Did 'Old Sow' go to slaughterhouse?
Farmington resident, local historian and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers member Theda Judd has long tried to sort out the different stories of the different big guns, she said, that became known, at one time or another, as the "Old Sow."
In an anthology, completed early last month, Judd attempts to draw these accounts together and follow them wherever they led.
Judd has long contended that the cannon formerly on display in front of the now Old City Hall Museum in Farming-ton was not the Old Sow. That was later confirmed when a historical examination indicated the 12-pound Iron Napoleon had been cast in 1864, making it of Civil War vintage, not pre-Mormon exodus.
That cannon, fired in numerous local celebrations during the late 1800s and early 1900s, was nearly lost twice, before ending up as part of the Farmington monument after being rescued by local DUP members in 1941.
Later, following its identification as a Civil War weapon, it was sold by Farmington City in 2002, with the proceeds going to fund historical activities in the city. The new owner, a museum in Montana, provided a full-sized replica to display in its place. The old plaque on the monument remains with a new plaque set up next to it.
"The original Old Sow cannon," Judd wrote, "became a legend that was cherished by the Mormon pioneers. It was the first field piece obtained by them in Missouri in 1838 during their expulsion from the state."
The cannon, the story goes, was in the employ of Missouri militia, who, while on the move, felt the heavy weapon was slowing them down. They decided to bury it, and return for it later.
It's reported the militia did a poor job hiding the gun and, when Mormon horsemen arrived on the scene, they discovered an old sow digging in the road. They recovered the cannon and determined to put it to their own use.
To make a long story short, the cannon accompanied the Mormons during their expulsion from Missouri and the time spent in Illinois. When the people were forced to leave Nauvoo, the cannon, again, went with them.
But a big question, noted Judd, has since been put forward. Did the cannon go with Brigham Young's first company of Saints to the Salt Lake Valley or a later group?
Part of the answer, she felt, lies in the fact that historians now believe the original Old Sow was a six-pound, not 12-pound weapon.
One gun of that size was, reportedly, sent to Parowan. But that was a bronze casting, not iron, and was later returned to Salt Lake City. Another six-pounder, this one cast from iron end up in Provo, where it, apparently, exploded in 1855 when residents attempted to fire it, killing the cannoneer.
Two other cannons are currently the property of the LDS Museum in Salt Lake City. One, also a six-pounder, said Judd, is in storage, while the other, a 12-pound weapon, is on display and identified as the Old Sow.
But, based on a Deseret News article on the 1855 explosion in Provo, and other research, Judd believes that gun was, in fact, the real Old Sow.
"A Deseret News article covering the death of William Nixon in 1855 called the burst Provo cannon 'a six-pounder from Nauvoo, that presented the appearance of being a most perfect piece of workmanship, made of very fine, soft iron,'" Judd reported. "Historian Andrew Jensen's account of the explosion identified the cannon as the Old Sow. It appears that the Old Sow, the brood mother of Utah's infant artillery, went to the figurative slaughterhouse in Provo on the 24th of July 1855."
If true, this would be sad news to a lot of people around the state who have grown up believing the old, historic weapon was still intact in a museum, or on a monument at a Farmington street corner.
It would also be bad news to state historians in Missouri.
"A local official in Missouri requested the LDS Museum return the Missouri State Militia's hi-jacked cannon," said Judd. "Unfortunately, the museum most likely will be unable to honor that request as it appears Utah no longer has a cannon to return."
Read more: The Davis Clipper - Did Old Sow go to slaughterhouse
Milton Hess built many of Lagoon’s original buildings including the original Fun House and Shoot-The-Chutes ride. After leaving for other work, he was asked by Julian Bamberger to return and move his family to a house next to the park which had been relocated from Lake Park. His wife, Margaret Steed Hess, wrote a history of Farmington in which she shared her memory of the cannon, nick-named the “Old Sow”.
“On the 4th and 24th of July my husband (Milton) would stuff the ‘Old Sow’ cannon with rags and powder, over on the south side of the east pond, and when it got dark enough he would touch a match to the cannon and ‘Boom-boom’ the noisy thing would nearly blast off your head if you were too close to it. Then all the fireworks would be set off.”
Another history of Farmington by well-known educator, George Q. Knowlton, included these stories about the cannon.
“The old cannon that the pioneers brought across the plains used to be at the Lagoon, and was fired on big holidays. One day some boys loaded it with rocks and blew the top off the skating rink.”“. . . for a long time it disappeared. Finally Dr. R.C. Robinson found it buried in the south bank of the Lagoon Pond. He dug it out, cleaned it up, and with the aid of Horace Van Fleet brought it up into town, and had it mounted on wheels.”
The east pond mentioned in Margaret Hess’ account is basically the portion of Lagoon Lake that remains today. Originally, another pond connected to it on the west side where the South Midway is now. The plaque on the memorial was placed in 1947 so it might be that the cannon was forgotten while Lagoon closed during World War II, if not earlier. As George Knowlton says, it was found in the same south bank of the pond. It probably sunk into the soft ground because of its weight. The cannon was mounted by David Lund at what was then the City Hall (now a museum).
Standard Examiner ^ | Mon, July 15, 2002 | RUTH MALAN
Posted on July 15, 2002 9:55:42 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
FARMINGTON -- The City Council is once again trying to sell its old cannon.
The council voted to request proposals for the purchase of the cannon, which sits outside the Old Tithing House. The Old Tithing House will soon become the city's museum.
The cannon is a Confederate Iron Napoleon cannon, used in the Civil War. It has no place in Farmington's history, other than it was used during some city celebrations, and it is unknown how it arrived in Farmington.
Although the city has already received four offers to buy the cannon, City Manager Max Forbush has found other museums that also may be interested in it.
Those museums that have asked to purchase the cannon are Memorial Hall Foundation Confederate Civil War Museum in New Orleans, La.; Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum and Library, Philadelphia, Pa.; Drum Barracks Civil War Museum, Wilmington, Calif.; and The Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va.
Mayor David Connors said the purpose of selling the cannon is to help fund the new museum.
"Our restriction is that it be sold to a museum," Connors said. "It has historic value, just not to this city."
Forbush found at least 17 other museums he wants to contact about the old Civil War cannon.
The council first decided to sell the cannon last year when it found it did not have a place in the history of Farmington, but a suitable buyer could not be found.
But Councilman Bob Hasenyager said the cannon does have some importance to the city -- "It was fired to start Festival Days," he said -- so he wants a replica to be provided to the city.
The council agreed on minimum proposal specifications, including a minimum sale price of $50,000, plus a replica to be provided by the purchaser. The price does not include shipping, which is the responsibility of the buyer.
The buyer must also be a legitimate museum or demonstrate that the cannon will be exposed to substantial public view.
Deadline for filing proposals is Sept. 30. All proposals should be sent to City Manager Max Forbush, Farmington City Corporation, 130 N. Main St., P.O. Box 160, Farmington, UT 84025-0160
Bids will be opened publicly on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at the Farmington City Hall.
To contact correspondent Ruth Malan, leave a message at 629-5220.
TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Utah